Apprenticeships for Older Adults
Authors: Christine Garland, Vice President of Workforce Development, Center for Workforce Inclusion, Inc
Each November, we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week. The definition of apprenticeship is simple: an arrangement in which someone learns an art, trade, or job under another. Apprenticeships offer a way to earn money while learning a skill, and apprenticeships have existed since the dawn of civilization. It is not just the apprentices that benefit. Employers with apprenticeship programs experience improved productivity and bottom lines as well as reduced turnover.
Modern common occupations that offer apprenticeships include boilermakers, carpenters, electricians, elevator installers and repairers, glaziers, and insulation workers to name a few. There are also many modern-day apprenticeships that exist in unexpected places such as public administration, health care, and social services, education services, and more. For example, in Maryland, Frederick Community College has an Accounting Technician apprenticeship where apprentices learn how to apply accounting concepts in a computerized environment to assist businesses with their record-keeping requirements.
But at the heart of our fundamental understanding of apprenticeships is a bias for younger workers, and this bias blinds employers to the opportunity of having older workers fill apprenticeship spots. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship Sponsor Information Database (RAPIDS) shows that of apprentices from 2008 to March 2019 only 3.3% of all apprentices, or 79,500 of 2.4 M, were age 50 or older.
Employers that have apprenticeship opportunities are missing a whole segment of the labor force. By 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that America’s labor force will grow to about 170 million people including 42 million, or 25%, who will be age 55 and older.
By 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that America’s labor force will grow to about 170 million people including 42 million, or 25%, who will be age 55 and older.
Additionally, researchers who study brain plasticity have established that our brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience does not stop as we age. In other words, old dogs can learn new tricks. The word “apprenticeship” comes from the Old French word “aprentiz” which means “someone learning.” Older job seekers and apprenticeships can provide the best of both worlds’ opportunity for employers.
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digital skills and automation, employers need workers for a variety of jobs, and concerns about older adults and COVID-19 are misleading. In fact, researchers from the Brookdale Center on Healthy Aging at Hunter College, have concluded that healthy older people under age 85 are at lower risk of serious illness from COVID-19 than many younger people with underlying health conditions.
Currently, there are more than 3,000 occupations approved for registered apprenticeships with the U.S. Department of Labor that will help apprentices of all ages reskill and upskill.
Currently, there are more than 3,000 occupations approved for registered apprenticeships with the U.S. Department of Labor that will help apprentices of all ages reskill and upskill. Older job seekers could be an excellent match for many registered apprenticeship vacancies in occupations ranging from accounting technicians, counselors, database information assistants, detailers, early childhood development specialists, fire prevention officers, hospital health information management coders, operations associates, physical therapy aides, professional fee coders, and more.
However, older job seekers cannot be what they cannot see. The Center for Workforce Inclusion is at the ready to help employers tap into the pool of unemployed older job seekers still needing to work or those with no plans to retire, keen to learn new skills.