WASHINGTON, D.C. (MARCH 9, 2023) – Apprenticeships for America (AFA), a national nonprofit focused on expanding apprenticeship programs nationwide, today announced that it has secured new support from the Walton Family Foundation, Ascendium Education Group, Schmidt Futures, Schultz Family Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation. The organization, founded in 2022 with the support of Strada Education Network and ECMC Foundation, is focusing attention on the crucial role played by intermediaries in scaling apprenticeships across the economy.
“America’s obsession with college has locked us into a cycle of debt and underemployment, while models like apprenticeship – which is not a tuition-based training program, but rather a paying job – fall by the wayside,” said Ryan Craig, a founding board member of Apprenticeships for America (AFA) and Managing Director of Achieve Partners. “By helping businesses say yes to apprenticeships, intermediaries like Year Up, CareerWise, Apprenti, Multiverse, and Revature can help close pressing skill gaps, address structural barriers that have undervalued skilled workers, and enable more people to access resilient, high-wage careers. We’re grateful to our growing network of supporters for helping us realize our vision to expand awareness and support for apprenticeship intermediaries.”
As they work to repair a labor market defined by persistent talent shortages and inequitable access to high-wage jobs, federal and state policymakers (including the governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Utah, among others) are recognizing the importance of non-college pathways to the workforce like apprenticeships. However, public funding for apprenticeship programs remains at about 0.1% of the funding available for accredited colleges and universities, limiting both businesses’ and learners’ ability to access “earn-and-learn” pathways to economic opportunity. Intermediaries, which take on a range of tasks including developing and delivering training, registering apprenticeship programs, marketing and selling apprenticeships to employers, and serving as the employer of record while apprentices ramp up to productivity, play a crucial role in expanding apprenticeships, but have historically lacked the funding and political momentum to achieve scale.
“Apprenticeships might be the oldest model of postsecondary learning in existence. But thanks to a persistent lack of funding and attention for both the model itself and the intermediaries that can help it to scale, they’re thought of as appropriate for only a small number of industries,” said Carolynn Lee, Senior Program Officer at Ascendium Education Group. “We’re investing in this work because with the right support, the apprenticeship model has the potential to level the playing field for learners and workers facing socioeconomic barriers in every facet of the labor market, from tech to healthcare to manufacturing — and to transform the way we think about learning and earning beyond high school.”
“Young people today want learning experiences that prepare them for the next stage of their journey and lead to sustainable and fulfilling lives,” said Beth Bray, Education Program Officer at The Walton Family Foundation. “It’s more important than ever that we recognize the importance of partnerships that expand access and create innovative and robust pathways for Gen Z to real and relevant career opportunities."
Chaired by Urban Institute Fellow and noted apprenticeship researcher Dr. Robert I. Lerman, AFA is bringing together a broad range of stakeholders including former senior federal policymakers, nonprofit leaders, employers, and training providers to boost not just awareness, but also funding and policy support, for apprenticeship intermediaries. This new funding will accelerate AFA’s work to expand intermediaries with the aim of helping businesses and policymakers close persistent talent gaps and create new pathways to economic mobility for early-career workers.
"We help expand equitable pathways to opportunity in the U.S. in part by encouraging policymakers, employers, education leaders, and learners to think beyond what may be viewed as ‘traditional’ routes into the workforce,” said Strada President and CEO Stephen Moret. “We’re supporting Apprenticeships for America because they’re bringing together a diverse range of education and workforce leaders to build a stronger network of intermediaries across the country. This important work will elevate apprenticeships to their rightful place as a foundational pillar of the American education and training ecosystem.”
About Apprenticeships for America
Apprenticeships for America (AFA) is a national nonprofit whose mission is to scale apprenticeship in the U.S. beyond traditional construction trades, provide career options, and widen direct paths to rewarding careers benefitting America’s workers and helping employers grow their businesses with skilled workers.
Following the examples of more successful developed country competitors such as Australia, Canada, and the UK, AFA is focused on the critical role played by intermediaries (such as industry associations, community colleges, workforce boards, nonprofits, labor organizations, staffing, and business services firms) in building and operating apprenticeship programs for employers.
AFA has built and mobilized a robust network of over 200 apprenticeship intermediaries, recruiting and incentivizing employers across growing industries and occupations and actively assisting them in developing, operating, and sustaining quality apprenticeship programs.