On the latest episode of Apprenticeship 2.0, “Reflections on Apprenticeships in 2023 and What’s in Store for 2024,” Reach University’s President, Joe E. Ross, and Provost, Dr. Liz Baham, are joined by an all-star panel of thought leaders, including Dr. Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association; Mike Rogers, Arkansas’ first-ever Chief Workforce Officer; Jane Oates, Senior Policy Advisor at WorkingNation; and Paul Fain, a seasoned higher ed journalist focused on the nexus between education and work.
Coincidentally, three of four panelists are former teachers, providing a unique understanding of the impact of growing teacher apprenticeships across the U.S.
Together, they discuss the top three impactful trends in 2023 and predictions for 2024.
Federal & State Governments Prioritizing Apprenticeships
In 2023, the nation witnessed a surge in public funding for the apprenticeship model, as an increasing number of leaders and governors prioritized its adoption. States such as Arkansas and Tennessee emerged as leaders in the expansion of apprenticeships.
Last year, Arkansas passed the LEARNS Act, partly to establish dual tracks for individuals looking to advance their education and for those prepared for employment.
“It’s a great fit for bringing in youth apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and making the segue into the adult side,” says Mike Rogers, a former high school teacher with 20 years of teaching experience and an expertise in workforce education. “We’re giving [people] clear directions in their career navigation and where they want to be.”
While there has been some advancement in investment toward the apprenticeship model, it's important to note that, compared to the traditional path of higher education, there is still a long way to go.
Dr. Allen Pratt echoes this sentiment by questioning the extent of federal involvement in rural communities. As the co-interim director of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga School of Education, Dr. Pratt has firsthand experience observing the impacts of seed money when invested wisely.
“Working with our state's department, I see it,” says Pratt. “The seed money started an innovative process in Tennessee that opened the doors to many things, and we can never go back to the way we did it before.”
Red & Blue Unite: Bipartisan Support of Apprenticeships
Arkansas and Tennessee aren’t the only states pushing to adopt apprenticeship models at the legislative level. States like New Jersey, Illinois, and California are also taking steps to implementation.
“As a journalist, it’s so refreshing to see that everybody likes this across every policy,” says Paul Fain, author of Work Shift’s “The Job,” a newsletter that explores the intersection between education and policy. “You’re actually seeing some public money flowing to interesting models here.”
The Convergence of Workforce and Education
In 2023, the U.S. witnessed an expansion of apprenticeships into previously untouched fields beyond trades and construction.
As Jane Oates, former assistant secretary of employment and training in the U.S. Department of Labor and commissioner of the New Jersey Higher Education Commission emphasizes, the convergence of workforce and education has created a wave in conversations towards better-paid internships, job shadowing, and real project-based learning where high school and community college students are paid for their contributions to problem-solving.
“We’re going to solve the teacher shortage by making better pathways for people who are embedded in the community to become professionals,” says Oates. “They’re not going to leave, they’re not afraid.”
Beyond 2023: Hopes and Predictions for 2024
As for predictions for 2024, a common sentiment that stands out from the panelists is the desire for apprenticeships to become accessible to all individuals, in all communities, specifically focusing on people of color and adult career changers.
Furthermore, with a larger market opportunity for schools contemplating their financial future, Jane Oates is optimistic that four-year colleges will venture into the world of apprenticeships and capitalize on the opportunity.
Here are the predictions for 2024:
Colleges Will More Tangibly Embrace Workforce Readiness
With college enrollments still recovering from the pandemic, and COVID funds depleting rapidly, Oates believes we'll witness a growing trend of colleges embracing the apprenticeship model, particularly by targeting career changers. This change would mark a shift from the historical focus on apprenticeships disproportionately targeting younger individuals.
“I think we’re going to see [colleges] going after people who are losing their career in their thirties and forties and building earn-and-learn models that they’ll call apprentices,” says Oates.
A Shift to Competency-Based Hiring for Employers
Another question that arises for employers is: “How do you monetize people's skills and what they can provide to a business and industry?”
With employers hungry to attract talent, and workers expecting employers to provide training and skill development, employers will recognize that when a job confers a degree or credential, the job will likely be more attractive to both young adults and career changers. As a result, employers are going to drive a move to apprenticeship pathways.
Arkansas first ever Chief Workforce Officer, Mike Rogers, is working in alignment with the governor’s cabinet agencies to spawn employer innovation and creativity.
“Apprenticeship is coming into its time of recognizing the benefit and the ROI,” says Rogers. “[Employers] are shifting to competencies. They really don’t care where you learned it. If you can show [them] knowledge, competency, ability…and apply it to the performance profile and on-the-job training, they get the experience to demonstrate that they can do what they say they can do.”
Policy Changes to Come
At the federal and state levels, there have been discussions about adopting the apprenticeship model at the policy level. In Congress, officials have introduced bills to expand apprenticeship programs. However, Paul Fain muses that whether or not real public investments will be made is still to be determined.
“There’s a reauthorization that got through in a bipartisan way in the House committee,” says Fain. “Yes, there’s a lot of excitement around apprenticeships, but there hasn’t been as much, certainly relative to what we spend on traditional higher ed pathways.”
To learn more about apprenticeship trends in 2023 and predictions for 2024, listen to the latest episode of Apprenticeship 2.0 on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you download your podcasts here.