Room to Grow

Identifying New Frontiers for Apprenticeships

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Room to Grow: Identifying New Frontiers for Apprenticeships

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U.S. Has Potential to Triple Apprenticeships, Researchers from Harvard Business School and Burning Glass Technologies Find

Measuring the Potential of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have bipartisan support as a promising alternative to bring young people into the workforce, but they are still only a tiny fraction of total job openings in the United States. In this report, co-authored with the Managing the Future of Work Project at Harvard Business School, we assess the potential to expand this approach.

Apprenticeships are much more common in Europe than the United States. There has been considerable discussion about expanding this option into new fields, but no comprehensive assessment of the opportunities. To find answers, we examined the skills demanded in job postings for more than 23 million openings in 2016. We identified the underlying skills in apprenticeship roles and looked for similarities in other positions. We found, based on this skills analysis, that there is significant opportunity to expand apprenticeships in the United States:

Based on analysis of the Burning Glass database of job postings, we found:

  • The number of occupations using apprenticeships could be expanded from 27 to 74;
  • The number of job openings filled by apprentices could grow from 410,000 to roughly 3.3 million;
  • Many of these new fields pay more than current apprenticeship occupations, with up to a $20,000 salary premium; and,
  • Many of these occupations are difficult for employers to fill using current channels.

Most existing apprenticeships are concentrated in skilled trades, such as carpenters, glaziers, and sheet metal workers. The study identified two other kinds of roles that could also use this training approach:

  • Expander roles, 21 jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, such as shipping clerks, solar photovoltaic installers, and tax preparers.
  • Booster roles, which include jobs where employers often request a bachelor’s degree, even though the skills needed don’t require a college education. These 26 occupations include claims adjusters, human resource specialists, computer user support specialists, and database administrators.

This is not to say that significant barriers to expanding apprenticeships do not exist—they do. But this analysis shows that there is significant unrealized potential in the apprenticeship field. Armed with this data, employers, educators, and policymakers can pursue a targeted strategy for expanding apprenticeships into more occupations, especially those areas where they see a shortage of middle skills talent.

Apprentices Chart: Jobs that could be filled using apprenticeships

Occupations That Could Be Filled by Apprenticeships

These occupations have common characteristics with current apprenticeship occupations, and potentially could also be filled using the apprenticeship approach. Booster roles are those which sometimes, but not always, request a bachelor's degree.
ExpandersBoosters
Cabinetmakers and Bench CarpentersArchitectural and Civil Drafters
Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Setters, Operators, and TendersBilling and Posting Clerks
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and PlasticCamera Operators, Television, Video, and Motion Picture
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and PlasticChefs and Head Cooks
Crushing, Grinding, and Polishing Machine Setters, Operators, and TendersChemical Technicians
Customer Service RepresentativesClaims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial EquipmentComputer User Support Specialists
First-Line Supervisors of Personal Service WorkersDatabase Administrators
Gaming Surveillance Officers and Gaming InvestigatorsDrafters, All Other
Industrial Truck and Tractor OperatorsExecutive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants
Medical Equipment PreparersGraphic Designers
Medical Equipment RepairersHazardous Materials Removal Workers
Medical SecretariesHuman Resources Specialists
Medical TranscriptionistsInsurance Sales Agents
Ophthalmic Medical TechniciansInsurance Underwriters
Painters, Transportation EquipmentLegal Secretaries
Solar Photovoltaic InstallersLife, Physical, and Social Science Technicians, All Other
Stationary Engineers and Boiler OperatorsMechanical Drafters
Tax PreparersMedical Records and Health Information Technicians
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System OperatorsNuclear Medicine Technologists
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and BrazersOccupational Health and Safety Specialists
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks
Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, and Farm Products
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products

 

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Room to Grow: Identifying New Frontiers for Apprenticeships

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