Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems has called on the US congress to step up efforts to expand youth workforce development and expand diversity and small business engagement.
The call was made during a hearing by the house committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development titled ‘Back to School, Back to Startups: Supporting Youth Apprenticeship, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development on Thursday, Sept. 15.
Youth Apprenticeship Rising, but Diversity Remains a Challenge
The call was made as a report by JFF shows yearly new youth apprentices showed growth from 18,877 to 40,293 during the period between 2010 and 2020- representing a 113 percent increase. Despite that period seeing a total of 389,860 16-to-24-year-olds starting a Registered Apprenticeship program diversity remains an issue.
According to the JFF an average of 35 percent of youth apprentices identified as nonwhite while 63 percent identified as white. Of the nonwhite apprentices, the largest percentages identified as Hispanic (21%) and black (8%). According to the 2020 U.S. Census, people who identified as Hispanic or Latino made up 18.7 % of the population, and the Black population was 12.7 %, indicating that Hispanic/Latinos are slightly overrepresented in youth apprenticeship while black workers are underrepresented. During the period between 2010 to 2020 Hispanic representation grew from 18% in 2010 to 21% in 2020, while black representation hovered between 7 and 8%.
In addition, young male apprentices still earned almost twice as much, $30.57 per hour at the end of their apprenticeship program, while females earned $17.62. The first profession for women, pharmacy technician, paid $12 per hour while predominantly male occupations such as electrician paid $26 per hour. Similarly, the average exit wage for black apprentices is $23 per hour is insufficient compared to the $30 earned by whites.
In her testimony, Deborah Kobes- Senior Director of Jobs for the Future (JFF) highlighted some of JFF’s policy recommendations that can expand and improve youth apprenticeship, including strategies for increasing equity and small business engagement. Some of the calls made by Kobes include:
- Congress should incentivize states to align their education and workforce systems and update k-12 policies such as seat time requirements in ways that encourage engagement in and expansion of youth apprenticeship
- Call on the development of policies that encourage the development of high-quality work-based learning opportunities as part of the core academic as well as career and technical education programs to drive diversity equity inclusion and accessibility in youth apprenticeship.
- Call on congress to refocus investments on completion and wage equity we recommend providing flexible funding that supports pre-apprenticeship inclusive outreach and recruitment of accessible classroom instruction,
- Support robust mentorship and apprenticeship navigators to guide young people through their program.
- Put in place supportive services to address barriers such as the cost of training materials and testing fees access to technology and the internet.
According to the JFF report, the growth of youth apprenticeships over the past decade can be largely attributed to increases in Department of Labor (DOL) funding beginning in 2015. A move that emphasized supporting programs targeting communities that in the past have not received equitable apprenticeship investments from the government or private sector. Youth who complete registered apprenticeships earn average starting salaries of $77,000, and their average lifetime earnings outpace those of their peers by more than $300,000. The average age of new apprentices in the United States is 29 years.
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