Expand and Diversify Apprenticeships

For Workforce Development Month, we will feature our thoughts and analysis on each of the five strategic levers included in the Pathways to an Inclusive Economy: The Future of Workers Task Force Blueprint.

Our first feature focuses on Lever: Expand and Diversify Apprenticeships. Check your inbox each Friday for the next feature.

What it is

The Future of Workers Task Force defines apprenticeship as a model of job training in which workers earn pay while mastering the knowledge and skills required in their chosen field, learning in both classroom and workplace settings. Apprenticeships culminate in industry-valued credentials and ongoing employment at a family-sustaining wage. Employers value the apprenticeship model as a guarantor of high standards and a reliable pipeline of new talent, while apprentices themselves appreciate the structure of the program and the near guarantee of career-track work after they complete it. Typically unfolding over a number of years, the model is most common in highly unionized sectors such as construction and transportation, in which labor unions and employer associations have jointly defined the content and parameters of apprenticeships. 

Even as apprenticeship has drawn attention and support from state and federal government in recent years, New York City largely has lagged behind. Analyses commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development (NYC Talent) for the Task Force found that on a percentage basis, NYC has a lower share of apprenticeships than other jurisdictions across the Empire State, as well as other major U.S. cities. In his 2023 State of the City address, Mayor Eric Adams committed his administration to reversing this state of affairs, pledging to support 30,000 apprentices citywide by 2030. One related high-profile initiative is the Career Readiness and Modern Youth Apprenticeship (CRMYA) program being run by NYC Public Schools. The New York Jobs CEO Council, a group of 32 high-profile companies with a substantial footprint in the city, is working with its members to place 3,000 apprentices trained through CRMYA. 

Why it matters

Offering a clear value proposition to both employer and worker, apprenticeship provides a deeply supported pathway to career success and economic security. The model has proven its effectiveness over centuries, particularly within countries such as Switzerland and Germany that utilize apprenticeship to develop talent not only in trades like construction and manufacturing, but within information economy sectors as well. 

At a moment when the public is increasingly skeptical of college education as a reliable pathway to good jobs and economic security, apprenticeship offers a compelling alternative. In New York City and elsewhere, apprenticeships have been used to diversify industries such as construction, in which Black workers, women, and other groups were long under-represented as a result of discriminatory practices. Extending the model into fields such as technology and media can change the workforce within those sectors to more closely resemble the overall demographics of NYC, in terms of both race and educational attainment. 

Defining success

The City’s public commitments to supporting 30,000 apprentices by 2030, including 3,000 through CRMYA, should be valuable in driving attention and resources toward building systems and culture to support apprenticeship. To help achieve these ambitious goals, NYC Talent is launching an Apprenticeship Accelerator, charged to define standards and provide customized support for new apprenticeship initiatives. One role for the Accelerator will be to help current programs that resemble apprenticeship to become registered with the state and federal Departments of Labor and thus gain eligibility for tax breaks and other benefits. Another important consideration will be the extent to which more foundational work-based learning experiences, from Summer Youth Employment Program placements to internships through DYCD-run programs such as Train & Earn and Advance & Earn, ultimately serve as feeders into apprenticeships. Beyond the top-line numbers, key indicators might include how many new programs the Accelerator helps launch, as well as the extent to which apprenticeship models take hold within traditionally resistant sectors such as finance, professional services, and tech. 

One intention of the Task Force was to position the Levers it proposed as somewhat interdependent. As such, several other Levers—a revitalized Workforce Development Board to help advocate and ensure accountability, an effective “Employer-Facing Front Door” to draw in potential new employer partners open to supporting apprenticeship programs, and even what is counted through the promised new Shared Impact Metrics—will impact the extent and pace of progress toward the mayor’s apprenticeship goal.

Further Resources

Further resources on apprenticeships with a city-focus include Center for an Urban Future’s Expanding Apprenticeships in NYC; and on a state and national level include Accenture’s Apprenticeship Model, Working Nation’s Apprenticeship coverage, The Joint Center’s Five Charts To Understand Black Registered Apprentices in the United States, the New York State Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Expansion Grant and Governor Hochul’s $2 Million Expansion of CUNY Apprenticeship Offerings.