Apprenticeship programs have been gaining more attention recently for presenting an effective approach to filling skill gaps in the workforce. Challenges remain amid the attention, with program sponsors experiencing recruitment and funding issues. On the flip side, individual workers struggle with job security and unemployment. One of the ways programs are combating these challenges is by offering life skills training for their workers, investing in a culture of work-life balance. These issues and solutions were addressed in Top Trends in Jointly Managed Apprenticeship Programs, released at the Institute for Apprenticeship, Training and Education Programs earlier this week.

This survey is the Foundation’s fourth research study of apprenticeship, training and education programs in the United States and Canada. The report examines the current demographics of apprenticeship programs, program challenges, recruitment and retention efforts and life skills initiatives, including financial literacy components. The survey also examines innovative instructor quality initiatives and expanding partnership efforts for apprenticeship program sponsors.

At the program level, six of seven (86%) training fund representatives cited economic challenges as a prevalent issue. Programs also struggle with:

  • A shortage of skilled candidates for training (71%)
  • A lack of potential funding sources (63%)
  • Competition from external stakeholders (63%)
  • A lack of resources in finding and screening applicants (61%).

challenges of apprenticeship programs

[Related: Apprentice Mentoring: Skills Transfer | Benefit Bits Video]

At the individual level, unemployment due to the cyclical/seasonal nature of skilled trades work (73%) was the most frequently cited challenge. Apprentices also struggle with:

  • Decreased job security (70%)
  • Unemployment due to economic conditions (70%)
  • Difficulty finding employment (64%)
  • Language and communication barriers (46%).

challenges of apprentices

[Related: Canadian Construction Trades Mortality Study—Webcast January 27, 2016]

These challenges highlight the importance of creating a well-rounded apprenticeship experience. Many apprenticeship programs are responding by looking beyond the job title and offering life skills training as part of the curriculum. These skills, in combination with the job skills, prepare an apprentice for success on the job and in life. More than five in nine respondents (58%) offer life skills training, with an additional one in five considering adding components. The most commonly cited life skills components were:

  • Work skills/behavior (92%)
  • Personal safety (80%)
  • Financial literacy skills (72%)
  • Communication/social skills (64%).

Programs that offer this training overwhelmingly use face-to-face delivery models, while two in five deliver their life skills training through electronic learning models. Program financial literacy efforts most commonly address retirement plan structures (offered by three in four programs), savings, understanding the value of employee benefits, spending and credit card use.

From life skills training to new delivery models, workers are receiving the tools they need to be prepared when faced with common challenges found in the skilled trades industry.

Download the full report of Top Trends in Jointly Managed Apprenticeship Programs.

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

Justin Held, CEBS

Educational Program Specialist/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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