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August 13, 2011 12:00 PM The Apprenticeship Solution

By Daniel Luzer

With college tuition rising, many argue that college isn’t really worth it anymore. Others suggest that, leaving the cost aside, the United States just many has more college graduates than it has jobs that require a college education. The trouble with thinking about education like this, however, is that if someone’s really serious about not attending college, there aren’t too many high-quality alternatives out there.

This is a real problem, so what should people with drive and ambition, but no desire for a college education, do? How about apprenticeships, argues Jamie Gumbrecht at CNN. As Gumbrecht writes:

[American University economics Professor Robert] Lerman, an Urban Institute fellow, has studied youth unemployment for decades, and thinks the United States ought to try an updated version of an old technique for education and employment: apprenticeships.
They’re not the same as an after-school fast food job or a summer internship at dad’s office, he said. Apprenticeships require skill development in a workplace over a number of years. The education, which might be supplemented by classroom training, leads to a credential — maybe a title, certification or diploma — that proves mastery of a skill. During that time, apprentices are paid, and employers are getting another worker.

While such programs are very popular in Europe, it’s virtually impossible to find an internship in the United States. In 2008 there were about 27,000 registered apprenticeship programs in the United States. That was about .3% of the American workforce.

But with the Great Recession forcing more and more cuts to higher education, maybe it’s time to consider apprenticeships again. As Lerman explains:

A public initiative has to recognize it’s a very different model than supporting slots in community college or training program. What apprenticeship investments require is marketing and technical assistance to get employers to adopt apprenticeship programs. That’s where government investment needs to be.
Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer