Job-driven apprenticeships are among the surest pathways to provide American workers from all backgrounds with the skills and knowledge they need to acquire good-paying careers and grow the economy, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, 87% of apprentices are employed after completing their programs, with an average starting wage above $50,000.

The return on investment for employers is also impressive — international studies suggest that for every dollar spent on apprenticeship, employers may get an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity, reduced waste and greater front-line innovation. As a result, President Obama has made expanding apprenticeship a priority for his administration.

The Department of Labor announced it is using the $90 million provided in the fiscal year 2016 spending bill for new investments through ApprenticeshipUSA to expand apprenticeship in the United States, including:

• $60 million to support state strategies to expand apprenticeship, including funding for regional industry partnerships and innovative strategies that diversify apprenticeship locally;

• $30 million to catalyze industry partnerships in fast-growing and high-tech industries, to support organizations focused on increasing diversity, and to launch national efforts to make it easier for employers to start and for workers to find apprenticeship opportunities.

Building on the bipartisan support for apprenticeship, the DOL intends to make multiyear grants and contract awards to winning states, nonprofits, workforce intermediaries and industry associations subject to the availability of funding through the appropriations process using the $90 million provided through bipartisan support in the FY2016 spending bill for the first year of the awards.

State strategies to expand apprenticeship

The DOL’s first step in investing in state apprenticeship strategies is to make up to $9.5 million available for ApprenticeshipUSA State Accelerator Grants, for states to develop strategic plans and build partnerships for apprenticeship expansion and diversification. States also will receive support to develop comprehensive game plans for encouraging businesses to launch apprenticeship programs in a variety of industries including advanced construction, manufacturing, health care, IT and transportation.

These state accelerator grants will be followed this spring by a $50 million ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grants Competition to scale-up state efforts to expand apprenticeship.  The expansion grants will help states integrate apprenticeship into their education and workforce systems; engage industry and other partners at scale to expand apprenticeship to new sectors and new populations; support state capacity to conduct outreach and work with employers to start new programs; provide support to promote greater inclusion and diversity in apprenticeship; and implement state innovations, incentives and system reforms.  

By investing in state strategies for growing apprenticeship opportunities, these funds will help strengthen the foundation for the rapid and sustained expansion of quality apprenticeship programs nationwide.

The ApprenticeshipUSA state investments build on the demonstrated success several states have already shown in expanding apprenticeship.  With the leadership of governors across the country, 14 states have increased the number of apprentices in their state by more than 20% — including:

• Iowa, which tripled state funds to support apprenticeship across key industries;
• California, which unlocked additional funds to cover training costs;
• Georgia, which brought together its workforce development and community college systems to partner with more than 30 major employers on apprenticeship; and
• Connecticut, which launched a Manufacturing Innovation Fund to support employers engaged in apprenticeship expansion.

Industry partnerships, access to apprenticeship

Through ApprenticeshipUSA, the Department of Labor also will make investments to help more employers start or grow apprenticeship programs, particularly in high-growth and high-tech industries such as health care, IT and advanced manufacturing where apprenticeship has not been as broadly adopted.  Through industry-driven partnerships, these investments will focus on leveraging collaborations with workforce development organizations, industry associations, labor groups and training providers to help multiple employers at a time accelerate the expansion of apprenticeship nationwide.

Expanding Registered Apprenticeship also means opening up opportunities to traditionally underrepresented populations including women, minorities and people with disabilities, tapping into the full range of America’s talent.

These national investments will complement investments made at the state level, ensuring that state strategies embrace diversity in apprenticeship. They will also support national efforts to engage community-based organizations, workforce intermediaries and other nonprofits in the development and implementation of pathways to apprenticeship including pre-apprenticeship, supportive services and youth apprenticeships.

In addition, the Department of Labor will invest in national activities to increase access to apprenticeship including strategic marketing and outreach, technology improvements and innovations that make it easier for employers to start apprenticeships and for job-seekers to connect with apprenticeship opportunities.  

For more information on the timeline of additional investments and deadlines for proposals, visit