Third Way is Thinking Big about Apprenticeship Expansion

Organization Summary

Third Way is a center-left national think tank based in Washington, DC that promotes the principles of opportunity, freedom, and security over a diverse range of policy areas. By jointly leveraging research and advocacy, Third Way has created a platform from which it can spark and move forward efforts to improve Americans’ lives.

Overview of Apprenticeship Efforts:


One question guides Third Way’s work on education and the workforce: how do you create more opportunity in more places for more people? For Third Way, a critical part of the answer is apprenticeship.

And Third Way has bold ideas for scaling apprenticeship in the US. While there are currently around 60,000 registered apprentices completing their programs each year, Third Way believes that a rethinking of how to fund and expand apprenticeship could launch as many as 1 million Americans into and through high-quality apprenticeship programs.

Their recent publication “Apprenticeship America” describes this vision of geographically and financially accessible apprenticeship expansion. The central component of their proposal is a federally-supported network of state Apprenticeship Institutes. Each state would have an Apprenticeship Institute, in the same way that each state has a recognizable flagship university. Apprenticeship Institutes would bring together stakeholders critical to quality apprenticeship programs: employers, providers of technical instruction, community organizations, and more. Institutes would be responsible for identifying locally high-need occupations that could benefit from apprenticeships and launching needed programs, as well as providing technical assistance to employers who buy into the vision and want to leverage apprenticeship in their businesses. The system Third Way envisions would also work to raise the profile of apprenticeship among those considering postsecondary options, pursuing a career change, or seeking opportunities to move forward in their current field.

And Third Way is not envisioning the proposed apprenticeship system in isolation. Rather, it sees this cohesive network of Apprenticeship Institutes as one element of a system of policies increasing economic security and opportunity, laid out in a recent report as Third Way’s “Social Contract for the Digital Age.” This set of interconnected ideas includes policies supporting job expansion, job quality, and access to high-quality education and training opportunities, with apprenticeship expansion taking a key role in the latter.

As the field considers how best to expand apprenticeship, Third Way notes in “Apprenticeship America” that the economic context of apprenticeship is changing with the times. That means successful apprenticeship expansion calls for more than just increasing the number of apprentices in the country. As our economy becomes increasingly digital, it’s also important that apprenticeship support and opportunities keep pace with employers’ current and future skill needs. Leveraging apprenticeship in new and growing occupations offers one means of better integrating workforce development strategies with current economic opportunity. And as Third Way points out, ensuring the apprenticeship system engages and supports an increasingly diverse cohort of apprentices will be critical to any lasting progress.

Local Partners:

Third Way staff are currently developing case studies of apprenticeship intermediaries, local and regional hubs that bring a variety of stakeholders together to create quality apprenticeship programs. The profiles will put the spotlight on intermediaries that recruit and support folks traditionally underrepresented in apprenticeship, such as women and people of color. Intermediaries’ work as centers of connection in their communities makes apprenticeship possible for employers and apprentices across the country. Third Way’s series of profiles will highlight what works well for the most successful intermediaries today.

Interested in learning more about Third Way's apprenticeship work? Contact May Amoyaw, Economic Program Policy Advisor, at for additional information.