Registered apprenticeships, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, are paid training programs that aim to connect workers to well-paying jobs. Some of the most common industries associated with apprenticeships include construction, electrical services, plumbing, and even healthcare occupations.
To achieve racially equitable outcomes in apprenticeship programs, policymakers must understand the structural barriers Black apprentices face. The Joint Center's issue brief, Five Charts To Understand Black Registered Apprentices in the United States, analyzes data reported in the Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Database System (RAPIDS) from the U.S. Department of Labor to highlight these structural barriers.
According to the Joint Center’s report, Black apprentices are:
- Underrepresented in apprenticeship programs, making up only nine percent of all registered apprentices, despite being 12.3 percent of our workforce;
- Least likely to complete programs, coming in at a 41 percent completion rate compared to 47 percent for Hispanic apprentices, 48 percent for white and Native apprentices, and 49 percent for Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) apprentices;
- The lowest earners among their peers in other racial and ethnic groups, on average, exiting their programs at a wage of $25/hour, while Hispanic apprentices exit at $26/hour, white apprentices exit at $28/hour, and AAPI apprentices exit at $30/hour;
- Concentrated in construction, with 40 percent of all Black apprentices in the construction field, facing ongoing discrimination and exclusion from high-paying supervisorial and managerial roles; and
- Concentrated in the South, in states like Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana, that have weak labor standards and lesser pay — apprentices in the south earn only 64 cents for every dollar that apprentices in the western half of the country make upon exit from an apprenticeship program.
To address the issues Black apprentices and potential apprentices face, the Joint Center recommended the following policy solutions:
- Establish permanent funding for increasing equity in apprenticeships;
- Eliminate barriers to entry for people with low incomes;
- Encourage college credit for apprenticeship training; and
- Develop a national system to track unregistered apprenticeship outcomes.