July Jobs Numbers Make Case for Improving Apprenticeship Programs

By Tom Allison

While the national unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent in July, the rate for young adults ages 18-to-34 rose slightly to 6.9 percent (seasonably adjusted) from 6.8 percent in June. Notably, sectors with high prevalence of apprenticeships saw significant job growth. Those sectors include:

  • The construction industry added 14,000 new jobs in July, including 9,400 specialty trade contracting jobs.
  • Nearly 50,000 new jobs were created in health care and social assistance, including 17,000 new hospital jobs and over 5,000 in social assistance.
  • There were also 11,000 new jobs in durable good manufacturing (all estimates seasonably adjusted).

Among the other unadjusted unemployment estimates, we see that young people of color continue to struggle to find a job despite the fact that our national unemployment rate has fallen by more than half since the depths of the recession:

  • Young Latinos: 7.5 percent
  • Young Asian or Pacific Islanders: 6.0 percent
  • Young African Americans 12.2 percent

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Last week’s jobs report coincides with Young Invincibles’ release of a new report on apprenticeships, debunking myths about the program and making suggestions for improving the system. The job growth in sectors key for apprenticeships reinforces our recommendations to improve our apprenticeship system. Conducted in the Chicagoland area where young people face some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, the study highlights three key misconceptions that Millennials hold about apprenticeships: that apprenticeship programs don’t currently exist in their communities, that apprenticeships don’t pay, and that participating in an apprenticeship means never receiving a college degree.

Based on these misconceptions about apprenticeships, as well as stated job preferences among Millennials, we advance six recommendations for building and branding youth-friendly apprenticeship programs.

When it comes to program structure, we recommend expanding pre-apprenticeship and job shadowing opportunities, creating more apprenticeships that provide the option to receive college credentials, and starting apprentices in cohorts. On the marketing side, we suggest being more explicit about wages, building innovative social media marketing strategies, and using near-peers as ambassadors.  Doing so will both build a broader base of Millennial support for these programs and ensure that those opportunities fit the needs of today’s young people.

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From Huffington Post: Work Study Isn’t Setting Up Students For Jobs The Way It’s Supposed To

By Daniela Villarreal (Florida State University, 2016)

The job-training program, known as Federal Work Study (FWS), is supposed to help college and university students like me to build foundational skills in our fields of study.

Unfortunately, the program, which began in the 1960s to help low-income students, has lost its focus and rising seniors like myself are facing a far more daunting jobs landscape than perhaps we should be because of this. This summer is a good time for lawmakers to start working to reform the program.

As a high school student during the Great Recession, I saw many friends and family lose jobs and I increasingly felt pressure to find work as the cost of college simultaneously rose. With more and more people pursuing college degrees across the country, it doesn’t seem like a diploma is enough anymore to start a career: you need hands-on experience in your field of choice, too.

The majority of employers — 79 percent, in fact – expect work experience from college graduates as they evaluate potential hires. Under FWS, all of the positions offered are supposed to be related to a student’s educational goals to the “maximum extent practicable” but that’s not what is happening.

In other words, many students are working jobs unrelated to their academic programs. Forty-seven percent of FWS job placements are unrelated to a student’s career or academic interests.

So what’s a low-income student, who’s dependent on supplemental income through FWS, to do if he or she also needs career-relevant experience?

Read more here.

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