Brief Wisconsin's Well Structured Youth Apprenticeship Program
Robert I. Lerman, Lindsey Tyson
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Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program is the oldest and largest ongoing youth apprenticeship (YA) program in the US. In the 2022–23 school year, 5,740 employers provided apprenticeships to 8,358 students, up from 1,600 employers and 2,292 apprentices in 2013–14. As youth apprenticeship has reemerged as an attractive option for preparing young people for careers, Wisconsin’s YA program offers interesting insights to policymakers and practitioners. This overview highlights the program’s history, recent growth, and structure. The distinctive aspects of the program include the use of statewide curricula and skill standards so that a youth apprentice in Green Bay will learn and document the same skills as one in Kenosha. The state funds the program in a way that emphasizes local control, administration, and outreach to high school students and employers. The brief draws on perspectives from state officials, local program directors, and employers. We conclude with lessons from Wisconsin’s program for policy and research:

  • With less than 10 percent of the annual cost of educating a high school student, the program funds extensive work-based learning in a valued career field, jobs that pay a salary in return for the student’s productivity, and adult mentorship.
  • Local consortia are able to attract large numbers of employers (more than 6,000) to provide ongoing training without any government subsidy.
  • Skill standards are common throughout the state, simplifying employer participation and making the credentials apprentices earn more portable.
  • Thousands of high school students are willing to devote at least 900 hours of work-based learning over two years to gain significant occupation-specific competencies and qualifications.
  • One limitation of the program is the weak linkages between the youth and registered apprenticeship systems. Another is that the budgetary burden on high schools to pay for dual enrollment can reduce the number of youth apprentices.
  • Learning more about impacts on students and employers of youth apprenticeship should be a high priority.
Research Areas Children and youth Workforce Education Economic mobility and inequality
Tags Apprenticeships Beyond high school: education and training Job training Youth employment and training Youth development Workforce development Secondary education Building America’s Workforce
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
Research Methods Qualitative data analysis
States Wisconsin
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