Unemployment rates in developed countries around the world are declining. The United States saw record lows last year, and in Canada, unemployment is at a 43-year-low. And in December Scotland’s unemployment rate dipped below the United Kingdom low of 4.1%.

While this is great news for the millions of people currently gainfully employed, low unemployment rates can also mean labor shortages for employers.

In the U.K., eight in 10 manufacturers have been hit by talent shortages.

In the U.S., 65% of leaders in the technology industry say they struggle with hiring. And 41% of employers in Canada have reported difficulties filling job openings.

Many analysts are reporting that talent shortages around the globe are poised to increase as new jobs are being created and outdated jobs are being eliminated. In order to combat this rapidly changing climate, employers and governments are looking for ways to quickly prepare workers for those jobs most in demand.

Among the tools being promoted to address shortages is apprenticeship programs. Apprentices receive on the job training, the promise of a job upon program completion, and a better wage than in an internship program. In return, employers are able to create a pipeline of talent and quickly fill vacancies. Here are three areas where apprenticeships can prepare workers for high-demand jobs.


In August 2018, education charity The Edge Foundation released a report looking at skills shortages in Britain. The report estimates that the 600,000 vacancies in digital technology in the country are costing £63 billion a year.

And, according to the report, the number of vacancies is poised to increase further. Researchers estimate there will be one million technology vacancies in Britain by 2020. However, despite the labor shortages, the number of students taking IT and computing final exams in high school has fallen by almost 11% in the past year alone.

In order to combat these shortages, the government has implemented a number of initiatives to increase the availability of apprenticeships. The government’s goal is to have three million apprenticeships in place in England by 2020.

And tech companies seem to be leading the way. Fifteen thousand U.K. youths seek high-tech apprenticeships every year and tech employers are working to accommodate them. For example, UKFast, a data hosting business spends £1m annually on apprenticeships and school partnerships. Around 15% of the company’s 400 staff are former apprentices.

Middle Skills Jobs

As technological advancements continue to grow rapidly, economists have their eyes set on the plethora of new tech jobs that will be created in the future. But according to a June 2018 report produced in part by analytics company Burning Glass,a number of middle-skill jobs are here to stay.

Middle-skill jobs are those that require some education beyond high school, but less than a bachelor’s degree. These jobs typically pay a living wage and they account for more than half of the U.S. labor market. Middle-skill jobs can provide a lifetime of stability, but they can also serve as springboards to more lucrative roles.

But despite the benefits of these jobs, they often fall under the radar of high school students nearing graduation. According to another Burning Glass report, 75% of U.S. manufacturers are facing a talent shortage. Also in high-demand are healthcare practitioners, technical workers, computer and mathematical positions, and technical sales and sales management callings.

With this in mind, in 2017, the U.S. government announced $150 million in grants to expand apprenticeship programs in middle-skill jobs. According to the DOL, the sectors being targeted are information technology, advanced manufacturing, banking and finance, and healthcare.

Skilled trades

By 2021 in Canada, one in five new jobs is expected to be in a trades-related occupation. Yet many employers in the skilled-trades sector say there aren’t enough workers to fill these positions. A June 2017 survey by the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance reported that 41% of employers would hire more people if they could find those with the skills they needed.

The skilled trades have long benefited from apprenticeship programs where on the job training is prized. In this sector, new high school graduates are able to quickly access jobs without the need for additional school. But many people still fail to take advantage of apprenticeships.

To help increase the number of people entering and successfully completing these programs, this year, the Ontario government is investing $13.2 million to provide pre-apprenticeship training to approximately 1,200 people.

Pre-apprenticeship training helps people develop trade-specific knowledge, job skills and work experience to get into apprenticeship programs in high-demand trades. These programs eliminate some of the financial barriers to learning a skilled trade and simplify the process of finding an employer. In these programs, participants receive free training with a work placement, textbooks, safety equipment and tools.

Photo by Vance Osterhout on Unsplash.