Employers complain about the skills gap they see in prospective employees and apprenticeship programs could prepare future employees to fill open jobs. Nevertheless, enrollment in programs that combined on-the- job hands-on work with classroom training has fallen by 40% in the U.S. between 2003 and 2013. Why the resistance? Unfortunately for our industry, two-thirds of apprenticeship positions are in the construction industry, which turns young people off. And many of those programs are run by unions, which turns employers off.

Readers of CONTRACTOR will find this complaint familiar from this story, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal — employers are afraid that if they train their people, they'll quit and go to work for somebody else. The article also touches on issue of young people, their parents and guidance counselors thinking that the only way to get a good job it to go to college.

Wall Street Journal reporter Lauren Weber wrote:

College degrees and internships don't produce the same quality of worker as intensive, on-the-job apprenticeships, says Brad Neese, director of Apprenticeship Carolina, a program of the South Carolina Technical College System. Employers are seeing "a real lack of applicability in terms of skill level" from college graduates, Mr. Neese says. "Interns do grunt work, generally." In contrast, he says, "an apprenticeship is a real job."

Much of the work to make apprenticeships more accessible and affordable is being done at the state level in places such as South Carolina and Wisconsin.