California’s Proposal for Apprenticeship Growth Requires New Approach

Creating a comprehensive modern apprenticeship system in California will require a change in the way the state designs, launches, and implements programs.

Published dec. 17, 2018

In the last four years, California has made significant investments to expand the state's apprenticeships model and has launched several pilot programs within new industries and occupations. These efforts have helped California apprenticeships grow at rates of over 50 percent in the past couple of years, mirroring the national increase of more than 200,000 new apprentices since 2014.

There is now widespread interest at the state and local levels to build on the current momentum to:

  • Accelerate more people into more productive, higher-skilled career pathways;
  • Promote apprenticeship as a workforce and economic development solution; and
  • Demonstrate the value of apprenticeship to employers.

What's more, California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom has proposed to increase the number of apprentices in California to 500,000 over the next 10 years—a 500 percent increase.

We at JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning are excited about California's progress in the apprenticeship space and the Governor-elect's proposal, as we have seen the benefits apprenticeships provide jobseekers, employers, educators, and society.

It’s an ambitious goal, and California has already taken promising steps. But while California has seen 50% growth rates in apprenticeships over the last several years, apprentices are still only .5% of the state’s workforce. Creating a comprehensive modern apprenticeship will require a change in the way apprenticeships are designed, launched, and implemented.

With the support of the James Irvine Foundation and, JFF collaborated with Social Policy Research Associates to develop Closing the Gap: The Future of Apprenticeship in California. The report includes a set of recommendations for policymakers and practitioners in transforming California’s apprenticeship system from a traditional form to a more modern approach.

Eric Seleznow, senior advisor at JFF, noted: “California is well positioned to advance apprenticeships—they have laid out a foundation for developing a skilled workforce for the future while helping employers find the skilled workers they need to advance and grow.”

With California being home to 15% of the nation’s apprentices, the actions the state’s policymakers take to increase apprenticeship will provide useful insights for other regions. We look forward to seeing the modernization of this traditional approach in one of the nation’s apprenticeship hubs.

This blog was funded by the generous support of the James Irvine Foundation, and by as part of JFF’s Apprenticeship Awareness and Expansion Initiative. The national initiative expands apprenticeship and other high-quality, structured work-based learning programs through on-the-ground technical assistance and a resource and communications campaign.

Read "Closing the Gap: The Future of Apprenticeship in California"

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