Wisconsin has the largest and longest-running youth apprenticeship program in the country. And social policy researchers are out with new findings that detail its strengths in creating pathways for better economic outcomes. This summer, the Urban Institute issued a policy brief about the history and reach of the state’s apprenticeship program for high school-age students. The authors say Wisconsin has adopted a well-structured, low-cost system with state support that allows for plenty of local control. The Institute’s Robert Lerman helped compile the findings and says the Badger State’s approach really gets to the heart of blending academics with “on-the-job” training.

“They have part of the day or part of the week – they’re at their workplace. But the whole point is that the workplace is a learning center for them.” Lerman said.

Lerman says that’s especially important for high-school students worried about the cost of college. The Institute says another highlight of Wisconsin’s program is that it has statewide curricula and skill standards, meaning an apprentice’s credentials can be portable. Researchers say a weak spot is limitations for youth to move on to registered apprenticeship systems that offer extended training.

Lerman says even though rising college costs might inspire more teens to take up apprenticeships, it’s important to remember that some people like to “learn by doing,” no matter the circumstances. He suggests if more states beef up their programs as Wisconsin has, the nation could benefit in a variety of ways.

Lerman continued, “We can improve equity and improve opportunity, and efficiency, and productivity for the country. “

He adds that his research has found that in general U-S apprenticeship programs lag behind many other countries in terms of their scope. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s program for youth has seen strong demand, including this past school year, with more than 57-hundred employers providing apprenticeships to nearly 83-hundred students.

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