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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Fuller

The Options Multiplier: Decoding the CareerWise Youth Apprentice Journey

November 14, 2022

New research from the Project on Workforce draws on a novel dataset from CareerWise Colorado to explore the key drivers of retention and completion for youth apprentices.

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By: Joseph B. Fuller, Rachel Lipson, Farah Mallah, Girish Pendse, and Rachel Snyder

Download the report:

The Options Multiplier
Download PDF • 579KB


The Options Multiplier: Decoding the CareerWise Youth Apprentice Journey, a new white paper from Harvard's Project on Workforce, uses a novel dataset from CareerWise Colorado, one of the U.S.'s most widely cited youth apprenticeship models. During the program, CareerWise students split their time between a traditional classroom and the workplace, allowing apprentices to earn a wage, while accessing meaningful work experience and debt-free college credits. Our research analyzes the outcomes from CareerWise Colorado's first two cohorts (2017-2018). We find that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of CareerWise apprentices achieve the program’s stated goal of serving as an “Options Multiplier”- they transition on to postsecondary education, employment, or both. Supportive supervisors, job match, industry type, and Registered Apprenticeship status all have a significant impact on retention and completion. Better understanding these factors means that employers can structure programs that lead to apprentice success, teaching students the skills they need for a good job and generating a high return on investment for employers.

The Options Multiplier
Download PDF • 579KB


“The Options Multiplier” sheds light on how youth apprenticeship can fulfill its vision of “multiple pathways” for youth, finding that most students who start in the CareerWise program are employed, enrolled in the education system, or both after exiting the program. The paper also uncovers key drivers of retention and completion, informing which priorities can drive apprentice success and, in turn, higher return on investment for employers.

The authors find that:

→ Apprentices who indicate an interest in remaining in the same industry or field are 15 percentage points more likely to remain in the apprenticeship for more than 2 years and are 8 percentage points more likely to complete it.

→ Registered Apprenticeship status has a statistically significant impact on retention. Registered Apprentices are 26 percentage points more likely to complete the apprenticeship and spend 7 more months on average in apprenticeship.

→ Certain industries and occupations may be better-suited to apprenticeship models. CareerWise apprentices in the Financial Services and IT tracks had above-average retention rates, controlling for other factors.

→ Supportive supervisors significantly increase the likelihood of apprenticeship completion.

→ Apprentices from high-poverty schools and Black apprentices face additional barriers to completion, particularly in the first year.

→ Competition from traditional college pathways doesn’t explain who stays and who goes. Students with an interest in enrolling in college are no more or less likely to continue in apprenticeship.


For media inquiries:

Rachel Lipson,

About the Project on Workforce at Harvard

The Project on Workforce is an interdisciplinary, collaborative project between the Harvard Kennedy School's Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the Harvard Business School Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The Project produces and catalyzes basic and applied research at the intersection of education and labor markets for leaders in business, education, and policy. The Project’s research aims to help shape a postsecondary system of the future that creates more and better pathways to economic mobility and forges smoother transitions between education and careers.

About CareerWise Colorado

Founded in Colorado in 2016, CareerWise offers a modern youth apprenticeship designed in partnership with business to ensure value to employers and offered in partnership with high schools, creating a work-based learning environment for students with meaningful, paid positions in 21st-century fields while earning high-school and college credit. More than an internship, the multi-year apprenticeship program is designed to end in job offers, open doors to higher education, or both. For more information on CareerWise Colorado at or learn more about CareerWise’s nation-wide movement at


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