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Tell More Young Adults, “You’re Hired!”—Here's How

Two men working in an IT environment

Stocking shelves, flipping burgers, or looking for work, millions of young Americans are still reeling from the recession. The downturn had a particularly devastating effect on young people of color, youth from low-income backgrounds, and those without a postsecondary plan.

We know it may take years of policy debate, along with strategic public and private investments, to substantially reduce youth unemployment and underemployment. But there is one thing we can do right now to help:

Expand apprenticeship programs.

Congress has the opportunity to approve a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to significantly increase the number of registered apprenticeships in the United States and help many more young people start a pathway to a family-supporting career.

Jobs for the Future, along with many other national and state organizations, enthusiastically supports the bill introduced last week by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker D-NJ and Tim Scott R-SC. It would provide new federal tax credits to employers who offer apprenticeships, offsetting some of the costs.

Long common in the construction trades, apprentices “earn while they learn” on the job and frequently find permanent employment when their apprenticeship ends.

The Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act aims to make apprenticeships available more broadly, in health care, information technology, and other high-demand industries. It contains an added incentive for employers to focus on hiring people under the age of 25, who face higher unemployment than other groups. The tax credits would be $1,500 a year for each apprentice age 25 or younger, and $1,000 per year for those over 25.

At a time in this country when a highly skilled workforce is more important than ever before, registered apprenticeships are highly effective strategies for preparing America’s workers with the skills needed for high-demand jobs and careers.

A 2012 Mathematica evaluation found that individuals who completed registered apprenticeships earned over $240,000 more over their careers than individuals not participating in such programs. The estimated tax return on every federal dollar invested was $27.

My colleague Nancy Hoffman, JFF’s vice president and senior advisor who has studied work-based learning across Europe, has written extensively about the advantages of apprenticeships in Switzerland, Germany, and other countries. The evidence shows that young people learn both specific occupational skills—for middle-class jobs ranging from telecom technician to bank teller—as well as essential workplace readiness skills such as teamwork and problem solving. Many receive permanent jobs with their first employer.

For details on the LEAP Act, see booker.senate.gov/LEAP. Please join us in supporting this important legislation.