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Apprenticeship America: An idea to reinvent postsecondary skills for the digital age

A crisis of human capital today is keeping millions of Americans from the opportunity to earn a good life. Employers’ growing demand for skilled, well-paid workers is unmet, because – outside of the four-year college degree – postsecondary education is not sufficiently connected to the modern workplace. It is an industrial-era model failing to deliver in the digital age. Apprenticeships are a fitting solution to this problem – they allow workers to earn while they learn and provide skilled training inextricably driven by employer demand. For employers, apprenticeships provide a better-trained, more reliable workforce. For workers, apprenticeships allow them to make multiyear investments in their future with the clarity of good-paying jobs at the finish. Apprenticeships should be the centerpiece of a skills training system in our evolving, modern economy. But a surprisingly few 50,000 Americans officially complete apprenticeships each year. Apprenticeship America would disrupt the current model of workforce training, quickly scaling to 1 million official completions per year. Apprenticeship America will follow our successful public university model – in scale and ambition – by establishing a flagship Apprenticeship Institute in every state. Collectively equipped with $40 billion in federal funding, Institutes will launch new apprenticeship programs and guide apprentices to success by functioning as hubs: proactively engaging employers, workers, technical colleges, unions, and other organizations that make apprenticeships work. A new, subsidized Federal Apprenticeship Loan will provide the incentive to small- and medium-sized employers to join the 50-state Institute system and to train and hire more apprentices. An upgraded, streamlined apprenticeship body within the Department of Labor will oversee the new system and collect outcomes data to ensure program quality.