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State youth apprenticeship programs require better data collection practices

November 14, 2019

As employers continue to face a shortage in trained and skilled workers, federally registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) continue to grow as a response. However, the ability to evaluate these programs depends on the quality of data collection and reporting practices. While there are variations in the federal data collection and reporting standards for adult RAPs, new and innovative programs such as state youth apprenticeship programs face a greater disparity in the quality of data management practices. A new report makes recommendations for state and local leaders on better approaches to evaluating the programs.

As the Department of Labor’s fifth annual National Apprenticeship Week — showcasing more than 950 registered events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico — comes to a conclusion, states have a renewed focus on improving their programs. According to the latest numbers from the Department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), apprenticeship numbers have grown by 56 percent since 2013, with more than 282,000 graduating participants and more than 10,800 new RAPs in the last five years. However, managing this federal data is not standardized across all states, and state-only programs fare worse in collecting and reporting data.

A new report from Advance CTE — the longest-standing national non-profit that represents state Career Technical Education (CTE) directors and state leaders responsible for secondary, postsecondary and adult CTE — finds that there is a particular deficiency in the ability of states to collect and use reliable data on youth apprenticeship programs. The report identifies three primary causes for the deficiency.

First, these programs are still very new in most communities. Therefore, early data collection practices tend to focus on program utilization and completion metrics, such as enrollment and completion measures, rather than on program outcomes, such as skill attainment and career connections.

Second, these programs are often intersectional and rely on accessing siloed information systems across secondary and postsecondary education, public workforce agencies, and private industry.

Finally, the definitions and delivery methods of these programs are not consistent across all jurisdictions. Only 20 states reported having a statewide definition for “youth apprenticeships,” with wide variability among the states in their definitions.  

The report makes several recommendations for state and local leaders, including standardizing definitions and data management processes, and leveraging the data collection mechanisms provided in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act and the 2018 Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The report also emphasizes the importance of supplementing data through qualitative methods such as identifying best practices, gathering participant input on program strengths and weaknesses, and conducting post-program follow-up surveys. Such measures can help state leaders form a more comprehensive understanding of these burgeoning youth apprenticeship programs.

apprenticeship, data collection, workforce