Apprenticeships v. College

Alex Tabarrock, the author of Launching the Innovation Renaissance, tackles the critical issue of preparing young people for the real world. For many that doesn’t mean four years of college:

In my post, College has been oversold, I discussed the 40% college dropout rate. In a piece in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, Tuning in to the Dropping Out, I reprise some of this material but also discuss high school dropouts and the importance of alternative education paths.

…. There are many roads to an education.

Consider those offered in Europe. In Germany, 97 percent of students graduate from high school, but only a third of these students go on to college. In the United States, we graduate fewer students from high school, but nearly two-thirds of those we graduate go to college. So are German students poorly educated? Not at all.

Instead of college, German students enter training and apprenticeship programs—many of which begin during high school. By the time they finish, they have had a far better practical education than most American students—equivalent to an American technical degree—and, as a result, they have an easier time entering the work force. Similarly, in Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, between 40 to 70 percent of students opt for an educational program that combines classroom and workplace learning.

…In the United States, “vocational” programs are often thought of as programs for at-risk students(…) European programs are typically rigorous because the training is paid for by employers who consider apprentices an important part of their current and future work force. Apprentices are therefore given high-skill technical training that combines theory with practice—and the students are paid! Moreover, instead of isolating teenagers in their own counterculture, apprentice programs introduce teenagers to the adult world and the skills, attitudes, and practices that make for a successful career.

For more see Launching the Innovation Renaissance and–showing the opportunity for consensus on this topic–a recent post on apprenticeships from the Shanker blog.

Read the whole thing »

In case it isn’t obvious, this is one of the necessary policies required to stop the spiraling cost of tertiary education.