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Idea of the Day: Apprenticeships in America

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idea light bulbThe insufficiency of our nation’s education and training system is clear. While policymakers and educators have often encouraged young Americans to obtain a bachelor’s degree, too many young people now believe that a four-year degree is the only way to achieve economic mobility. However, less than half of those who aim to earn a bachelor’s degree end up completing one. Those who do complete a four-year degree often do so only after taking outcrushing levels of student debt. Worse yet, those who fail to earn a bachelor’s are too often left with the burden of student debt without the benefit of a degree. At the same time, business executives and economists alike are sounding the alarm that the United States is not producing sufficient numbers of skilled workers to meet employer demand. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, the United States will be short 5 million workers with the necessary technical certificates and credentials to succeed in high-growth, high-demand industries.

Apprenticeship is a worker-training model that has been shown to raise workers’ wages, increase employee productivity, and improve employers’ bottom lines. An apprentice is a paid employee who receives formal on-the-job training and classroom-based instruction leading to a nationally recognized credential. Because apprentices are paid to learn, they need not forgo employment income in order to pursue education and training. Just as importantly, apprentices gain an education while incurring little or no debt. For their part, employers gain a pipeline of skilled workers who have been shown to increase productivity and boost the bottom line.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here