When developing career pathways for YouthBuild participants, meaningful, hands-on work experience has always been integral to YouthBuild’s consistently evolving approach.  Apprenticeship, a form of work-based learning, provides this type of invaluable experience by integrating paid work experience, classroom instruction, and a nationally recognized, portable credential.

As designated construction pre-apprenticeship programs (WIOA DOL-Only Final Rule, YouthBuildSection 688), DOL YouthBuild Grantees have played an essential role in equipping young people with the skills, experience, and credentials needed to succeed in apprenticeship programs. That role has continued to progress in response to the needs of employers, the interests of youth participants, and the greater emphasis being placed on apprenticeship by the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. This was demonstrated when YouthBuild programs implemented the Construction Plus framework, which provided the opportunity to build apprenticeship pathways to in-demand industries beyond construction. 

Today, during a global pandemic that has caused major disruptions in nearly every area of life, work, and education, YouthBuild programs are again being tasked with adapting and advancing work-based learning approaches. With the nation facing economic and labor market setbacks that have exacerbated existing racial,ethnic, and gender disparities, developing quality work experience opportunities may present challenges. However, our young people cannot afford to lose valuable work experience and wage growth, and employers cannot afford to halt investing in building a talent pipeline to address their current and future workforce needs. Historically, young adults entering the labor market during a recession are likely to see long-term, widespread harm to their careers, and the effects are most severe for young people of color and those without a high school diploma or equivalent credential (Youth Apprenticeship Can Help Reduce Long-Term Harms from Recession, The Urban Institute, June 2020).

Youth apprenticeship programs across the country have been adapting to the changing circumstances caused by the pandemic by working with their partners to pivot to online learning,moving information sessions, recruitment efforts and employer interviews to virtual environments, and matching apprentices and their families to relief resources, among other efforts. However, fully adapting and redesigning apprenticeship programs to a post-COVID model takes time and holds a host of challenges, including a lack of reliable, affordable internet access and technical skills.

Apprenticeship programs offer an “earn-while-you-learn” alternative, which can be an effective vehicle for unlocking the full potential of Opportunity Youth, while creating pathways to careers that yield family-sustaining wages and upward mobility. In collaboration with YouthBuild participants and partners,YouthBuild is poised to take the lead on expanding access to apprenticeships. One approach could be through establishing pathways to Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs), a proven model of apprenticeship that has been validated by the U.S.Department of Labor or a State Apprenticeship Agency, and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), apprenticeship programs recognized by the Standards Recognition Entity (SRE) pursuant to DOL standards. Apprenticeship programs benefit workers by providing hands-on career training, an education, a stable career path, and a national credential. Employers also receive benefits from this workforce solution, including a highly skilled diverse workforce, improved productivity, and worker retention.

YouthBuild programs can bridge the gap to some of our nation’s biggest workforce and systemic challenges.  Now more than ever, it is important for programs to strengthen current partnerships and establish new ones to continue building and strengthening apprenticeship pathways as the labor market starts to slowly recover. 

To learn more about how YouthBuild programs are implementing new approaches to youth apprenticeship, RAPs and IRAPs, join us for Manufacturing Success: Examining Development of an Apprenticeship Partnership and Pathway, which will be held on Tuesday, November 10, 2020,from 2-3:30 PM EDT

To connect with a Registered Apprenticeship Program:

  • Identify if your state is a state apprenticeship program or federal apprenticeship program here

  • Contact your federal or state representative to help identify local apprenticeship partners in your area.


To learn more about Apprenticeships, Registered Apprenticeships, and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeships, check out the following U.S. Department of Labor links:

What is a Pre-Apprenticeship Program?
What is a Registered Apprenticeship Program(RAP)?
What are Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAP)?
What is the difference between a RAP and IRAP?

Related Resources:

Apprenticeship Resource Page
Youth Apprenticeship Resource Page
DOL YouthBuild Registered Apprenticeship Toolkit
Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Community
Youth Apprenticeship in America Today: Connecting High School Students to Apprenticeship
Building Registered Apprenticeship Opportunities for Out-of-School Youth