This report documents how community-based organizations (CBOs) that serve young adults can learn from other CBOs that have successfully connected underrepresented populations, such as at-risk youth, to Registered Apprenticeships. Despite a low overall unemployment rate and tightening labor market, the United States faces an employment crisis for young adults, with dire consequences for the economy and young adults themselves. Approximately 40 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds are not in school and do not have a college degree, placing them at risk of unemployment or underemployment at a critical time in their lives and at a time when employers are in desperate need of skilled workers.
Apprenticeship programs that combine paid work and related academic instruction, as well as pre-apprenticeships that prepare and connect individuals to those training programs, afford exactly the opportunities needed to support sustainable employment, particularly for low-income young people.
To achieve these favorable outcomes, this resource documents the potential obstacles that CBOs may need to address to achieve greater participation of at-risk young adults in Registered Apprenticeships. Young adults ages 18 to 24 who do not have connections to school or employment also have no clear pathway into the opportunities apprenticeships provide. This disconnect may have several root causes, including:
- Many employers do not consider recruiting this population as part of their existing talent pipelines.
- Apprenticeship stakeholders do not see a consistent institution—such as a school system—to engage at scale.
- Nationally, too few apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs are designed specifically for this population.
- Many young-adult-serving agencies are unfamiliar with this specialized area of workforce development. They may not be aware of the value they bring to the apprenticeship system—in particular, their capacity to reach and support new, underserved populations.
Major Findings & Recommendations
The results are impressive: good jobs, higher wages, and employer satisfaction. Apprentices can prepare for a career and “earn while they learn,” receiving a salary while participating in a mix of supervised work-based learning and related academic instruction. Some apprenticeships are designed to include credit-bearing courses at a postsecondary institution. If the program is registered with the federal government or a state apprenticeship agency, apprentices receive a credential verifying their mastery of related skills when they complete their program. Since apprentices are full-time employees, more than 90 percent continue to work for the employer with whom they apprentice.
The following are a few high-level summary recommendations for CBOs as well as considerations for other key stakeholders such as employers, workforce development boards, other public and private partners and policymakers to advance this area of workforce programming on behalf of young adults:
- Create favorable policies and programming under which young adults can participate, including short-term options such as pre-apprenticeships and ways to earn credit for prior learning. Include broad-based and continuous supports that help ease barriers to participation and ensure retention and completion.
- Provide flexible on- and off-ramps, as workers, particularly young adults, do not travel along a straight, upward employment path. With limited workforce exposure, they often are not sure what industry, occupation, job, or employer is the right fit. They need multiple experiences and exposures, time to reflect and process, and opportunities to prepare for their next new experience.
- Within a local apprenticeship program or ecosystem, establish a clear set of roles and responsibilities for CBOs, and identify the gaps in program delivery. Build local knowledge of young-adult-serving CBO assets that can be leveraged so that more young adults benefit from an increased number of apprenticeship and career pathway opportunities.
- Demonstrate to employers that they are missing talent by overlooking young adults and highlight their potential to become a long-term, loyal workforce—even in high demand, high-turnover industries.
- CBOs build out their RA capacity, explore how they can partner with, or serve as intermediaries to translate small programmatic successes into larger-scale impact for young adults.