HR Connection

Tackling the Skills Gap With Apprenticeships vs Internships

Posted by Meaghan Kacsmar on Aug 2, 2017 3:21:12 PM

Portait of smiling young intern at office.jpeg

While apprenticeships are not as common in the U.S. as they are in Europe, these programs are growing in popularity because of the clear career path for workers and benefits for employers. In June of 2017, President Trump signed an executive order in an effort to expand apprenticeship programs across the country. Trump said that his executive order would empower companies, unions, industry groups, and federal agencies to “create apprenticeships for millions of our citizens.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 206,000 individuals nationwide entered the apprenticeship system last year. Typically, these programs are used as a strategy by employers to find and hire skilled workers. The top three industries with active apprentices were construction, military, and manufacturing while the top occupations included electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. While this only represents 1.5% of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., participation is up 35% and the number of programs by 11% since 2013.

Internships and apprenticeships are both great ways to build a pipeline of ready-to-work talent. The key benefits for employers to start apprenticeship programs include:

- Hiring and retaining highly-skilled employees

- Reduced turnover

- Higher productivity

How is an apprenticeship different from an internship?

While both programs are beneficial for workers and employers, there are key differences.


1. Apprenticeships could be an alternative for college and a gateway to middle-class jobs.

An easy way to think of the difference between these two types of programs is to remember that an intern is hoping to gain work experience in addition to their separate education program, while an apprentice will be formally trained and certified for a particular industry while working.

For job seekers, apprenticeships could be an appealing alternative to a four-year degree that typically leaves graduates with a mountain of debt and possibly an unclear career path.

While internships mostly involve entry-level workers and students in college, apprentices can be at any point in their career. Apprenticeships could offer those who have a gap in their employment history after a job loss or family leave a way to start new careers and increase their skills and earnings. Employers can select new hires or their current employees to join the apprenticeship program.


2. Internships are short-term while apprenticeships can last a year or more.

Internships are temporary work opportunities to gain experience at a company and are typically part-time and last a few months. Internships have become a popular, even necessary step towards employment for today’s college students. In fact, according to our recent report on the Class of 2017, 81% of college seniors have completed at least one internship, with the average being two internships.

According to the Department of Labor, registered apprenticeship programs include structured on-the-job training from an experienced mentor for over a year. By the end of the program, apprentices will be fully proficient at the job.

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3. Apprenticeships are more likely to lead to long-term hires.

Internships and apprenticeships are both great ways to build a pipeline of ready-to-work talent.

According to our recent research study, college seniors reported many positive outcomes as a result of an internship–learning better organizational skills (65%) and receiving letters of recommendation (61%) were the most common.

But only 26% of internships led to a full-time job offer. On the flip side, 87% of apprentices are employed after completing their programs, with an average starting wage above $50,000.

Employers that use apprenticeship programs can reduce worker turnover and save money by fostering greater employee loyalty and increasing productivity.

Apprenticeships Could be the Answer to the Country’s Growing Skills Gap

As Forbes predicts, by 2020, around the world, there is likely to be a shortage of approximately 40 million high-skilled workers and 45 million medium-skill workers. Against that will be a surplus of 95 million low-skilled workers. The skills gap has employers across all industries struggling to hire skilled workers and may be willing to explore new strategies to hire them.

Meaghan Kacsmar is a content strategy associate II at iCIMS.  iCIMS is a leading provider of innovative Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) talent acquisition solutions that help businesses win the war for top talent. Scalable, easy to use, and backed by award-winning customer service, iCIMS enables organizations to manage their entire talent acquisition lifecycle from building talent pools, to recruiting, to onboarding, all within a single cloud-based platform that is connected to the largest partner ecosystem of HR technologies in the industry. Supporting more than 3,200 contracted customers, iCIMS is one of the largest and fastest-growing talent acquisition solution providers. To learn more about how iCIMS can help your organization, visit

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Topics: Human Resources Insights, skills gap

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