The Apprenticeship Solution

It’s long been a sort of minor worry among American policymakers that we don’t have much of an apprenticeship system in this country.

Unlike in many other industrialized nations, here in the U.S. most students are tracked toward college. At least policy is designed largely to get people there. If college isn’t a possibility, students mostly flounder around toward high school graduation, and then flounder around for years thereafter until they find something that works.

But from the Hechinger Report comes news that at least some technical schools are trying to fix that problem on their own, and train kids for real jobs:

Germany’s job training model — a mix of vocational classwork and on-the-job apprenticeships — is catching on in the U.S….

Students at Indiana’s Ivy Tech community colleges will be able to spend three days a week in class and two working — for pay — at companies such as Industrial Electric.Ivy Tech plans to add programs in advanced automation and robotics, collaborating with employers who run assembly plants.

In addition to Indiana, German-style job training programs are in the works in more than a dozen states.

Apprenticeship

This is a compelling reform idea. Get students in and get them out, fast, with specific training to succeed in good blue-collar jobs, which still do exist.

Education reformers have been talking about this for years but it’s pretty hard to implement effectively.

One of the problems, according to the article, is cost. Industrial training is really expensive and it seems to happen in the U.S. only if there’s significant public money available. In Germany employers pay 75 percent of the cost of training. Here, according to the piece, “Ivy Tech is trying to get employers to cover the cost for trainees they hire.”

One of the barriers to success here might be that in many areas of the country there really aren’t that many employers who have good jobs for which they are hiring.

But if we’re going to do skills training, and focus on community and technical colleges to make it happen, this is a good place to start. More of this, please.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer