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Tweaking apprenticeship’s pitch for Tweeters

How do you market apprenticeship — a job training system that literally dates back to the Middle Ages — so its relevant and attractive to today’s teenagers?

That’s what the Washington State Labor Council and ANEW set out to discover under a 12-month contract with the U.S. Department of Labor. After conducting focus groups and surveys of teenagers regarding apprenticeship — what it is, what would make you consider one, what would grab your attention, etc. — the study’s findings may surprise you.

“Kids Today: What Teens Think About Apprenticeship,” a report published last month, found that marketing shouldn’t focus primarily on money and the traditional “earn while you learn” pitches many apprenticeship programs tout.

“Other generations may react favorably to the bottom line paycheck,” reads the report. “But it won’t be relevant to a Millennial unless it is connected to how a person can positively impact their community or an industry as a result of being an apprentice.”

The Millennial Generation — those born between 1978 and 2000, also known as the “Echo Boomers” — wants to change the world and contribute to their communities. The report finds that the story of unions and how they support the community appeals to them, as do all stories of like-minded people working together to improve the world.

And forget about apprenticeship program websites — unless they’re mobile. Sites that do not accommodate smart phones and tablets aren’t of interest to Millennials.  Other generations may see social media as a suspect way to avoid real interaction with people, but young people today consider it to be a legitimate way to form meaningful virtual relationships.

One of the goals of the WSLC-ANEW project was to ensure academic and career counselors have a clear understanding of what apprenticeship is and how their students can take advantage of training opportunities for family-wage careers.  It soon became clear that existing apprenticeship marketing materials were focused on adult audiences and that if high school counselors were going to use the materials, it needed to be more teen-focused.

“We all need a better understanding of how we can talk with teens about apprenticeship,” said Kairie Pierce, the WSLC’s K-12 Apprenticeship Director. “This study explains what the Millennial generation is expecting from their work experience and how we can encourage this generation to consider apprenticeship.”

Moving forward, the Washington State Labor Council plans to use this information to help develop materials and/or messaging about apprenticeship so that every generation has a clear understanding of what an apprenticeship is and what any-age student can expect from their experience.

For more information, email Kairie Pierce or call her at 360-943-0608.

ANEW is a non-profit organization that links women to apprenticeships and livable-wage jobs in construction trades, manufacturing, aerospace and utilities. The Washington State Labor Council is the largest labor organization in Washington state, representing the interests of more than 600 union locals/councils and more than 400,000 rank-and-file union members.

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