Apprenticeships in K-12 and Higher Education



As both policymakers and educational institutions increasingly turn to career and workforce connections to help students, apprenticeship programs are gaining ground as a proven approach to prepare workers for careers, while also meeting the needs of businesses.

Students with job instructorApprenticeships are work-based learning programs in which industry professionals and educational institutions partner to align on-the-job training with curriculum and instruction. States are increasingly looking to apprenticeship programs to fill labor shortages, especially in rural areas or high-skill trade professions.

Legislators are actively working to integrate apprenticeship programs into the range of educational options available to students. These options often begin during high school and continue well into postsecondary education.

Apprenticeships offer numerous benefits to employers, including the opportunity to train and develop highly skilled employees, reduce turnover rates, increase productivity and lower recruitment costs. According to the US Department of Labor, for every dollar employers spend on apprenticeships, employers get back an average of $1.47 in increased productivity.

Additionally, many states provide tax incentives to employers who hire apprentices. For employees, apprenticeships provide on-the-job training under the “learn-while-you-earn” model, instruction from an educational partner such as a community college and a chance to earn a portable, recognized credential. This model has gained traction across the country as a crucial tool to help states meet their workforce needs and educational attainment goals. Meeting these targets has been linked with efforts for reform in both secondary and postsecondary education.

The U.S. Department of Labor administers a Registered Apprenticeship program which tracks apprenticeships nationwide. Registered Apprenticeships must also meet certain criteria and all participants earn nationally recognized certificates. These apprenticeships are also tracked in the Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Data System (RAPIDS), which logged more than 533,000 apprentices in 2017, a 42 percent increase from 2013.  

Uptick in Apprenticeship Legislation

The past three years have seen steady increases in legislation concerning apprenticeship programs at the state level. Since 2016, at least 30 states have passed 60 new apprenticeship laws.

Most enacted apprenticeship legislation falls into one of five main categories:

  • Establish new apprenticeship programs or create new requirements for existing programs. For the past three years, about half of all apprenticeship legislation was covered by this category.
  • Authorize new funds for apprenticeship programs. Most of these funding bills provide tax credits, grants to employers to incentivize hiring of apprentices or scholarship funds to students who are participating in an apprenticeship.
  • Seek to address increasing awareness for available apprenticeship programs. These bills often require high school counselors to include apprenticeship options that are available to students in their advising programs.
  • Ensure that apprenticeship credit can be used to fulfill traditional curriculum requirements and to ensure credits transfer.
  • Expand apprenticeship programs to prevent discrimination and ensure diversity among apprentice programs.

State Policy Issues and Examples 

Oversight and Accountability 

Who will coordinate and manage apprenticeship programs? 
  • Kentucky HB 246 (2019) places the Division of Apprenticeships under the Department of Workforce Investment within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Creates the Kentucky Apprenticeship Council. 
  • Maryland SB 92 (2016) moves the Apprenticeship and Training Council and its Youth Apprenticeship Advisory Committee to the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning.
  • South Carolina HB 4145 (2016) creates a Coordinating Council for Workforce Development, to develop a comprehensive plan for workforce training and education. This effort builds on the Apprenticeship Carolina Program created in 2007. This program has completed more than 28,000 registered apprenticeships and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as a national model for apprenticeship expansion. It also offers one of the largest tax credits to employers, up to $1,000 per year per apprentice up to four years. 

Funding and Incentives

What kind of funding will the state provide to incentivize apprenticeships?
  • Maryland HB 1167 (2019) creates the Apprenticeship Career Training Pilot Program for formerly incarcerated individuals. The program provides up to $1,000 per qualified apprentice and is funded with $100,000 annually for five years. 
  • Colorado HB 1266 (2018) extends the Career Development Success Pilot Program, which provides up to $1,000 to school districts for each student who completes an identified industry-certificate, internship, or pre-apprenticeship program or computer science advanced placement (AP) course. 
  • Iowa HB 2458 (2018) creates the Future Ready Iowa Act which establishes a registered apprenticeship program and provides scholarship funding.  
  • Virginia HB 544 (2018) authorizes each local school board to establish High School to Work Partnerships between public high schools and local businesses to create opportunities for high school students to participate in an apprenticeship, internship, or job shadow program.
  • Wisconsin AB 745 (2018) allows a high school senior to begin the first year of an apprenticeship program during their final year of high school.  
  • Michigan HB 685 (2017) requires apprenticeship and internship programs to be part of School Improvement Plans.
  • Kentucky HB 206 (2017) allows students enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs to receive funds from the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship which offers merit-based aid and its funded by revenue from the Kentucky Lottery.

Articulation and Transferability 

Are there policies to ensure credit from apprenticeships can be used to fulfill curriculum requirements or transfer to another institution?
  • Connecticut SB 607 (2019) requires the Labor Department and the Board of Regents for Higher Education to jointly establish nontraditional pathways to earn a bachelor's degree through apprenticeships. 
  • Florida HB 577 (2018) allows students to use credits earned from an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship program to satisfy high school graduation requirements. 
  • Virginia SB 999 (2017) requires each comprehensive community college to develop policies and procedures for awarding academic credit to enrolled students who have successfully completed a state-approved registered apprenticeship credential.

Awareness and Information 

How will students know which apprenticeship programs are available?
  • Colorado SB 81 (2020) requires the Department of Labor and Employment to collaborate with the Department of Education to include in the Colorado state apprenticeship resource directory the name and contact information for at least one designated apprenticeship training program contact for every public high school and school district.
  • Utah HB 280 (2019) creates the position of Commissioner of Apprenticeship Programs who is charged with promoting and educating the public regarding apprenticeship programs that are offered in the state. 
  • Virginia HB 399 (2018) requires each school board to implement a plan to notify students and their parents of the availability of apprenticeships and certificate programs.
  • Oklahoma HB 2911 (2018) requires schools to include apprenticeship programs in student’s Individual Career & Academic Plan (ICAP) advising plans.

NCSL Resources

NCSL Career Pathways Page 

NCSL Postsecondary Bill Tracking Database 

Additional Resources

US Department of Labor- Registered Apprenticeship Resources