Coming: Apprenticeships for white-collar jobs?

Apprenticeships have long been confined, as career preparation, to trades like electrical work, plumbing, and carpentry. But a new study says that people entering almost 70 other occupations—primarily white-collar jobs—could train for their chosen field through apprenticeships.

The Hechinger Letter reports on the study, carried out by Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work in conjunction with Burning Glass Technologies, a software company that analyzes labor-market data. According to the Hechinger Letter, the study

examined more than 23 million job postings and found that 74 occupations—including tax preparers, human resource specialists and graphic designers—could be filled by apprentices who forego pricey college degrees to earn a salary as they take courses and get on-the-job training.

These occupations offer job stability, require a skillset easily obtained through specialized training and eschew hefty licensing requirements.

The study also found that the number of jobs filled by apprentices could be expanded eightfold, from 410,000 today to approximately 3.3 million.

Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass, explains:

Employers have often shunned apprenticeships because investing in training sounds like a big cost relative to the ‘free’ model of hiring people who are already trained out of the box….

But when you put yourself in a position where it’s going to take a lot of time and cost a lot of money to fill jobs only to have workers turn over really fast, the status quo may actually turn out to be quite expensive.

The number of companies thinking like this is growing:

IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have all started apprenticeship programs to train people for hard-to-fill jobs. Insurance and consulting companies such as Accenture, Aon and Zurich Insurance are expanding apprenticeships in the United States, while 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, a workforce group in Philadelphia, recently unveiled apprenticeships for would-be community health workers, medical assistants and pre-K teachers.

Brent Parton of the Center on Education and Skills with New America had this to say on the development:

This is more than just a fad at this point…. Some companies are going to look at this as a way to diversify their talent; others are going to ask, ‘Have we been hiring BA’s out of habit or necessity?’