Kenan Research Fellow’s Study Finds Youth Apprenticeship Programs Are Mutually Beneficial

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Apprenticeship Programs provide hands-on training to young adults entering the workforce while functioning as a recruitment tool for companies looking for young talent.

Allison Forbes, a Kenan Research Fellow and doctoral candidate in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning, spoke to the undergraduate Kenan Scholars at the food-for-thought luncheon on Thursday about youth apprenticeship in North Carolina.

In Forbes’ study of economic development and planning practice, she focuses on workforce development trends and how governance structures influence the development of education and training programs. Her research is supported in part by the Kenan Institute.

North Carolina, Forbes said, has five main youth apprenticeship programs: Apprenticeship 2000, NCTAP, Apprenticeship Catawba, Guilford Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship Montgomery.

A traditional apprenticeship is an approved program by the federal or state government that includes on-the-job training, related technical instruction, a wage progression and, eventually, a recognized industry credential.

Youth apprenticeship programs increasingly align with public education systems at both the high school and community college level including programs that help apprenticeship students earn their college degree, Forbes said.

A rising number of employers are paying for these students to earn their degree and providing competitive salaries in their sectors with a wage progression. These programs have aided in the manufacturing industry by increasing recruitment opportunities and renewing skills.

Forbes said one of the major challenges of youth apprenticeship is achieving quality and quantity at scale – making high quality programs available to more than just a few students and businesses.

“It’s not a system that’s been broadly embraced by all the institutions that we need to support it in order for it to be successful,” Forbes said.

Additionally, advocates of apprenticeship programs face challenges encouraging high schools and community colleges to become leaders in the field.

Forbes explained that two messages emerge in apprenticeship advocacy – its ability to increase business competitiveness and, conversely, the business’ ability to contribute to the workforce.

However, these types programs have garnered significant political support from both sides of the aisle.

“The former governor supported the program,” Forbes said. “The state legislature passed incentives for businesses to participate in this program … I feel confident that the new governor will support this program as well. North Carolina has a really good bipartisan model for this.”