New Report: California Leads the Country in Pre-Apprenticeship Programs for People With Records

Continued and Increased Investments In Pre-Apprenticeships Nationwide, Are Vital For a Just Recovery Inclusive of People with Records  

NATIONWIDE—A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) describes how California’s experience can inform efforts around the country to lift and build out pre-apprenticeships for people with records to access and thrive in promising careers. At the national level, investments in pre-apprenticeships programs must be understood as crucial components of a just and equitable recovery that includes people with records. The report, titled, Pre-Apprenticeship: Advancing Equity & Access To Good Careers, details how California has invested significantly in pre-apprenticeships to promote equity while supporting industry needs for trained workers. The state’s policies recognize that good jobs support workers and their families, reduce reincarceration, and support industry. 

These policies must not only continue, but they must grow to ensure adequate support for this population in California and nationwide. The Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan proposal identifies pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships expansion as critical workforce development investments, if passed, the growth in these programs can put individuals, families, and communities on a path to greater stability.

Every year, more than 620,000 people are released from prison in the United States— of those, only about 55 percent report any earnings at all and only 20 percent report income equivalent to a full-time minimum wage job. And given that formerly incarcerated individuals are ten times more likely to be homeless than the general population, those who become justice-involved are not only impacted during their sentence, but often for their entire lives — and in many cases their families are impacted as well. 

Pre-apprenticeship programs provide a path to promising careers during a time when thousands of people are being released from prison and key industries need well-trained employees.  They offer people with arrest and conviction records, improved opportunities for good quality jobs by preparing them to participate in industry apprenticeship programs. Pre-apprenticeship programs can facilitate individual success in apprenticeship programs by providing support services, career training, and access to mentors and exposure to different careers apprenticeships offer.   

The report is critical to NELP’s mission of advancing worker rights by promoting opportunity and economic security through work and addresses howwelldesigned and holistic pre-apprenticeship programs promote equity and create a more diverse workforce.  

Here are some of the highlights: 

  • California has invested millions in pre-apprenticeship programs across a broad array of demand industries, including healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing, advanced transportation and logistics and construction. 
  • Community-based organizations and unions have teamed up to develop curriculum, training and jobs in the construction industry targeting people with records. 
  • The best pre-apprenticeship programs partner with unions, offer industry relevant curriculum, exposure to professionals in the field and support services, and when done well, connect the worker directly to an apprenticeship program and to work on a higher wage career path. 
  • While relatively small-scale, the California pilot programs have a strong track record, and are taking on the hard-structural issues (e.g., race and gender discrimination, and lack of income support) that have created barriers to employment for people with records in apprenticeship programs. 

The California corrections and prison industry programs have embraced apprenticeships approved by the state and federal government, while still facing serious challenges in making “prison to employment” a reality. The report lifts up promising practices and recommendations for program and policy reforms including: 

  • Assuring adequate funding of programs offered inside and outside prison including using novel funding mechanisms from state infrastructure projects. 
  • Promoting equitable access to pre-apprenticeship and then apprenticeship programs in legislation and labor contracts. 
  • Promoting collaboration between organizations offering pre-apprenticeship programs and employers, unions, and industry associations. 
  • Removing barriers where possible that prevent people with records from qualifying for related jobs. 
  • Continuing to study how pre-apprenticeship programs can support people with records in securing good jobs once they leave prison. 


The full report and additional recommendations can be found at



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