This week is National Apprenticeship Week, a worthy cause for celebration here at the International Foundation. We know how well #ApprenticeshipWorks (couldn’t resist sharing the hashtag!) for our members. In recent years, we have increased our educational offerings, website resources and research efforts on apprenticeship topics. Through these efforts, we have developed a good sense of the challenges apprenticeships face. Read on as I share some insights.

Apprenticeship Programs: Growth = Demand for EducationAccording to the Foundation survey, Top Trends in Jointly Managed Apprenticeship Programs: 2016 Survey Results, apprenticeship programs face a variety of challenges. More than five in six respondents expect economic challenges.

Other challenges include a shortage of skilled candidates, a lack of potential funding sources and competition from external sources, both union and nonunion. The individual apprentice faces a number of additional challenges, most commonly unemployment caused by the cyclical/seasonal nature of work. Respondents also anticipate decreased job security, unemployment due to economic conditions and difficulty in finding employment.

In planning for the upcoming Institute for Apprenticeship, Training and Education Programs, Foundation staff and committee members used this survey data to create conference sessions that will have the greatest impact for attendees. Get a feel for the top trends in apprenticeship programs with this preview of the topics making the list, along with survey data points that address each in detail.

Best Practices in Apprentice Recruitment

  • About one-third of respondents anticipate it will be more difficult to recruit apprentices within the next two years, and one in five stated that it will become more difficult to retain apprentices. However, one in nine anticipates less recruiting difficulty and stated that it will become easier to retain apprentices.

[Related: Apprenticeship Resources web page—News, survey data and case studies] 

Best Practices in Job Training and Apprenticeship Retention

  • Respondents anticipate a number of retention-based challenges. The most commonly cited challenge is a lack of available hours, closely followed by offers of more steady work in other industry sectors. Other common retention issues are the length of time required to produce skilled workers and apprentice “poaching.”

DOL Audits of Apprenticeship Programs

  • More than one in three responding U.S. funds have been audited by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in the past two years. Of those that were audited, EBSA found infractions is less than one-third of cases.

Apprentice Life Skills Training

  • More than five in nine respondents offer life skills training, with an additional one in five considering adding components. The most frequently cited components were work/behavior skills, personal safety and financial literacy. Those that offer this training overwhelmingly use face-to-face delivery models, while two in five programs deliver their life skills training through electronic learning models.
  • Funds offer a number of elements in their financial literacy programs. The most common elements are retirement plan structures—offered by three in four programs—savings, understanding the value of employee benefits, spending and credit card use.


  • Apprenticeship programs collaborate with various external partners to provide education, job assistance and funding opportunities. Educational institutions are the most common partner; a majority of survey respondents collaborate with technical and community colleges, cited by two in three respondents.
  • About one-half of survey respondents partner with colleges and universities.
  • Apprenticeship programs often partner with government agencies, cited by more than two in five respondents. This practice is significantly more common in Canada, where four in five responding programs partner with government agencies.
  • Approximately 70% of responding Canadian programs partner with aboriginal populations.

With the growth of apprenticeship programs in recent years, there is an increasing demand for education to stay on top of trends like these. In response to this demand, the Institute for Apprenticeship, Training and Education Programs will now be offered annually rather than every other year, starting this January. Institute attendees learn the most effective methods to overcome these significant challenges and continue this effective approach to filling skills gaps in the workplace. 

Explore each of these topics further at the Institute for Apprenticeship, Training and Education Programs from Monday, January 16 through Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, California. 

Justin Held, CEBS
Educational Program Specialist/Research Analyst at the International Foundation


Justin Held, CEBS

Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation Favorite Foundation service: Research Surveys Benefits related topics that interests him most: Health care economics, the Affordable Care Act, apprenticeship training Favorite Foundation Conference Event: Lowell Catlett’s economic updates Personal Insight: Justin loves everything baseball, visiting and checking off ballparks as he travels. He can shake any bad mood caused by a Brewers’ loss by going for a good long run.

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