back to blog

Apprenticeships Are Booming for White-Collar Jobs


Apprenticeships are gaining steam once more, with the federal government and many businesses going all in. And we’re not just talking apprentice programs for mechanics and other blue-collar workers (although those are booming, too). Apprenticeships have taken off at high-tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, building talent in DevOps, project management and more. Financial and business apprenticeships are also growing in Texas and around the U.S.

Is it time to readjust your attitude about apprenticeships to attract top entry-level talent? Let’s see:

The Number of Top Talent with Four-Year Degrees is Decreasing

Young professionals were already disillusioned by the high cost and diminishing rewards of a traditional college education. The Wall Street Journal reports that only 20% of Millennials have come out ahead thanks to their college degree. Then the pandemic hit, and many in Gen Z (the currently emerging young adult generation) haven’t been able to get to a college campus for a quality education even when they try. Analysts predict that hundreds of colleges will close their doors in the coming years. As freshman college enrollment dropped by 16% during the pandemic, enrollment in short-term credential classes increased by 70%.

How Apprenticeships Can Help

Switching to an apprenticeship model doesn’t happen overnight, but the benefits can be worth it. The Brookings Institute recently released a report for employers new to apprentice programs. Here are some highlights:

  • An apprenticeship may seem like a more expensive endeavor than internships or boot camps, but they can have a much higher return on investment because the candidate is productively working from day one.
  • Registered apprenticeships can be based on competencies achieved rather than recorded hours (or a hybrid of the two). This allows highly competent apprentices to complete their programs faster.
  • Hiring raw talent to teach instead of hiring those already with a degree can widen a candidate pool immensely and open the door for historically underrepresented candidates when it comes to inclusion and equity.
  • Employers with apprentice programs report increased innovation, improved morale for existing staff asked to mentor junior staff, lower turnover, less need for supervision, lower error rates, an option to hire talent with company-specific knowledge, and opportunities to develop future managers.

How to Be Official

The priority on job-training alternatives outside—or as enhancements for—four-year degrees has been growing for a couple of decades now. In fact, apprenticeships grew 128% between 2009 and 2019. 

The Obama administration championed it, and so did the Trump administration (albeit in very different ways). Currently, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which is working its way through Congress, proposes creating nearly 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities beyond the already flourishing apprenticeship system. This FAQ form summarizes the proposal.  

An apprenticeship program doesn’t need to be nationally registered to be effective. But doing so holds several advantages, including grant, contract, and tax credit opportunities. It can also supplement recruiting and retention efforts in dozens of ways. It exhibits a standard of commitment and quality to job candidates who may be apprehensive about their career prospects after training.  Small and mid-size businesses may find that working through existing industry partnerships or forming their own cost-sharing solutions through local resources can help reduce the administrative and human resource costs of running an apprentice program.

Recruiters Can Help

Despite what you may assume, recruiters are critical to any successful apprentice program. As part of its piece, the Brookings Institute points out that the most cost-effective apprentice programs can be the trickiest for recruiting. That’s because the return on investment and the associated benefits we mentioned earlier are best when recruiting lower-level talent and training up over a more extended period.

So how do you find talent when you don’t have the benefit of judging candidates on education and experience?

Recruiters can help create a system to spot raw talent through assessments and other tools. They can maintain relationships with partner organizations to help sustain a healthy pipeline of candidates for you, too. Casting a wider net outside partner firms is often needed as well. Take IBM’s apprenticeship program as an example. IBM partners with ACC for apprentices but also regularly recruits outside ACC for positions like software engineer and DevOps apprentices. For more on developing apprenticeships, find resources and the latest from the federal government here


The HT Group fills roles in Temporary Staffing, Executive Search, Technical Recruiting, and Retained Search.

And be sure to connect with us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter for up-to-date news and tips and let us know what’s on your mind.