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Thanks to the high cost of college tuition and the resulting burden of student debt, the popularity of apprenticeships and other alternative pathways to good-paying jobs has been growing steadily in the United States over the past decade.
Vocational programs like career and technical education (CTE), stackable credentials, and apprenticeships can all help get people into well-paying, skilled jobs more quickly. Industries and occupations that offer apprenticeships pay you while you develop in-demand skills and then offer you a job at the end — adding to their appeal.
Detailed data on registered apprenticeship programs in 48 states and US territories is available from the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The downloadable data files consist of “de-identified” individual apprentice records and detailed program information going back to 2000. Variables include:
- Apprentice information: age at start, gender, race, ethnicity, disabled status, veteran status, education, starting date and wage, and exit date and wage
- Apprenticeship occupation: title, SOC code, and type (competency-based, time-based, hybrid)
- Program information: program name, address, city, county, state, Zip code, status, industry (NAICS and SIC codes), organization type, length, number of active apprentices, and age or educational requirements
- Employer information: name, address, city, state, Zip code, and industry (NAICS code)
In federal fiscal year (FY) 2021 (October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021) there were almost 27,000 active registered apprenticeship programs in the US and its territories training over 593,000 apprentices. Nearly 3,000 (2,879) new programs were established in FY 2021 alone.
While over 80% of active programs were administered by employers, the number of active apprentices was roughly evenly split between employer-only programs (53%) and joint programs between an employer and a labor organization (47%).
What Is the Data Telling Us?
The number of active apprentices has been on the rise since FY 2011, reaching a high of 636,515 in FY 2020 before dipping by almost 7% to 593,690 in FY 2021 due to the pandemic.
Since FY 2014, the number of apprentices completing their training each year has grown 118%, from 44,417 to 96,915 in FY 2021.
States with the highest concentrations of active apprentices per 1,000 working-age population (age 16+) include:
- District of Columbia: 11.1 apprentices per 1,000 working-age population
- Hawaii: 6.4
- Indiana and Vermont: both 3.5
Minority groups are generally over-represented in apprenticeships, relative to their share of the total population. As the next table shows, while the number of apprentices who are Asian or African American are below their shares of the total population, the number of apprentices who are American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and multiple races are greater than their shares of the population. Whites are underrepresented in apprenticeships by about 15 percentage points.
Construction is the largest industry for apprenticeships, with nearly 200,000 active apprentices in FY 2021 accounting for about one-third of the total.
The next largest sectors were:
- Public Administration (federal, state, and local government entities) with over 135,000 active apprentices
- Educational Services with 67,202 apprentices
- Manufacturing with 23,720 apprentices
Comparing apprenticeships with total jobs in each industry reveals that while Construction still has the highest representation with 26.6 active apprentices per 1,000 jobs, Utilities and Educational Services are not far behind at 24.9 and 23.8, respectively.
Given the Construction industry’s role in providing apprenticeships, it’s not surprising that the top five apprenticeship occupations are in the building trades. By far, most active apprentices in FY 2021 were learning to become Electricians (71,812). These were followed by Carpenters (29,800), Plumbers (21,971), Sprinkler Fitters (17,595), and Construction Craft Laborers (15,009). Together, these five occupations accounted for about one-quarter of all active apprentices.
Why Is the Data on Apprenticeships Important?
For those who cannot afford a traditional four-year college degree and do not wish to burden themselves with student loans, apprenticeships represent an alternative route to living-wage jobs.
Apprenticeships are also well aligned with the needs of employers for skilled workers, offering relevant programs with a nearly guaranteed job upon completion.
As economic developers grapple with providing opportunities for their residents and a skilled workforce for employers, familiarity with available apprenticeship programs can help to fill the gaps.
Are you in need of a targeted, data-driven industry or workforce development strategy? Camoin Associates is a national leader in research and data analysis. Our analysts continually develop new techniques to mine through data to better understand the issues keeping business leaders up at night and the opportunities that are emerging. Contact us to learn more about our Industry and Workforce Analytics services.