Evaluating equal opportunity in California certified apprenticeships

A Certified Apprenticeship program comprises a partnership between private industry that serves as the program sponsor providing on-the-job (OJT) training opportunities, and public education agencies that provide Related Supplemental Instruction (RSI). Most certified programs require 4-5 years of combined OJT and RSI time, during which participants are paid while they train. Those who complete a certified apprenticeship program earn the title of Journeyman and become eligible for commensurate wages and benefits. These advantages lead supporters to tout apprenticeship as “the other four-year degree”, stating that it is a viable pathway to the middle class. Each certified program is required to follow guidelines for the recruitment of minorities and women, clearly stipulated in the State of California Plan for Equal Opportunity in Apprenticeship. This quantitative study examined participant data from eight of the largest apprenticeship programs in Northern California over a fifteen-year period (2000-2014) to determine if recruitment efforts, reflected in participation and completion records, align with the mission and vision originally designed by the State for the advancement of people of color and women in the public education-supported trades. My study asked three research questions, each considering equality of access and program success from different perspectives. For my first question, I compared reported participation levels by race and gender in each program against the criteria incorporated in California’s plan and summarized results in a series of tables and maps showing deficiencies, by program, in targeted race and gender participation levels across the 46-county Northern California region. For my second question, I completed a series of chi-square goodness of fit evaluations for race and gender across all programs. For my third question, I created a logistic regression model to determine which, if any, participant characteristics predicted program success. Overall, I found that people of color and women were underserved by the study group programs. Exceptions to this finding were in programs associated with generally lower paying career opportunities. Interestingly, my regression model showed that Latinos, though underrepresented, were more likely to successfully complete programs than Caucasians. My study has significant implications for state and federal administrators of apprenticeship programs as well as for the development of future policies designed to expand apprenticeship opportunities. If Certified Apprenticeship is going to fulfill its promise to be “the other four-year degree” recognized programs must serve all candidates to the level required by regulation. Policy recommendations include reviewing existing recruiting and mentorship practices to ensure they are inclusive to women and people of color, interviewing candidates who dropped out of programs to determine what factors may contribute most greatly to program failure, and increasing outreach to veterans to expand awareness of Certified Apprenticeship programs.