Apprenticeships in the US have expanded in recent years in what has been dubbed an “apprenticeship renaissance.” But even though such opportunities continue to grow, rural communities demand greater attention. The expansion of apprenticeship may leave rural communities behind because they face unique obstacles, such as lack of public transportation options, small employers with limited resources, limited broadband infrastructure, and health disparities. Rural registered apprenticeships for young people (defined here as 16- to 24-year-olds) experience these challenges even more acutely because young people have more limited mobility than adults in reaching work sites. Still, expanding rural youth apprenticeships is worth pursuing to enhance job quality in rural communities, help employers attract top-tier talent, widen career options for rural young people, and combat rural “brain drain.”
This report evaluates four rural registered apprenticeship programs in Maine, Arizona, Missouri, and Mississippi—which have succeeded despite challenges imposed by their environments—and identifies the key strategies in their approaches. We begin with defining rural apprenticeship programs and exploring their obstacles and benefits. We then discuss each of the four cases and conclude with several policy recommendations for decisionmakers seeking to expand apprenticeship access in rural communities.