Learning about Apprenticeships
It's not surprising that amid the anxiety over the rising cost of college, many students and families would look for alternatives. Case in point, apprenticeships. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the United States has seen a 64% increase in apprenticeships over the past decade. For those like me whose only real previous points of reference to apprenticeships were a reality TV show and the life story of Benjamin Franklin, it's way past time to talk about them.
An apprenticeship is a paid educational program. It is a way for workers to earn money while learning a new skill or trade. This may be for new employees or for veterans looking to "upskill" and increase their earning power in their current job or field. Like a degree, those who complete an apprenticeship will receive a certification that they can use to build their resume. They can even in some cases transfer their apprenticeship experience to credits in a degree-granting program.
The learning that is done in an apprenticeship may come in the form of training in the field or classroom instruction, or a mixture of both. Apprenticeships are industry-driven. That is, a company or employer may decide they need their workforce to be trained in a new skill or field and then partner with educators, unions, or community-based programs to get that training. Community colleges are a popular classroom partner for apprenticeships.
What careers offer apprenticeships? There is a wide variety. I joked about Benjamin Franklin earlier, but since apprenticeships are an old tradition, you may think that they are only for professions like carpentry, masonry, plumbing, or other building trades. And while those certainly exist, more cutting-edge programs related to software development, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity (to name a few) also exist, as well as those for banking, healthcare, and education.
Do apprenticeships cost anything? There may be some costs related to apprenticeship training in the form of books, supplies, and training materials. To make my earlier point about the renewed focus on apprenticeships, recent changes to 529 college savings plans (initially designed for college) now allow savers to use up to $10,000 annually on expenses related to apprenticeships.
If you're interested in finding apprenticeships in Massachusetts, view the state apprenticeship website. And if you live elsewhere, check your state government's website to see if they also have apprenticeship opportunities listed. You can also reach out to the regional or state association of the career field in which you're interested to find out about additional opportunities.