Bring Back the Apprentice! And We're Not Referring to Donald Trump

the Apprentice These days, when you hear the word "apprentice," people in the U.S. generally think of B-List celebrities bickering in a boardroom, while being mediated by Donald Trump and his minions. But the real life apprenticeship, all but forgotten by policymakers, educators and the public, is largely overlooked.

Real life apprenticeships offer a promising route for preparing large numbers of students for high-skilled jobs and professions, according to an article in the Summer 2011 "Issues in Science and Technology." They've been doing apprenticeships successfully in Europe for centuries, and that's one of the reasons professionals in countries like Switzerland and Germany are doing so well today.

"College is not a good fit for many students," according to Diane Auer Jones, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. "But students often enroll because they lack other career preparation alternatives." She calls for an expansion of the options available so that each person can find the right path to success based on his or her personal and professional goals, life circumstances, learning style and academic preparedness.

Jones writes that in countries such as Germany and Switzerland, apprenticeships are a critical part of the secondary education system, and the majority of students complete an apprenticeship even if they later plan to pursue post secondary education. It is not uncommon for German or Swiss post secondary institutions to require students to complete an apprenticeship prior to enrolling in a tertiary education program. In this way, apprenticeships are used to train engineers, nurses, teachers, finance workers and myriad other professionals.

In the United States, however, apprenticeships generally have been considered to be labor programs for training students to work in the skilled trades or crafts. They are not viewed as education programs, so they have not become a conventional part of most secondary or post-secondary systems or programs.

"Apprenticeships should be developed for occupations traditionally associated with a liberal arts education," she writes. "It is shortsighted to assume that only economically disadvantaged or low-achieving students can benefit from apprenticeship training."

She believe that with apprenticeships more students would be likely to hear those coveted words, "You're hired!" rather than "You're fired!" And not just from Donald Trump.

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