Registered apprenticeships are structured training programs, combining on-the-job training with extensive technical instruction in a highly skilled occupation. Currently there are more than 505,000 active apprentices in the United States and 450,000 in Canada, and the system plays an essential role in the development of a highly trained workforce.

Released today by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Top Trends in Apprenticeship Programs: 2018 Survey Results, provides an up-to-date analysis of apprenticeship programs, including the unique challenges they face and their expanding recruitment and retention initiatives.

The report finds that apprenticeship programs anticipate a variety of challenges during the next two years. At the program level, replacing the number of retiring tradespeople is the top concern, cited by 84% of respondents. Additionally, apprenticeship programs report they struggle with communicating the value of a trade to prospective apprentices and external stakeholders, as well as with the level of government oversight.

At the individual apprentice level, 60% report the most prevalent challenge facing apprentices is unemployment due to the cyclical or seasonal nature of some skilled trades work. At an almost equal level of concern is prescription drug and opioid abuse, which 58% of training fund representatives said is either a very or somewhat prevalent problem among their apprentices.

To help in their recruitment efforts, the majority of training programs have in place initiatives to recruit diverse populations including women, minorities, military members or veterans, Aboriginal/Native American individuals and immigrants. Because of these efforts and general economic conditions, more than seven in ten programs anticipate a positive hiring outlook in their industry in the next two years.

Retention concerns continue to exist within apprenticeship programs—If apprentices are not retained through their training and ascension into journeyworker status, funds do not realize a return on investment for training. Common retention challenges include offers of more steady work in other industry sectors, cited by nearly seven in ten of respondents, followed by “poaching,” cited by 64%, which is when organizations “bid” away apprentices from the organization in which they completed their education.

For more information and to read the full survey report, visit

The International Foundation offers many additional resources for your training and education fund. Visit out our Apprenticeship Resources web page for news, survey data, case studies and upcoming educational opportunities. 

Brenda Hofmann
Senior Communications Associate at the International Foundation


Senior Communications Associate at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: Today’s Headlines Benefits-related topics that grab her attention: Wellness, work/life balance, retirement security, unique perks, anything related to new mommas: maternity leave, pumping at work, on-site daycares, family friendly workplaces etc.​ Favorite Foundation event: The day we wait all year for–National Employee Benefits Day! Personal Insight: Brenda goes with the flow and this approach to life puts everyone around her at ease. Brenda enjoys the mix of roles she plays from public relations pro to new mom and wife.

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