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Apprenticeships Help Create Jobs. So Why Are They in Decline?

Wall Street Journal (04/28/14) Lauren Weber

Although employers have expressed concerns about the impact of a skills gap on productivity and growth within their own companies and the larger economy, the U.S. Department of Labor reports a 40% drop in formal apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job learning with mentorships and classroom education from 2003 to 2013. Apprenticeships are considered by many to be a solution to the skills gap, but experts say employers often shy away from them due to their association with unions or the fear that employees will seek out better-paying jobs once they have achieved the required skills.

The widespread belief that young people should stay in school and then get a job also has taken a toll on apprenticeship programs, but some experts argue that intensive, on-the-job apprenticeships produce better quality workers than college degrees and internships. Moreover, experts point out that apprenticeships actually boost retention and create loyal workers, as they view apprenticeships as an employers’ investment in their career. Apprenticeships can be offered in any occupation, with South Carolina’s program expanding to including computer professionals and certified nursing assistants and Wisconsin looking to add training for truck driving and high-tech manufacturing, among other professions.