Factory apprenticeship is the latest model from Germany, reports the New York Times. After the first 60 workers were hired at BMW’s South Carolina factory, “it seemed like we had sucked up everybody who knew about diesel engines,” said Joerg Klisch, vice president for North American operations of Tognum America. The factory needs workers who can repair robots and operate computers.
Tognum has created an apprenticeship program in partnership with local high schools and a career center.
“South Carolina offers a fantastic model for what we can do nationally,” said Ben Olinsky, co-author of a forthcoming report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington research organization, recommending a vast expansion in apprenticeships.
In Germany, apprentices divide their time between classroom training in a public vocational school and practical training at a company or small firm. Some 330 types of apprenticeships are accredited by the government in Berlin, including such jobs as hairdresser, roofer and automobile electronics specialist. About 60 percent of German high school students go through some kind of apprenticeship program, which leads to a formal certificate in the chosen skill and often a permanent job at the company where the young person trained.
In the U.S., apprenticeships face obstacles from left and right, reports the Times. “School officials were wary of allowing a private company to dictate the curriculum,” while employers feared apprenticeships meant unions.
Young people in their 20s and 30s can apply to be BMW Scholars. They study full-time at local technical colleges for two years while working in the BMW factory for 20 hours a week.
Apprenticeship closes the skills gap, writes Mary Alice McCarthy, a New America Foundation policy analyst, on EdCentral. But many employers aren’t willing to develop new workers’ skills.
Instead, employers wait for the perfect job candidate, reports Time in The Real Reason Recent Grads Can’t Get Hired. Companies say they can’t find “team players, problem solvers [who] can plan, organize and prioritize their work.”
Business has shifted the onus of skills development almost entirely onto job seekers” and local education providers, writes McCarthy.
Young workers in the 1970s received an average of 2.5 weeks of training per year. By contrast, a 2011 survey of employees and employers by Accenture revealed that only 21% of workers had received any formal training in the last five years.
Young people need the chance to learn on the job “how to navigate an organization, manage a work project, communicate effectively with colleagues, supervisors, and clients and solve work-specific problems,” McCarthy writes.