Summary

The cost of college has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, with tuition costs far outpacing wage growth. At the same time, many employers complain that they are unable to find high-quality talent, in part due to excessive focus on the signaling effect conferred by college degrees. Although the last three presidential administrations have expanded and added pathways to high-earning jobs through apprenticeship programs, such programs remain under-utilized and have significant growth potential. To maximize the potential of apprenticeship programs, the federal government should develop a cohesive approach to supporting apprenticeships in key talent-starved industries, including technology and cybersecurity, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. These apprenticeships are characterized by high pay and upward mobility and are designed to support economic growth and serve vital national interests. To maximize the benefits of expanding high-quality apprenticeships, the federal government should (1) develop a national strategy to coordinate and direct resources, and (2) work with Congress to allocate federal funding for apprenticeships and related programs in nationally strategic areas.