Needed: More Apprenticeship?

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If given the choice, would you rather,
A) Pay top dollar for a college education, with (unguaranteed) hopes it will give you a better job at the end of four years,
Or
B) Get paid to learn skills on the job?

If given the choice, would you rather

A) Pay top dollar for a college education, with (unguaranteed) hopes it will give you a better job at the end of four years,

Or

B) Get paid to learn skills on the job?

Some do in fact get a chance for the latter, though not a high percentage in the U.S., according to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. One apprenticeship program mentioned by author Peter Downs allows individuals with basic computer programming skills to get paid $15 an hour as they work alongside an experienced programmer with the end goal of becoming coders.

Compared with some European countries, Downs finds U.S. apprenticeship lacking. Switzerland has 70 percent of its youth following apprenticeship, and Germany has 65 percent. Their youth unemployment rates are less than half those in America.

Beyond the benefit of hands-on job training, apprenticeship may also have a connection to higher student achievement. According to Downs,

“In the Bayless School District in suburban St. Louis, for example, students who entered the district’s Middle Apprenticeship Program with the Carpenters’ Union had better attendance than before entering the program. The mean grade point average for these students was 1.7 at the end of their sophomore year, before they entered the apprenticeship program. By senior year, it was 3.13. They graduated with better attendance and better grades than did a group of similar students who weren’t in the program.

John Gaal, director of this particular apprenticeship program, credits the academic improvement to ‘relevance.’ In other words, the students saw how their classes were relevant to the careers they wanted to pursue.”

Unfortunately, Downs indicates that offering apprenticeships is not in the forefront of the U.S. business mind.

“One key element to a competitive workforce almost entirely overlooked in the U.S. is apprenticeships. These days, American businesses typically want someone else—trade schools, community colleges, universities or even the federal government—to train their future employees. If potential future job seekers haven’t been provided with the training they need, many businesses expect job seekers to take all the responsibility on themselves, often taking on serious debt without any guarantee of future employment.”

Apprenticeship seems to offer a promising alternative to “traditional” education. Might American workers, employers, and even students be better off for delving deeper into the apprenticeship option?

>>Source: Downs, Peter. “Can’t Find Skilled Workers? Start an Apprentice Program. The Wall Street Journal. 16 Jan. 2014.

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