Improving Apprenticeship Completion Rates

Chelsi Campbell
Apprentice and mentor with heavy machinery

Apprenticeship is a proven strategy to develop a talent pipeline for a skilled workforce. Apprenticeship programs can help businesses mitigate workforce shortages and provide workers with paid work experience, classroom instruction, progressive wage increases, and a nationally recognized credential. However, apprenticeship completion rates are a concern for employers, labor organizations, and other organizations that sponsor and operate programs. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that overall apprenticeship completion rates are below 35%.

Apprentice retention is a dynamic process that is affected by multiple factors that change over time. The factors that influence apprentice retention can be considered at the individual level (e.g., lack of social support); the program level (e.g., mode and quality of classroom instruction delivery); and the occupational level (e.g., the occupation’s culture).

As apprenticeship expansion efforts continue to gain traction, it is imperative that we consider the factors that may prevent apprentices from being successful. The electrical training ALLIANCE partnered with AIR to identify strategies to better support apprentices and improve apprenticeship completion rates. As part of this work, AIR conducted a review of studies that looked at apprentice retention to better understand the factors contributing to apprentices leaving programs before completion.

This brief, Improving Apprenticeship Completion Rates, summarizes the findings of our review of studies on apprentice retention and provides recommended strategies to mitigate factors negatively affecting attrition. In particular, the brief covers the following areas:

  • Challenges related to apprentices’ experience in the workplace environment.
  • Factors concerning the classroom instruction component of the apprenticeship program.
  • Challenges related to the financial security of apprentices and program costs.
  • Personal and life challenges faced by apprentices during their program and access to support services.