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Boosting California’s recovery through equitable apprenticeship

Sabrina Singh Kansara

Caleb van Docto, Kristin Wolff, and Vinz Koller of Social Policy Research Associates

In 2018, Governor Newsom set a goal of reaching 500,000 apprenticeships by 2029, to connect more Californians to well-paying jobs in an economy that needs diverse talent and new expertise to thrive. In response, apprenticeship champions from industry and education expanded existing programs and launched new ones in communities across the state.

In 2020, a group of such apprenticeship champions and practitioners, who are also grantees of Irvine’s Better Careers initiative, gathered for a series of four virtual convenings to explore ways to grow apprenticeship more quickly and solve some of the most persistent challenges impeding the Governor’s goal.

The convening participants, some of California’s most active apprenticeship practitioners, work in critical sectors where modern apprenticeship is emerging, such as healthcare, technology, and advanced manufacturing. They focused their discussions on some of the most pervasive constraints impeding the growth of apprenticeships in California, including the complexity in the state’s oversight structure that makes registration and operation difficult, and the limited availability of flexible funding sources that would help emerging programs to innovate quickly and direct resources accordingly.

In the first three convenings, the group examined challenges they face in scaling and sustaining apprenticeship in California today, including the need for reliable funding sources, limits to their capacity to build a sustainable network of partners, and their ability to innovate and iterate new programs in the face of a severe COVID-19 recession. The participants all agreed that reaching the Governor’s goal requires structural changes that will encourage targeted sector growth and equitable career paths for all Californians.

During the final convening, grantees crafted a Call to Action laying out five strategies for change that are simple, achievable in the short-term, and essential for an equitable recovery. They are:


  • Designate a torchbearer responsible for achieving the Governor’s 500,000 goal
  • Organize around intermediary networks
  • Dedicate funding for mission-critical apprenticeship infrastructure
  • Develop an Apprenticeship Strategy for California’s Youth
  • Adopt a common set of guiding principles — centered on equity, collaboration, and meeting local needs — to promote alignment of apprenticeship and related efforts across agencies and funding streams


The Call to Action follows on the heels of a recently published report, Road to 500,000 Apprentices, by New America’s Brent Parton and Mike Prebil. In it, the authors call for a “proactive role for state policymakers to support the expansion of the apprenticeship system” akin to the expansion of California’s higher education system in the 1960s.

Taken together, the two sets of recommendations complement each other and will bring the system closer to being able to fulfill the Governor’s goal.

Furthermore, the proposed economic recovery program of the incoming Biden administration calls for a $50 billion investment in workforce training that includes apprenticeship partnerships between community colleges and businesses. This massive investment package — if implemented — would provide a significant infusion of funding on the road to 500,000 apprentices.

These practitioners call on California’s workforce and apprenticeship leaders to align around this urgent agenda for change.

Stakeholders and other practitioners who wish to sign on in support of the effort, or to learn more about future actions, are invited to share their contact information.

Apprenticeship: A Critical Recovery Strategy for California

In 2018, Governor Gavin Newsom set an ambitious goal of reaching 500,000 registered apprentices in California by 2029, calling for an economy that offers an upward path to everyone. Such a target will require contributions from Californians across the state to develop and scale equitable, resourced, and resilient apprenticeship programs in strategic industry sectors.

California has advantages.

The state has a proud and well-established tradition of apprenticeship rooted in the construction trades. Innovators have piloted new programs in the healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, and education sectors. State agencies have shifted policy, and the legislature has re-written state statute to help sustain these new programs. The California Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI) has supported pilot programs financially and developed proofs of concepts. And the new Interagency Advisory Committee for Apprenticeship (IACA) is ideally positioned to create a framework for scaling up non-traditional apprenticeships. Finally, a recent New America Report laid out robust practitioner-validated strategies to help California achieve 500,000 apprentices in the next decade. 

Therefore, we call for: 

  1. The State of California to designate a torchbearer responsible for achieving the goal of 500,000 apprentices by 2029. The State should also strengthen its support for the Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) and the Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (IACA) so that they can help scale apprenticeship in California and advance the steps below.
  2. A networked intermediary structure to form the basis of an industry-driven statewide apprenticeship system rooted in community needs. Intermediary structures will help nontraditional programs develop quicker and more efficiently. Furthermore, equitable economic growth will require organization around essential worker occupations (e.g., childcare, homecare, etc.). 
  3. Dedicated funding to establish the infrastructure required to support a state apprenticeship system. Key components of this infrastructure include designated intermediaries, accessible program models, shared data systems, and a public-facing identity for California Apprenticeship grounded in economic resilience. When possible, this system should align with federal apprenticeship efforts. 
  4. The development of a Youth Apprenticeship strategy that links high-school, continuation schools, adult schools, community college, and university Career and Technical Education (CTE) strategies with existing and newly developed apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship pathways. This strategy should draw on resources from secondary, post-secondary, and workforce systems in consistent ways, and maximize the awarding of academic credit. 
  5. Shared principles to guide efforts to scale nontraditional apprenticeship. These principles should guide apprenticeship policy and programming across apprenticeship-connected agencies and institutions, including state entities such as DAS and IACA; workforce and human service agencies; K-12, community colleges and universities; and nonprofit organizations, private-sector firms, associations, and certification boards. Furthermore, these principles should promote opportunities and economic well-being for diverse groups under-represented in apprenticeship, linkages to regional and local industry-driven needs and labor partners, and connect to broader work-based learning and talent development efforts.

We are: 

A collection of apprenticeship practitioners, all supported by The James Irvine Foundation’s Better Careers initiative, who share the goal of advancing non-traditional apprenticeship in California and support a post-COVID recovery with equity at its heart. 

Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC)

Early Care & Education Pathways to Success (ECEPTS)

Flintridge Center

Foundation of CA Community Colleges

Goodwill Southern California, Strong Workforce Apprenticeship Group (SWAG)

Growth Sector

Hartnell College Foundation

InTech Center, Chaffey CCD


JVS, San Francisco

LAUNCH Network, Riverside CCD

State Center Community College District (SCCCD) Apprenticeship