Should the U.S. Adopt the German Model of Apprenticeships?

The best youth apprenticeship programs blend traditional high school with skills training — and produce employable graduates.

Students weld at the retraining facility for unemployed in the northern German town of Neubrandenburg, November 24, 2010. 
National Journal
April 11, 2014, 6:42 a.m.

This art­icle is part of a series on Amer­ic­an teen­agers and em­ploy­ment.

Ger­many is all the rage these days as a mod­el for pos­sible eco­nom­ic solu­tions. The coun­try boasts an 8-per­cent youth un­em­ploy­ment rate, a data point that looks prac­tic­ally quaint com­pared to the U.S. teen un­em­ploy­ment rate of more than 20 per­cent. Auto work­ers in Chat­tanooga, Tenn., re­cently tried un­suc­cess­fully to uni­on­ize fol­low­ing the mod­el of the Ger­man “work coun­cils” that aim to in­clude em­ploy­ee in­put in plant de­cisions. And, Ger­mans (along with Aus­trali­ans, Ca­na­dians, and Bri­tons) em­brace ap­pren­tice­ships as a way to train young people for the work­force, be­liev­ing that not every­one needs to go to col­lege to land a de­cent, skilled job.

The idea of ap­pren­tice­ships is gain­ing some trac­tion among D.C. thinkers as a way to tackle the on­go­ing teen em­ploy­ment crisis in this coun­try. After all, ap­pren­tice­ships train work­ers on the job, al­low­ing them to gain con­crete skills and earn real money. They let private-sec­tor em­ploy­ers cre­ate a pipeline of work­ers in skilled pro­fes­sions such as ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing, IT, health care, and hos­pit­al­ity. And, de­pend­ing on how they are struc­tured, ap­pren­tice­ships do not have to cost the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment big money, be­cause the em­ploy­ers, not the feds, pay the train­ees’ salar­ies (a boon in today’s aus­tere times).

Two states, in­clud­ing Wis­con­sin, already run suc­cess­ful ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams. The Wis­con­sin pro­gram trains roughly 2,000 high school ju­ni­ors and seni­ors each year and re­quires them to com­plete 450 to 900 hours of train­ing while earn­ing at least min­im­um wage. The goal is for stu­dents to leave the pro­gram with bank­able skills, as well as earn some tech­nic­al col­lege cred­its. “We view it as a way to get young people in­to the work­force as soon as pos­sible,” says Reg­gie News­on, sec­ret­ary of work­force de­vel­op­ment in Wis­con­sin.

Sev­en­teen-year-old Lacey Hol­comb of Sun Prair­ie, Wis., be­came in­ter­ested in the state’s ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram after en­rolling (and ex­cel­ling) in a hand­ful of weld­ing classes at her high school. Now, as an ap­pren­tice, she di­vides her time between tra­di­tion­al high school classes in the morn­ing and her af­ter­noon work at a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany called E.K. Ma­chine, which trans­forms raw steel in­to parts for the min­ing, gas, and ag­ri­cul­ture in­dus­tries. “It’s nice to be able to go to school, and then it’s nice to switch to a more hands-on en­vir­on­ment. I tend to learn really well that way,” Hol­comb says.

Her boss at E.K. Ma­chine is equally ex­cited about the ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram. (Hol­comb is the second train­ee he’s ment­ored at the com­pany). “These guys learn way more by do­ing it than they would if went to a post­sec­ond­ary col­lege to learn these skills,” says Shaun Walk­er, who has worked for the com­pany for 14 years.

Bet­ter yet, Walk­er says, the pro­gram helps man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pan­ies identi­fy fu­ture em­ploy­ees. “Fifty to 60 per­cent of Wis­con­sin weld­ers plan to re­tire in the next five to 15 years,” he says. “Any­one who is young like this, get­ting their feet wet, and with some ex­per­i­ence could start a weld­ing job mak­ing between $15 and $20 hour. If kids are will­ing to do this, they don’t have to go to a four-year col­lege to be proud of their ca­reers.”

Geor­gia runs a sim­il­ar ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram, star­ted in the early 1990s. The state gov­ern­ment there helps to pay for tech­nic­al classes that may not be offered in high schools and funds co­ordin­at­ors with­in schools to run the train­ee pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent pa­per on ap­pren­tice­ships from the Cen­ter on Budget and Policy Pri­or­it­ies. More than 6,000 stu­dents en­roll in the Geor­gia pro­gram an­nu­ally.

The only prob­lem with these mod­els? Well, they need more fund­ing and should ex­pand across the coun­try, says eco­nom­ist Robert Ler­man, one of the au­thors of the re­cent ap­pren­tice­ship pa­per. “The Wis­con­sin budget is tiny, re­l­at­ive to the need,” Ler­man says. “It’s been great, but it’s dis­ap­point­ing that [the state hasn’t] been able to scale it.” Wis­con­sin’s Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Scott Walk­er an­nounced $2.3 mil­lion in grants for the youth ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams with­in the last sev­er­al months.

Hol­comb is not sure if she will pur­sue a weld­ing or man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­reer once she gradu­ates from high school. Veter­in­ary medi­cine and ag­ri­cul­ture also in­terest her as po­ten­tial ca­reer paths, as does at­tend­ing col­lege out of state. Still, she’s pleased that she took the time to en­roll in the ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram and hone her weld­ing skills. It’s giv­en her a dif­fer­ent high school ex­per­i­ence than her peers have had. “I know it’s something that I could have a fu­ture in,” she says. “It’s ex­tremely use­ful to have a skill in life. That can give you the up­per hand in any­thing you do.”

What We're Following See More »
AFTER HE POSTED THREATENING PHOTO
Judge Orders Stone Gag Order
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
DATES TBD
New Election Ordered in NC-09
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS
Source:
TO DEMAND VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT MADURO STEP DOWN
Pence Traveling to Colombia
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Vice President Mike Pence will go to Colombia on Monday to speak with the Colombian president and regional leaders about the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela and rally the international community behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó." Pence "will deliver remarks to the 14 nations that are part of the 'Lima Group' in Bogota," and will meet with Colombian President Ivan Duque.

Source:
LIKELY TO FACE COMPETITION IN REPUBLICAN PRIMARY
Rep. Bradley Byrne Announces Bid Against Sen. Doug Jones
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne became the first official Republican entrant into the 2020 U.S. Senate race announcing his intention to run in a race that could become one of the most expensive political contests in Alabama history. Byrne, a three-term congressman from Fairhope, said he anticipates the fundraising during the lengthy 2020 campaign to eclipse the 2017 special Senate election, in which an estimated $50 million was spent during the contest. Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones, who narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in that election, raised more than $24 million."

Source:
TARGETS INCLUDED NANCY PELOSI
Coast Guard Lt. Planned Large-scale Terrorist Attack
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist was arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists...Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and searched the Internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.”

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login