Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development under Chairman Jason Crow (D-CO) held a hearing exploring how Congress can utilize youth apprenticeship programs to strengthen the labor force and attract young workers to small businesses.
“Increasingly, young people are turning to youth apprenticeship programs to gain valuable real-world experience in addition to the instruction they receive in the classroom. However, implementing a costly apprenticeship program can be daunting for small firms with tight margins,” said Chairman Crow. “Expanding youth apprenticeships and other types of Career and Technical education can provide young people with a comparable alternative to a 4-year university education while bolstering the small business labor force.”
The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted significant stress on the labor market. Decreased legal immigration, a wave of early retirements, and individuals exiting the labor force due to lack of childcare have created worker shortages that small businesses are still contending with today. According to recent surveys, over half of American small businesses are concerned with hiring enough employees to fill open positions and overall employee retention.
In recent years, youth apprenticeships have emerged as a proven model to help small businesses attract workers and supply young people with the skills needed to launch a career. In 2022, roughly 214,000 people aged 16 to 24 were in an apprenticeship. This is double the number of that demographic a decade ago. These youth apprenticeships also offer a range of benefits for small businesses beyond attracting workers. Studies have shown that many companies implementing apprenticeship programs report improved productivity and increased new business opportunities.
The hearing allowed members to explore the benefits of youth apprenticeships and other workforce development initiatives and ways Congress can expand access to these programs among small firms.
“We’ve seen the impact of youth apprenticeship on individual students and companies, but what’s most transformational is the impact that youth apprenticeship can have on our country,” said Noel Ginsburg, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of CareerWise in Denver, CO. “It can enable small businesses to access and shape the talent they need to continue to propel our economy forward, while expanding pathways to bright careers and the middle class.”
“Employers are central to the design and delivery of youth apprenticeship—they hire the apprentices and supervise structured on-the-job learning. As the employers of almost half of all private-sector workers in the country, small businesses are critical to expanding the scale of youth apprenticeship,” said Deborah Kobes, Senior Director Of Jobs for the Future. “In exchange for investing in youth, small businesses can benefit from recruiting talent, ensuring that the education and training of their workers is aligned with company needs, and building a loyal workforce.”
“Stronger partnerships between small business and secondary schools will help to increase a segment of the economy that is currently experiencing significant challenges in finding a ready workforce,” said Shani Watkins, Director of West Sound Technical Skills Center in Bremerton, WA. “Students engaged in CTE programs are better prepared for the workforce, less likely to need significant student loans, and are more likely to have the skills and credentials that meet workplace needs.”