Apprenticeship programs have been more limited in the United States than they have been in many European countries, both in the numbers of individuals and the number and type of employers who participate in them. Only a few thousand apprenticeship programs are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and these are mostly in construction and trades. This situation is beginning to change, however, and the apprenticeship model is beginning to gain traction in this country.
Colorado is at the forefront of this emerging apprenticeship movement. Inspired by the Swiss model of apprenticeship, the CareerWise Colorado initiative seeks to enlist hundreds of employers from many sectors to employ thousands of high school students in the nation’s first large-scale youth apprenticeship program. If a two-year pilot test starting in 2017 goes well, the plan is to expand the model to a statewide scale, and eventually to expand it nationwide.
MDRC is conducting a process and implementation study of the planning and pilot phase of CareerWise Colorado, documenting various stakeholders’ experiences implementing this ambitious model. One of the central objectives is to help the CareerWise organization understand the factors that either impede or promote the smooth implementation of this complex initiative, so that it can improve the program in the future. If the pilot test is successful, MDRC hopes to conduct a study to estimate the impacts of the initiative on both short- and longer-term outcomes such as the employment and earnings of apprentices and the rate at which they earn postsecondary credentials.