Five Questions with Casey: Allison Gerber on the Value of Apprenticeships

Posted June 12, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog fivequestionsallisongerber 2015

Senior Asso­ciate Alli­son Ger­ber over­sees the Casey Foundation’s invest­ments in work­force devel­op­ment. Pri­or to this posi­tion, she served as the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Work­force Invest­ment Coun­cil and as a senior asso­ciate with the Aspen Insti­tute’s Work­force Strate­gies Ini­tia­tive. Ger­ber earned a bachelor’s degree in Amer­i­can Stud­ies from Virginia’s Sweet Bri­ar Col­lege and a law degree from Tulane Uni­ver­si­ty in New Orleans.

In this Five Ques­tions edi­tion, Ger­ber dis­cuss­es the role of appren­tice­ships in Casey’s strate­gies for con­nect­ing peo­ple to jobs.

Q1. Casey is inter­est­ed in appren­tice­ship as a strat­e­gy for get­ting peo­ple to work. Why?

An appren­tice­ship is a proven strat­e­gy for help­ing work­ers devel­op skills that employ­ers need to grow their busi­ness­es and com­pete in a glob­al econ­o­my. It is a job with a train­ing com­po­nent built in, which makes it ide­al for par­ents and young peo­ple who are try­ing to bal­ance work and train­ing. It also pro­vides work­ers with a crit­i­cal path­way to the mid­dle class. For exam­ple, 87% of par­tic­i­pants who com­plete an appren­tice­ship tran­si­tion to employ­ment — and at an aver­age start­ing salary of more than $50,000.

Q2. There are many his­tor­i­cal chal­lenges and mis­con­cep­tions regard­ing the use of appren­tice­ships. How is Casey’s approach different?

Appren­tice­ships have tra­di­tion­al­ly been filled by white men and used most com­mon­ly in the con­struc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing fields. We are focused on cre­at­ing diver­si­ty through tar­get­ed strate­gies to recruit and retain more women and peo­ple of col­or. We are also work­ing to expand oppor­tu­ni­ties in non­tra­di­tion­al fields and in grow­ing employ­ment sec­tors such as infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy, health care and hospitality.

Q3. What are some strate­gies that the Foun­da­tion is explor­ing in the appren­tice­ship field?

We are explor­ing part­ner­ships with oth­er fun­ders that pro­mote appren­tice­ships to get more employ­ers on board, advance promis­ing prac­tices and strength­en pub­lic poli­cies that sup­port this work. We are also look­ing at ways to build on the suc­cess­es of states — South Car­oli­na is one — that are encour­ag­ing and increas­ing their num­ber of appren­tice­ships. In addi­tion, we are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing path­ways and strate­gies relat­ed to appren­tice­ships that advance eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties for dis­ad­van­taged and under­served pop­u­la­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly peo­ple of color. 

Q4. What are demand-dri­ven employ­ment strate­gies, and how is appren­tice­ship an exten­sion of these strategies?

Casey has a 20-year his­to­ry of invest­ing in demand-dri­ven strate­gies, from the Jobs Ini­tia­tive to the Nation­al Fund for Work­force Solu­tions. This approach involves form­ing part­ner­ships with employ­ers to iden­ti­fy job oppor­tu­ni­ties and help peo­ple obtain the knowl­edge and skills nec­es­sary to thrive in their region­al econ­o­my. At the same time, employ­ers ben­e­fit from an influx of skilled tal­ent and a work­force devel­op­ment sys­tem that quick­ly adapts to chang­ing eco­nom­ic con­di­tions. Appren­tice­ships are a nat­ur­al exten­sion of this approach. They meet indus­try and work­er demand by bring­ing peo­ple in, invest­ing in them and help­ing them build the capac­i­ty to advance in the region­al econ­o­my. And we know that appren­tice­ships work. The data show a sig­nif­i­cant return on invest­ment for employ­ers and for work­ers themselves.

Q5. What’s the future of apprenticeships?

Last year, the White House called for a major push to dou­ble the num­ber of appren­tice­ships in this coun­try. The Depart­ment of Labor launched a $100 mil­lion grant com­pe­ti­tion aimed at help­ing pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships imple­ment inno­v­a­tive appren­tice­ship pro­grams. In the short term, this means that there is more sup­port for employ­ers as well as train­ing and edu­ca­tion groups inter­est­ed in sup­port­ing the appren­tice­ship strategy.

In the long term, we will need addi­tion­al pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor invest­ment to sus­tain and grow appren­tice­ship pro­grams. The chal­lenge here will be to increase path­ways to appren­tice­ship across a vari­ety of indus­tries and to main­tain the focus on inten­tion­al­ly cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple of col­or, youth, young adults and young par­ents who are not work­ing or in jobs that don’t pay enough to get by. Oth­er coun­tries have used indus­try asso­ci­a­tions, employ­ers and the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem to stan­dard­ize prac­tices relat­ed to appren­tice­ships. In the Unit­ed States, we still have more work to do on this front.

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