Apprenticeships in America: Catching Up

Apprenticeships in America: Catching Up

It’s no secret that the United States has lagged behind Europe – and specifically the United Kingdom – in the adoption of apprenticeships. Why is that, and are we closing the gap?

A few statistics for perspective: As recently as 2014, an article in The Atlantic noted that only about five percent of young people in the U.S. are pursuing apprenticeships versus about 60 percent in Germany. And while a Wikipedia entry predicted a doubling of U.S. apprenticeship numbers from 375,000 to 750,000 between 2014 and 2019, that number still pales in comparison to more than 2 million apprenticeships launched since 2015 in the UK, with its much smaller population.

Why Does the U.S. Lag Behind?

While those statistics include all apprenticeships, not just tech-oriented fields, the story is similar across the board. Why?

First is a simple lack of awareness. We’re working hard to spread the gospel of the apprenticeship model, which we feel is a win-win for employer and candidate alike. And we’re getting there, as top-tier organizations like IBM join us to throw their weight behind tech apprenticeships.

Still, there’s a lingering stigma among young people in America around not pursuing a four-year college degree. This has its roots in the post-World War II years, when many parents who had not had the opportunity to attend college considered it the ultimate badge of success to see their children earn diplomas.

The Future of U.S. Apprenticeships

That stigma, though, seems to be fading as reality sets in. Education costs have increased geometrically, far outpacing the cost of living. Worse, that college diploma is no longer a guarantee of high-paying employment that will pay off a potential mountain of debt. And many prospective college students are recognizing yet another financial reality: those four years spent incurring debt are four years when they could have been earning a salary instead, a double financial whammy.

A model that pays the student to learn from the first day and accomplishes this within regular working hours so the candle doesn’t need to burn at both ends, would seem to fill the bill. And that’s how an apprenticeship works. For employers, apprenticeships are an alternative to traditional (and expensive) recruiting methods to fill in-demand tech roles. And as an added benefit, the pool of apprenticeship candidates tends to be much more diverse in age, background and ethnicity than candidates reached via traditional means.

With all that working in favor of apprenticeships, we think the gap will close quickly, and the United States won’t be playing catch-up for too much longer.

Micro-credentials: A Shortcut to a Great Tech Career

Micro-credentials: A Shortcut to a Great Tech Career

The pandemic of 2020 has accelerated a trend that was already underway: a shift away from the traditional four-year college degree. Many were already considering alternative approaches, and with COVID-19 precautions so dramatically altering the “college experience,” more career-seekers are looking for better alternatives.

One path that’s gaining popularity is the concept of “micro-credentials” or “credential stacking,” Instead of going away for four years and coming back with a degree, students are choosing to knock out certifications and credits one at a time, on their own schedule. A recent Wired article compares the approach to ordering a meal a la carte instead of the standard main-dish-and-two-sides option.

This has two major benefits: one is an obviously lower cost than, say, 15 credits in a given semester; the other is the schedule flexibility that allows for steady skills improvement while holding down a job. And yes, over time, those micro-credentials can add up to a bachelor’s degree.

There’s a third plus as well: students note that the right certifications can immediately increase their value on the employment market, with or without a full degree. In the tech world there are almost unlimited options for certifications from a wide range of organizations, so you can choose the path that makes the most sense for you and the direction you want to take.

This credential-stacking path isn’t just for the recent high school graduate. If you’ve been laid off from a position or are returning to the workforce after raising a family, the last thing you want to do is set aside four years of your life to obtain a pricey degree. Micro-credentials can put that career change on the fast track, with certifications that can be completed in a week, a month or a quarter. It’s entirely reasonable to expect that with a year of dedicated effort you could be on a new and much better career trajectory. Even if you later decide to pursue a full degree, the “Additional Skills” portion of your resume will stand out from others.

All of this dovetails perfectly with our mission of apprenticeship and Changing the American Workforce. Apprentices earn while they learn, and achieve a series of industry certifications along the way, with a corresponding pay raise for each one. If you’re at a crossroads in your education or career, consider the approach that gets you there faster.

Question about how an apprenticeship can accelerate your career? Contact Franklin Apprenticeships.

What’s Happening in the US Apprenticeship Industry?

What’s Happening in the US Apprenticeship Industry?

Coverage of Trump’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion


The Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion submitted their final report to the President on May 10, 2018. The task force was initiated in response to President Trump’s June 15, 2017 Executive Order, Expanding Apprenticeships in America, “to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient.”

The Secretary of Labor was chartered to establish a task force in response to the Administration’s recognition that America’s education and workforce programs “are in need of reform in order to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing economy, namely the “skills gaps” that result from a workforce that is insufficiently trained to fill existing and newly created jobs.”

Strategies and recommendations were to address the following areas:

  1. Federal initiatives to promote apprenticeships;
  2. Administrative and legislative reforms that would facilitate the formation and success of apprenticeship programs;
  3. The most effective strategies for creating Industry-Recognized Apprenticeships; and
  4. The most effective strategies for amplifying and encouraging private sector initiatives to promote apprenticeships.

Read the final report, here. 


The task force includes representatives from business, industry, labor, education and public officials, and is co-chaired by the secretaries of labor and education. Task force member and President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges(AACC), Walter G. Bumpus said “AACC and its member colleges are prepared to work with their partners to develop and enhance apprenticeships in order to better serve students and their communities.”

Community College Daily covered the task force examinations in a recent article that discusses the challenges companies, colleges, high schools, labor unions, trade associations and other institutions face.

Read the article, here.


One of the primary drivers behind apprenticeship program reform is the crippling US college debt. According to the report “The American higher education system is churning out a pool of in-debt job seekers who are not equipped to meet the skills needs of many employers in the modern American economy.”

The report further states that the traditional four-year education model “often is disconnected from business needs and not suited for providing workers the combination of skills and practical work experience that employers value.” And,

“Today, there are over 500,000 technology jobs open, but U.S. colleges and universities produce only 50,000 graduates each year, creating a shortfall in skilled candidates across economic sectors.”

Ouch!  How are college leaders responding?  Read the Inside Higher Ed coverage, here.


Just for fun: Curious about student debt statics, by geography? Check out a 2017 study, here.