Apprenticeship numbers have expanded dramatically in England since 2003, rising from about 377,000 in the late 1990s to nearly 869,000 in 2013.
Were the US to generate the same rate of apprentices as a share of the US workforce England has achieved, US apprenticeships would reach nearly 5 million, or about 9 times the current level. England’s success in making apprenticeships a viable “learn and earn” route for thousands of workers has inspired US analysts. Similarly, since 2017, England has significantly grown the number of people younger than 30 taking degree apprenticeships, making the country a leading system in the world for combining all age and level qualifications within a legally regulated (national) framework of occupational standards: spanning the equivalent of community colleges, independent training providers, and traditional universities, within a centrally organized scheme. Elements of England’s system that have attracted particular attention include incentives for intermediaries to grow the market for apprentices, end-point assessments to improve quality, and even National Apprenticeship Week to help celebrate and showcase apprentices and employers.
But how has England’s system evolved since its high number of commencements in 2013? What growing pains has England experienced as it engaged in a major round of reforms? What have the respective roles of government and the private sector been? Why are critics of England’s apprenticeship system saying that changes related to funding and assessment pedagogy in 2017 have resulted in plummeting commencement and achievement rates? And what, therefore, are the lessons for scaling apprenticeships in the US? In this discussion, Tom Bewick and Robert Lerman bring decades of research and experience in registered apprenticeships to investigate these topics and share potential solutions to these questions.