The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is designed, in part, to connect out-of-school youth to education and jobs. Under WIOA, YouthBuild programs are considered pre-apprenticeship models, with a goal of connecting youth participants to jobs by preparing them for, and connecting them to, future apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships provide a clearly defined and regulated method to access on-the-job training for youth participants, providing them with skills desired by employers while also providing an opportunity to earn a living wage – this is known as a “work-and-learn model” approach to workforce development.  To achieve this link to apprenticeships, YouthBuild grantees must develop and nurture partnerships with apprenticeship sponsors, an objective that many programs find difficult to achieve. While a number of YouthBuild grantees have partnerships with employers, business associations, and labor management organizations, many do not, and those partnerships that do exist are often not robust enough to result in apprenticeship placement.  In many cases, the challenge in developing these partnerships is due to the effort needed to nurture them and the limited capacity of staff to manage multiple relationships across multiple employers and associations.  Each such partnership can take months, if not years, to develop.

To maximize the apprenticeship opportunities which YouthBuild participants can access, grantees should consider how to accelerate partnership development with potential apprenticeship sponsors. This can include a range of work-and-learn models. There is growing recognition of an expanding range of options for viable partnerships leading to career pathways. The President’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion was convened in 2017 to consider policy changes to support these more expansive career pathways, particularly in the area of apprenticeship. The 2018 President’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion Final Report noted that while apprenticeships are a proven model to prepare workers for employment and are mutually beneficial for employers who gain employees that are prepared for work and for workers who have a pathway to a career, they are often underutilized by employers. The Task Force recommended new “Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs” as a pathway to expand traditional work-and-learn models for greater employer engagement, thus leading to improved outcomes. Work-and-learn models may include activities as diverse as industry tours and job shadowing, as well as internships and apprenticeship. This expansion of work-and-learn models opens new opportunities for YouthBuild programs to connect directly with industry partners to develop new opportunities to for hands-on work experience, potential future job placements, and even apprenticeship pathways. However, YouthBuild grantees must identify ways to accelerate the partnership development process and engage more deeply with employers, industry associations, and apprenticeship sponsors alike.

Acceleration Strategy #1: Use Offices of Apprenticeship to Identify Sponsors Looking for Talent

The role of the Federal and State Offices of Apprenticeship (OAs) are to assist employers in designing work-based learning opportunities to develop a talent pool of workers, provide information to potential employees about apprenticeship and other work-based learning opportunities, identify apprenticeship sponsors, and support the apprenticeship registration process. In this capacity, OAs can connect local YouthBuild grant programs to apprenticeship sponsors seeking qualified candidates. Because staff members who work at OAs engage regularly with employers, business associations, labor management organizations, and community colleges, they can present YouthBuild as a potential talent pool for these partners. . “This creates a win-win-win situation since it provides staff at Offices of Apprenticeship with a ready-made talent source in YouthBuild and the apprenticeship sponsors are able to create a talent pipeline.  YouthBuild participants win because they are placed on a pathway that includes the opportunity to develop relevant skills while earning a good wage,” says William Kraus, Director of the Georgia State Office of Apprenticeship.

Click here to find the Office of Apprenticeship in your state.

Acceleration Strategy #2: Collaborate with Other YouthBuild Grantees

By joining forces with other local YouthBuild programs, the talent pool expands, making the joint YouthBuild programs a stronger partner. It is easier for YouthBuild grantees to consistently deliver graduates who are motivated, interested, and prepared, which then maximizes the return on the investment required to cultivate and sustain relationships with apprenticeship sponsors by ensuring that the apprenticeship partner has a successful experience with YouthBuild participant recruitment. Working together to develop common criteria for apprenticeship readiness or adopting a common curriculum that aligns with the needs of the local labor market makes this collaboration even stronger because it generates additional incentive for employers and other apprenticeship sponsors to partner with YouthBuild grantees.

These acceleration strategies have proven successful in two different pilot projects that were designed to increase YouthBuild graduates’ access to apprenticeship opportunities in the construction field.  You can read about them by clicking the links below:

Metropolitan Atlanta YouthBuild Collaborative (MAYBC)

Los Angeles Regional YouthBuild Collaborative

Be sure to check out the webinar recording from Leveraging Relationships with Offices of Apprenticeship to Promote Apprenticeship Pathways, which was held on November 6th, 2018. This webinar recounts the history of the pilot project in Atlanta and shares lessons learned from this work.

Related Resources

DOL YouthBuild Registered Apprenticeship Toolkit

Resources to Assist Apprenticeship Programs

DOL Competency Model Clearinghouse

Supporting Community College Delivery of Apprenticeships