News & Events
Jan 28

Boosting California’s Recovery through Equitable Apprenticeship

by Sabrina Singh Kansara
Caleb van Docto, Kristin Wolff, and Vinz Koller of Social Policy Research Associates

In 2018, Governor Newsom set a goal of reaching 500,000 apprenticeships by 2029, to connect more Californians to well-paying jobs in an economy that needs diverse talent and new expertise to thrive. In response, apprenticeship champions from industry and education expanded existing programs and launched new ones in communities across the state.

In 2020, a group of such apprenticeship champions and practitioners, who are also grantees of Irvine’s Better Careers initiative, gathered for a series of four virtual convenings to explore ways to grow apprenticeship more quickly and solve some of the most persistent challenges impeding the Governor’s goal.

“Thank you James Irvine Foundation for including Chaffey College InTech Center in this important work! Non-traditional and traditional apprenticeships will help fill the $1.5MM jobs that will otherwise go unfilled due to the middle-skills and work-experience gaps. CA, we can do this!”
– Sandra Sisco”
The convening participants, some of California’s most active apprenticeship practitioners, work in critical sectors where modern apprenticeship is emerging, such as healthcare, technology, and advanced manufacturing. They focused their discussions on some of the most pervasive constraints impeding the growth of apprenticeships in California, including the complexity in the state’s oversight structure that makes registration and operation difficult, and the limited availability of flexible funding sources that would help emerging programs to innovate quickly and direct resources accordingly.

In the first three convenings, the group examined challenges they face in scaling and sustaining apprenticeship in California today, including the need for reliable funding sources, limits to their capacity to build a sustainable network of partners, and their ability to innovate and iterate new programs in the face of a severe COVID-19 recession. The participants all agreed that reaching the Governor’s goal requires structural changes that will encourage targeted sector growth and equitable career paths for all Californians.

During the final convening, grantees crafted a Call to Action laying out five strategies for change that are simple, achievable in the short-term, and essential for an equitable recovery. They are:

  • Designate a torchbearer responsible for achieving the Governor’s 500,000 goal
  • Organize around intermediary networks
  • Dedicate funding for mission-critical apprenticeship infrastructure
  • Develop an Apprenticeship Strategy for California’s Youth
  • Adopt a common set of guiding principles — centered on equity, collaboration, and meeting local needs — to promote alignment of apprenticeship and related efforts across agencies and funding streams

The Call to Action follows on the heels of a recently published report, Road to 500,000 Apprentices, by New America’s Brent Parton and Mike Prebil. In it, the authors call for a “proactive role for state policymakers to support the expansion of the apprenticeship system” akin to the expansion of California’s higher education system in the 1960s.

Taken together, the two sets of recommendations complement each other and will bring the system closer to being able to fulfill the Governor’s goal.

Furthermore, the proposed economic recovery program of the incoming Biden administration calls for a $50 billion investment in workforce training that includes apprenticeship partnerships between community colleges and businesses. This massive investment package — if implemented — would provide a significant infusion of funding on the road to 500,000 apprentices.

These practitioners call on California’s workforce and apprenticeship leaders to align around this urgent agenda for change.

Stakeholders and other practitioners who wish to sign on in support of the effort, or to learn more about future actions, are invited to share their contact information.