Policymakers seeking to increase the number of apprentices should focus their investments in pre-employment training like pre-apprenticeship programs and affordable child care, according to a new brief by the National Skills Coalition, Broadening the Apprenticeship Pipeline.
Apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning can help address the nation’s skills gap, but the U.S. falls far behind competitor nations in using work-based learning to train workers for in-demand, middle skill jobs. To address this underutilization and expand the pipeline of workers with access to work-based learning, U.S. policy should better support pre-apprenticeship programs and affordable child care that help women, parents, and other underrepresented people succeed.
For people who have historically had less access to apprenticeships, like women, pre-apprenticeship programs provide a valuable on-ramp that lays the foundation for success. Underrepresented workers without adequate industry experience often need the occupational skills training, exposure to job sites, and engagement with industry leaders that pre-employment programs provide before they reach the skill level necessary to enter work-based learning programs.
But, training alone may not be enough to ensure success. Significant child care costs can make participation in unpaid pre-apprenticeship programs nearly impossible for parents – nearly a third of the workforce. Pre-apprenticeship programs that provide both training and access to child care can open the door to an apprenticeship pathway for a broad range of workers. Once in an apprenticeship, child care continues to be an important support for ensuring participant success since starting wages are lower than those apprentices can expect to make once they’ve completed their program.
The Moore Community House Women in Construction (WinC) program illustrates the importance of child care to pre-employment and work-based learning participants. WinC is a pre-apprenticeship program in Biloxi, Mississippi, that trains women for apprenticeships and nontraditional career pathways in construction, skilled craft trades, and advanced manufacturing. In 2016, the program received a grant from the state — funded with federal dollars Mississippi receives through its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) state grant — to offer child care to participants and graduates, and a separate grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI) to support child care as a retention tool for participants after graduation. Since 2016, WinC enrollment has nearly tripled from nearly sixty women per year to about 180 women per year.
To build on the success of WinC and broaden the apprenticeship pipeline across the nation, this issue brief includes recommendations for both federal and state policymakers. Specifically, Congress and the states should:
- Maximize the use of TANF to support pre-employment and child care for work-based learning participants;
- Improve alignment between the workforce system and TANF and SNAP recipients; and
- Create new work-based learning support funds on both the federal and state levels.