By integrating classroom instruction and hands-on learning, apprenticeships and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs equip young people with the skills and certifications they need to jump start their careers. Despite the similarities, according to a 2017 Department of Education report, connections between CTE and apprenticeship programs vary widely across the country.

Connections range from:

  1. Full integration - CTE students are fully enrolled as apprentices or pre-apprentices while in high school and, upon their graduation, continue on as apprentices, with all credits and hours counting toward full program completion; to
  2. Preferred entry - CTE students gain preferred entry status into apprenticeships and sometimes advanced standing; to
  3. No formal coordination - CTE students' experiences and career exposure may help them obtain apprenticeships, but there is no guarantee of entry or formal pathway to apprenticeship. 

This variability inspired Oregon to bring together the Department of Education CTE Programs Division, Bureau of Labor and Industries Apprenticeship Training Division, and Higher Education Coordinating Commission Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development to better integrate and leverage the strengths of the state's CTE, registered apprenticeship, and community college systems.

They quickly discovered the need to integrate registered apprenticeship pathways into the college and career readiness conversations CTE staff were already having with high school students. Expanding awareness creates more opportunities for young people and, by expanding access to registered apprenticeship pathways, also helps employers facing a tight labor market gain access to recruit in-state talent, reducing their need to seek skilled workers from outside the State.

The partners also saw that the simplest way to fully integrate would be to start with CTE programs with an existing connection to registered apprenticeship and certify them as pre-apprenticeship programs. It is a win-win for both - expanding pre-apprenticeship into more high schools; and creating another pathway option for students to access post-secondary training.

Along the way, partners also learned that differing terminologies impeded communication, so the state created a pre-apprenticeship application toolkit and framework to promote a shared understanding of terms and expectations of quality pre-apprenticeship.

To date, CTE programs in 20 Oregon high schools have become certified pre-apprenticeship programs offering strong career pathways in HVAC and electrical, trades, and construction. Some schools use curricula that align with that used by the apprenticeship sponsor. In some, the community college provides the instruction, and in others, the employer sponsor provides the training while the community college provides dual credit.

For more details, check out Oregon's registered apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship websites.

This State Apprenticeship Expansion (SAE) grantee spotlight was first featured in in the December 2018 Apprenticeship Connections Newsletter, a resource for SAE grantees. SAE grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor to 36 states and 1 territory in November 2016. To view other SAE grantee spotlights, visit the Apprenticeship Connections Newsletter archive on the Apprenticeship Community of Practice.