Apprenticeships and On-The-Job Training: A Growing Need?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed youth in July 2013 was 3.8 million, which represents 16.3% unemployment in the 16-24 year-old age group. It is more than double the current general reported unemployment figure—something that has drawn interest from many quarters.

Two opinion pieces, from Robert Ketchum, PhD and economist Robert Lerman, on Paul Solman’s The Business Desk webpage, point to the growing need to explore employer-provided skills-training like Apprenticeship and On-the-Job-Training (OJT) opportunities in more depth to address this issue.

Opinions between the two contributors differ slightly. Solman quotes Lerman as stating that: “We need trainable workers who can adapt to a changing economy, but are often faced with employers who will not bear the cost of employee training.” He believes that the responsibility resides within the government structure to at least take heed of the successes of the Apprenticeship and OJT programs from highly industrialized European nations and provide increased funding and support to companies and organizations who offer apprenticeships.

Ketchum’s tack is slightly different than that of Lerman. He believes that the onus resides with employers themselves and not on the government to prepare future workers for the workforce, stating: “why are companies convinced that government will or should solve their training needs?” He agrees that Apprenticeships are a potential solution, but his assertion is that “employers should take responsibility to develop and manage their own knowledge and skills.”

He proffers Professor Ron Jacobs’ principle of Structured On-The-Job Training (SOJT). He believes that SOJT, “a planned process of developing competence on units of work by having an experienced employee train a novice employee at the work setting or a location that closely resembles the work setting,” could provide the bridge between screen learning and OJT learning as a way to acquire requisite skills.

Opinions on “how” differ slightly; however, the tenor of both is that our youth are becoming increasingly disadvantaged when entering the workforce. Lacking the type of applicable Occupational Skills Training (OST) and/or “soft skills” development that employers can utilize, they are either hamstrung by the tertiary education price tag, lack of education (and/or job skills training), no prospects, or a combination of all of them.

Youth unemployment and underemployment is a workforce challenge on which KRA Corporation has focused its resources for many years through WIA-funded In-School and Out-of-School Youth Services Programs.  From New Jersey to South Carolina, KRA’s Youth Employability and Success (YES) Programs support youth education, training, and employment through an extensive mix of services: intensive case management; group/individual career counseling and planning; short-term pre-vocational services; and formal employability and work-maturity skills training.

Workplace-readiness services include interest, math, and reading assessments; GED preparation; soft-skills development; and job application and interviewing skills.  YES Programs recruit and partner with local public- and private-sector employers to develop jobs and/or specialized skills-development opportunities, including Apprenticeships, Community Work Experience, OJT, OST, and entrepreneurship training.  

KRA Corporation will continue to prepare our youth job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and to supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.  (For a full line-up of Youth Services clients and programs, please go to: