Equity Snapshot: Apprenticeships in America

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.

At the Department of Labor, we’re committed to advancing equity across all the programs and populations we support, including our efforts to increase awareness of and opportunities in apprenticeship — a proven industry-driven career pathway where employers can develop their future workforce and workers can get critical experience through paid and credentialed programs.

Though less common in the U.S. than in Europe, U.S. apprenticeship participation is on the rise. In fiscal year 2020 alone, 3,143 new programs were established, representing a 73% increase from 2009, and the number of active Registered Apprentices grew by 51% in the same period. And these programs are incredibly successful: 92% of apprentices retain employment after completing a Registered Apprenticeship and earn an average starting salary of $72,000.

Though apprenticeships have a proven track record of producing strong results for both employers and workers, we still have a long way to go toward advancing equity in apprenticeship participation. In this equity snapshot, we explore what data we have and what we still need to know to ensure apprenticeship programs are equitably serving all populations. Here are some of our key findings:

Though most apprentices are white, programs have become more diverse over time

According to demographic data provided by 686,000 apprentices between 2010 and 2019, 77.5% identified as white, 15.3% as Black, 2.9% American Indian/Alaska Native, 2.1% Asian, 1.6% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and 0.5% as multi-racial.  With regard to ethnicity, 567,000 apprentices provided information with 18.3% identifying as Hispanic.

But as Figure 1 shows, apprentices have become more diverse over time. This suggests that efforts to boost participation and equity are working — but there’s still more work to be done.

 

Share of Apprenticeship Participants 2010 vs. 2019
 

Figure 1. Share of Apprenticeship Participants 2010 vs. 2019 (plain text)

For many racial groups, apprentice representation was higher than overall labor force participation

When comparing apprenticeship participation to the annual average share of labor force participation across all racial groups (Figure 2), we found Black apprentice representation was higher than their labor force representation in 17 industries, and American Indian or Alaska Native apprentices and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders outpaced average representation in 18 industries. This includes construction apprentices, where racial group participation rates mirrored the civilian workforce.

 

Figure 2: Comparison of Apprenticeship Distribution and Labor Force
 

Figure 2. Comparison of Apprenticeship Distribution and Labor Force (plain text)

However, representation of Asian apprentices and apprentices of two or more races fall well below their labor force share

Though some apprentice groups outpaced their peers in the general labor force, this was not the case for Asian apprentices. Whether these issues are structural we aren’t able to address, but we did identify two important issues to note: First, the grouping of Asian sub-groups into a single category may mask additional inequities among these various sub-groups. Second, there are possible identification issues associated with apprentices of two or more races, since survey respondents may self-select into a single racial group without being made aware of the multi-racial category — both of which should be addressed by follow-up surveys to correct and update the data.

Hispanic representation among apprentices is on the rise

Apprentices identifying as Hispanic represented 18.3% of all apprentices from 2010-2019, with an average annual proportion of 15.5%. Hispanic representation among apprentices has been increasing between 2010 and 2019, with the largest jump in representation in 2017 from 14.4 to 22.4%.  The overall labor force participation of Hispanics during this time was 16.3%, demonstrating that that though Hispanics hare overrepresented in Registered Apprenticeship programs, they have historically been underrepresented in the labor force overall.

Black apprentices are less likely to complete apprenticeship programs than their white peers

From an equity standpoint, there should be no significant difference in apprenticeship completion rates for individuals of various racial groups or by gender, but our data indicated that this is not the case. While completion rates are below 35% for all racial groups, which speak to the general difficulty of apprenticeships, completion rates for White apprentices reached 33% but only 24% for Black apprentices. Asian apprentices are the only other group to eclipse 30% completion, which suggests that there are factors in play that are negatively affecting completion equity.

Women make up only a small portion of apprentices

Historically, women have not been well represented in apprenticeship programs or in construction industries (where many apprenticeships exist) in general. Between 2010 and 2019, women accounted for an average of 8.5% of apprentices, and only 3.5% of construction apprentices. One study indicated that difficulties securing childcare and lack of pay for classroom instruction were significant barriers to participation and completion of apprenticeship programs – a common narrative for not only apprenticeships, but labor force participation in general.

Additional data is necessary to conduct a full equity analysis

Though our analysis yielded some helpful insights, we uncovered gaps in available data, making a full analysis of apprenticeship equity difficult. For example, we are only able to collect demographic information from program participants and not from applications, and the percentage of apprentices who did not provide demographic information recently jumped from 0 to 10 percent, leaving us with an incomplete picture of the full apprenticeship landscape.

Additionally, as mentioned above, our existing data can’t tell us which Asian and Hispanic sub-groups apprentices identify as, which is necessary to identify and address systemic issues facing these groups. And finally, racial groups are not uniformly distributed across the United States, meaning that we should account for geographic concentrations of various populations to get a better sense of apprenticeship accessibility and labor mobility.

These are just a few examples of what we know (and what we don’t) when it comes to assessing equity across apprenticeship programs. We can’t address what we don’t measure and improving the collection and quality of our data will help us better identify where we are making progress and where we need to improve — in our apprenticeship programs and beyond.

Read our full Apprenticeship Equity Snapshot Memo here.

Janelle Jones is the chief economist, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is the deputy assistant secretary for research and evaluation, and Christopher DeCarlo is an economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.

 

Figure 1. Share of Apprenticeship Participants 2010 vs. 2019

Racial Group Share of All Apprenticeships 2010 Share of All Apprenticeships 2019 Percent Change in Apprenticeship Share
American Indian or Alaska Native 3.4% 1.8% -46.3%
Asian 1.7% 2.2% 27.9%
Black or African American 12.8% 17.1% 33.3%
Two or More Races 0.0% 1.4% 3248.1%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 1.4% 1.3% -6.4%
White 80.7% 76.2% -5.6%

 

Figure 2. Comparison of Apprenticeship Distribution and Labor Force

Racial Group Annual Average Apprenticeship Share
2010-2019
Annual Average Share of Labor Force
2010-2019
Change in Share of Labor Force
2010-2019
American Indian or Alaska Native 3.1% 1.0% 43.8%
Asian 2.1% 5.6% 35.8%
Black or African American 14.9% 12.2% 8.7%
Two or More Races* 0.4% 1.9% 20.8%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 1.6% 0.4% 40.6%
White 78.1% 79.1% -4.8%

(*) Labor force data for individuals of two or more races is available only back to 2015.

El Camino…The Path of a Young Latina in the Making

This was crossposted from the Institute of Education Sciences blog, Inside IES Research

Dr. Lorena Aceves

Formally, I am known as Dr. Lorena Aceves, but you can just call me Lorena. I am a first generation (first in my family to graduate high school and college) Latina scholar. I recently completed my PhD in human development and family studies (HDFS) at the Pennsylvania State University. Currently, I am working as a Society for Research Child Development Federal Postdoctoral Policy Fellow at the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Head Start. In my current role, I work on all things related to Head Start from issues facing the Head Start workforce to considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on the daily lives of Head Start children. Given that September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to share my camino (path) with the hopes of inspiring other Latinx students and to demonstrate the beauty of Hispanic excellence in education!

How It Started

My journey into higher education began before I could even remember. My amazing parents are two immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico. Their journey of migration was fueled by the desire to open more doors of opportunity for themselves and their future family. They settled in southern California, where they would start building the foundation of values and motivation that would lead me to my PhD.

In California, my parents had their first interaction with opportunity and education for their daughter with Head Start. As a four-year-old, Head Start gave me a step up in my educational career and connected my parents to resources and services that could increase our familial wellbeing. The journey here was just getting started when my parents decided that it was time to leave southern California for Arizona. In Arizona, my parents were able to earn better wages and purchase a home in a good school district. This opportunity was not as accessible to them in California. This move, as my mom always says, “(as difficult as it was) was the best thing we could have done educationally for you and your younger brother.”

I started my elementary education in the Gilbert Public Schools school district. It was when I got to high school that a major educational opportunity opened for me—the founding of Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA), a public college prep school. GCA was a saving grace for this little Latina who had every aspiration to go to college but had no clue where to even begin! It gave me all the tools and preparation I needed to make it to college, and I did. I was admitted to 80% of the colleges I applied to and continued my higher education at the University of Arizona (UA).

Moving Away and Embracing My Latina Identity

After high school graduation, I moved two hours south of home to attend the UA. This move was a BIG deal for this eldest Mexican daughter. My parents were not happy about me living in a dorm, but they knew it was necessary to achieve that “American Dream” that we always talked about where I would never have to scrub toilets as my mother had done most of her life.

Life at UA was amazing. I got to embrace my Latina identity because, for once in my life, I was finally surrounded by people who looked like me and had the same familial experiences. I also got to explore all my potential career options. I started college wanting to be a pediatrician but ended up finding my passion in the HDFS major. I loved the idea of studying human beings, especially in the context of their families. I finally was going to be able to understand my family and culture from a scholarly lens.

In my third year of college, I was unsure about what I wanted to do post-graduation. I knew I wanted to pursue graduate education; I just didn’t know for what. And that’s when I stumbled upon research, which ultimately led me to my PhD. Before this moment, I had no idea what a PhD was, but I was sold on pursuing one because being able to use research to support Latinx youth and families seemed like a dream come true.

In my last year of college, I was a McNair scholar, which set me up for success in graduate school. With the program’s help, I was able to gain social capital and academic skills I did not have as a first-generation student, which are critical for successfully pursuing a graduate degree. With the help of the program’s staff and training, I was admitted to 8 out of the 10 doctoral programs that I applied to! I ultimately decided to pursue my PhD at Penn State. This little Arizona girl had no idea what she had signed up for by leaving sunny warm weather for cold, gloomy central Pennsylvania. At Penn State, my research focused on examining the cultural, familial, and individual level factors that contribute to Latinx youth’s academic outcomes.

I started graduate school with the goal of becoming a professor to continue this kind of research and helping other Latinx students like me attain their PhDs. That dream quickly evolved after a few internships at the U.S. Department of Education, including with IES, as well as the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (formerly known as the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative). It was thanks to IES that I was even able to pursue these internships. As a graduate student, I was an IES predoctoral fellow, which afforded me opportunities to do the research I was interested in, as well as pursue these non-traditional graduate experiences. Through these internships, I quickly learned that I could do more. I learned that there is great need for Latinx scholars like myself in federal spaces, where decisions about funding and policies are happening. I became passionate about federal service, which led me to my current postdoctoral position.

Moving Forward

My main goal with my newly blossoming career as a doctora is to be able to work for a federal agency where I can use my skills and training to serve diverse communities, particularly communities of color. Federal leadership is still not reflective of the communities that make up the United States. I hope to serve in a federal leadership position in the future to represent the communities of color and make our leadership more reflective of its citizens. I plan to give voice to Latinx children, youth, and families of this country that need to be heard. Juntos podemos (Together, we can)!


This year, Inside IES Research is publishing a series of interviews (see here and hereshowcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education researchers and fellows that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice. As part of our Hispanic Heritage Month blog serieswe are focusing on Hispanic researchers and fellows, as well as researchers that focus on the education of Hispanic students.

Lorena Aceves (Lorena.Aceves@acf.hhs.govis a Society for Research Child Development Federal Postdoctoral Policy Fellow at the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Head Start.

This guest blog was produced by Caroline Ebanks (Caroline.Ebanks@ed.gov), Program Officer, National Center for Education Research.