Apprenticeships: The Future of the American High School
Last month, Heather Singmaster, assistant director of education at Asia Society, wrote for Education Week on the need for an apprenticeship program for high school students.
In her post, Singmaster compared youth unemployment, overall unemployment, and general happiness in Switzerland and in the United States. In all three comparisons, Switzerland comes out on top. Singmaster attributes this success to Switzerland’s apprenticeship program, one where “many students spend one or two days at school and the rest of their week applying what they learn in the workplace.”
She noted that the U.S. Department of Labor had recently signed a letter of intent with Switzerland to develop a similar program here in the states. In pursuing this path, the U.S. government may be opening new doors and new opportunities for countless students:
A key point to understand is that students are not locked into the occupational area they chose. Apprenticeships are a way to engage students in learning while giving them the opportunity to explore possibilities. Many Swiss apprentices will mention that they chose this route because it was shorter and they were tired of school at age 15. However, after completing the apprenticeship and working for a year or two, they were inspired to return for higher education and training. Research supports that occupational mobility is quite high: workers are able to switch jobs within their cluster areas as skills demands shift and to make more money as they do so. Research also shows that all things being equal, Swiss students who go through a mixed academic and vocational education pathway make more money than those who go through a purely academic or purely vocational one.
What say you, educators? Do you see value in such an apprenticeship program? Can it be integrated into your current schedules and courses? Would it be helpful for parents? What should be consider as we look to expand internship opportunities to these sort of apprenticeship programs?
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