Spotlights two pre-apprenticeship-to-apprenticeship training programs in Philadelphia and New Orleans that target opportunity youth (youth who are neither working nor engaged in education); and uses these programs to highlight key strategies that make pre-apprenticeship programs successful and the benefits of such programs to opportunity youth, businesses, and the public.

This brief presents two case studies of pre-apprenticeship-to-apprenticeship programs: the Behavioral Care Pre-Apprenticeship program in Philadelphia and the Earn and Learn program (which provides programming on information technology/digital media and building trades) in New Orleans. These two programs “represent an early wave in a growing movement in cities across the United States that use earn-and-learn strategies to open the doors to education and career opportunities for opportunity youth. Both programs contain the essential elements of effective work-based learning: participants are paid a fair wage, receive industry supervision, are awarded college credit, and earn industry certification upon completion of the program” (p.1).

What is Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is [a] model of workforce training that allows employees to earn while they learn. These programs generally last from one to six years and include a combination of on-the-job training and formal classroom instruction. Registered apprentices earn progressively increasing wages and an industry-recognized credential. [Registered] [a]pprenticeships can be overseen either by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship or by a State Apprenticeship Agency, while employers and other sponsors administer individual apprenticeship programs” (p.2).

Apprenticeships are an entry point to highly skilled jobs that pay well and don’t typically require a college degree….[M]ost apprenticeships pay higher starting wages than entry-level service jobs in retail or fast food and provide a series of wage increases tied to mastery of competencies. An apprentice’s individualized mentoring with an experienced worker both reinforces technical instruction and helps instill the cultural knowledge and competencies that are essential to workplace success” (p.2).

Pre-apprenticeship programs are designed to prepare individuals to enter and succeed in apprenticeships. While pre-apprenticeship programs are not federally vetted, quality programs have a strong relationship with at least one apprenticeship program, provide training and curriculum that align with that program, and include a wide range of support services designed specifically to ensure students’ success” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Philadelphia’s Behavioral Care Pre-Apprenticeship program and New Orleans’ Earn and Learn program each combine specific strategies for supporting opportunity youth with effective work-based learning practices…. “Strategies for supporting opportunity youth in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship: • Youth-Focused Staff Selection and Training[:] Leaders in both the Philadelphia and New Orleans programs stressed a need to carefully select program staff who demonstrate a sensitivity to and interest in the specific needs of opportunity youth. In both cases, the organizations further prepare staff through specialized professional development” (p.13). • “Attention to Youth Social-Emotional Development[:] Successful opportunity youth programs recognize the unique needs of this population as they reengage in education and career opportunities” (p.13). “Best practices for growing opportunity youth training programs into pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship: • Work-Based Learning Progression[:] Youth with limited exposure to and experience with career-track employment in particular benefit from a series of exposures to work-based learning….Such a progression of work-based experiences…gives participants chances to learn from these interim experiences before entering higher-stakes employment settings with less tolerance for mistakes. In a parallel track, technical instruction provides a progression of skill building to reinforce and inform work experiences” (p.13). • “Early Employer Engagement in Planning[:] Working jointly with business partners from the beginning, rather than later in the process, pays off in building the credibility of provider organizations and a program focus on specific career opportunities that match youth assets. Pre-apprenticeship programs need to work with apprenticeship sponsors to align curriculum and training design with the entrance standards of the apprenticeship program” (p.13). “Applicable to all: • Integrated Delivery Partnerships[:] No single organization is likely to have the full range of capacities needed to offer a comprehensive apprenticeship program for opportunity youth….Comprehensive programs must artfully weave…multiple provider organizations, technical educators, and participating employers into an integrated and mutually reinforcing set of services and activities” (p.13). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)