Report Offers Strategies for Community Colleges, Policymakers to Expand Apprenticeship Programs

Apprenticeship programs are increasingly being used to empower individuals with an accredited postsecondary credential who is also looking to gain practical career experience.

A new report from the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)  suggest strategies that community colleges and policymakers can use to expand these apprenticeship programs.

“Community colleges have long been leaders in offering work-based learning opportunities and supporting students’ efforts to achieve their academic and career goals,” said ACCT president and CEO J. Noah Brown. “Moving forward, college leaders must look for opportunities to expand apprenticeship programs to new industries and develop outreach for their diverse student populations.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, federally registered apprenticeships increased by more than 40 percent from 2013 to 2017. However, most apprenticeship opportunities continue to be concentrated in a select number of industries, specifically in the building trades, and women and students of color are underrepresented.

“Through the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, students of all ages are telling us that their primary goal in seeking postsecondary education is to improve their employment opportunities. Community colleges are well-positioned to offer apprenticeships as an avenue to support students’ success in their careers and to help employers build a strong talent pipeline for the future,” said Carol D’Amico, executive vice president for national engagement and philanthropy at Strada Education Network, which funded the report.

The report focused on existing apprenticeship programs at Harper College and San Jacinto College. Those programs showcase how community colleges are working to expand apprenticeship opportunities for students to gain jobs in growing and in-demand industries in their regions, and how the schools are working to diversify apprenticeship programs to non-traditional industries and recruit more women and students of color participants.

“We chose Harper College because they are leaders in expanding apprenticeships to new industries, especially in the financial and insurance sectors,” said Allison Beer, lead author of the report and senior policy analyst of ACCT. “They were one of the first community colleges to become a registered apprenticeship sponsor. [Harper College’s apprenticeship programs] also provides technical assistance to other community colleges looking to register their apprenticeship programs and or expand program offerings.”

The researchers decided to study existing apprenticeship programs at San Jacinto, Beer said, because the college worked with their local and regional workforce organizations to design programs that meet business needs.

“They take a proactive approach to cross-walking business needs with college courses and establishing consistent practices for awarding college credits for students’ apprenticeship coursework,” Beer added.

The report provided several key strategies for community colleges looking to expand their apprentice program. Those include:

  • Increasing apprenticeship programs in growing industries, such as information technology and health care.
  • Focus on expanding the diversity of students participating in these programs by recruiting more women and students of color.
  • Tailor these opportunities for students at different stages in their careers, from young adults seeking their first professional job to experienced workers looking to advance or change careers.

In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it would provide around $150 million in grant funds to support sector-based approaches that would expand apprenticeships on a national scale in key industry sectors.

Additionally, the report authors provided recommendations for policymakers as well, such as increasing federal and state funding for apprenticeship programs and expanding students’ financial aid options.

“ACCT is committed to doing this work on individual campuses and working closely with policy makers to ensure community colleges have the resources necessary to offer these vital programs and students have the financial aid they need to participate,” Brown said.

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