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Report: Apprenticeships Offer Job Experience Young Adults Crave

Three chefs preparing food in a commercial kitchen.

​A majority of young adults don't think higher education has adequately prepared them for the workforce and they crave more job experience and opportunities as part of their education, according to a new report released Nov. 15.

Professional Apprenticeships: Defining a New Way to Train and Hire for Today's Employers, released to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week Nov. 14-20, found that 72 percent of 500 young adults surveyed do not think college equips them with everything they need for their careers.

"While the majority of American adults still see a degree as necessary, they know it's not sufficient to prepare them for a great career," said Sophie Ruddock, vice president and general manager of tech startup Multiverse, which commissioned the survey.

In fact, 62 percent of respondents ages 18 to 26 cited workforce training or experience—internships and apprenticeships—as the most important preparation for the workforce. Also important for preparing for a successful career, they said, was being able to directly apply job skills, theories and models (50 percent), and having a clear idea of what a job is like (48 percent).

Skills gained via apprenticeships could save young adults money, as well. In 2022, the average federal student loan holder's debt was $37,358.

"There need to be alternative career paths that prepare people for work without the debt," Ruddock stated in a news release announcing the report. "In a world where the status quo is a college education, our research shows that young adults are hungry for real-world experience that will better train them for thriving careers in today's most in-demand skills," she said.

Apprenticeships—allowing individuals new to a field to earn while learning on the job—are one way employers build the skills they seek in employees. Programs are governed by state and federal laws and have traditionally been associated with the building trades for jobs as plumbers, electricians and machinists.

Other fields, such as insurance and human resources, though, are turning to apprenticeships. The SHRM Foundation, for example, developed the Human Resource Registered Apprenticeship Program. Aon, a global professional services firm, stopped requiring a college degree for several of its entry-level positions and instead created a two-year apprenticeship program, Forbes reported.

Such skilling programs can help fill the STEM pipeline, according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C. And because apprenticeships are free to participants, they are a good way for employers to attract a diverse population, including people of color, people with disabilities, and other individuals from underrepresented groups or for whom unpaid internships are not an option.

More than 14,700 new apprenticeship programs have been created in the last five years, according to 2021 fiscal year data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Information on creating a registered apprenticeship program for 10 different industries, including hospitality, health care and financial services, is available from the DOL. Apprenticeships also can be sponsored by professional associations and employer/labor group partnerships.

Other SHRM resources:
Apprenticeship Programs Can Develop Highly Skilled Workers, SHRM video
SHRM Foundation Announces New Partnership with WorkHands, SHRM press release, May 2022
SHRM Foundation Creates HR Apprenticeship Program, SHRM Online, February 2021
Modern Apprenticeships Offer Young Adults On-the-Job Training with Pay, SHRM Online, October 2020


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