Apprenticeship: Is it time?

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.

Cooking is hot in Kansas

Culinary arts is hot at Johnson County Community College (Kansas), reports the Wichita Eagle. With 700 students, JCCC has the largest culinary apprenticeship program in the country. A new Hospitality & Culinary Academy is so modern “it’s almost like walking on the deck of the Starship Enterprise,” says Mark Webster, president of the Greater Kansas City Chefs’ Association.

Students can earn an associate degree of applied science and sous chef certification in three years, with lots of on-the-job training. Or they can go for an associate degree and culinarian certification in food and beverage management.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growing demand for chefs and head cooks. “The food service industry has really rebounded, and more people are eating out than ever before,” says Lindy Robinson, dean of the college’s business division.

 Enter the main doors of the lobby, and to the left there’s a glass-walled innovation kitchen where JCCC’s student culinary team already has started practicing for its upcoming competition in South Korea. To the right, doors slide open to reveal a 75-seat demonstration kitchen in a theater with a video production room so classes with master chefs can be taped and broadcast on the college’s cable channel.

In the “garde manger,” or cold foods culinary lab, a hook-and-chain pulley system is suspended from a reinforced ceiling. The support beams are strong enough to hang a 350-pound side of beef – Exhibit A in a newly offered butchering class that will emphasize utilization from nose to tail.

Indoor smokers and a 4-foot grill plus patio space to accommodate outdoor cooking give students a better understanding of the techniques behind grilling, smoking and barbecuing.

. . . The cooking labs are set up so 32 students at a time can “work the line,” a simulation of a real-life restaurant environment. The addition of a blast freezer allows pastry students to quickly cool their petit fours and ice them with fondant in a single class period, a time-saving technique typically used in the industry. The new commercial wok gives students the opportunity to explore Asian cuisine in greater depth.

Private culinary schools may charge $40,000 or more for an associate degree. Community colleges typically charge one-tenth that, says Michael McGreal of the American Culinary Federation, who heads the culinary department at Joliet Junior College in Illinois.

21st century vo-tech

The New Vo-Tech is helping students prepare for skilled careers — and for college, writes Del Stover for American School.

 Not long ago, a manufacturer asked for assistance from the Pickens County Career and Technology Center (South Carolina). A factory robot needed to be retooled for a new product, and the company’s technicians were too busy to do the work. Could the high school’s students take on the project?

. .. Soon, students were installing a new welding arm and reprogramming the robot, even though the company didn’t have a technician’s manual to help with the work.

“After we finished that, the company said they were going to put the robot on line at the plant, and they’d need maintenance,” (Principal Leonard) Williams says. “So they hired one of our kids for an apprenticeship … and hired another kid from our electronics program.”

Vo-tech — often called career and technical education (CTE) — works best when schools work closely with local employers.

In Pickens County, 1,100 students “study everything from auto repair and high-tech welding to pre-engineering and medical sciences.” Some work in school workshops or apprentice at local companies. Others earn college credits at a local technical school or work toward vocational certifications.

 High school senior Toby Wofford took part in an apprenticeship program with a local manufacturer and has decided to stay on with the company after graduation. He is working part-time while seeking an associate’s degree at the firm’s expense.

Meanwhile, senior Conner Smith, who originally studied mechanical and architectural drafting at the technical center, says his experience sparked an interest in engineering that he’ll pursue in college.

In Europe, vocational education isn’t seen as a dead end, says Nancy Hoffman, author of Schooling in the Workplace. Vocational students can go on to technical colleges and universities. In the U.S., vocational education is seen as less rigorous, fit for low-performing students who aren’t going to college. There’s a stigma, says Hoffman.

“CTE prepares young people for high-demand jobs — in career areas where there are significant opportunities for middle-class wages. These jobs may require skills that may be slightly different  than what’s offered in traditional academics, but there are rigorous levels of math and writing required. This is not a dumbed-down version of high school.”

Career-tech courses don’t hurt — or help — math achievement, concludes a new study. Federal legislation has attempted to integrate career and academic courses to prepare more students for STEM careers and college majors.

Skills gap widens — or does it?

By 2020, there will be five million more jobs requiring university degrees than there will be four-year graduates to fill them, if current graduation trends continue, according to new research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. Thirty-five percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree, the Recovery report projects.

But reports of a widening skills gap have generated widening skepticism, reports Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report.

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Georgetown foresees “a major shortage of college-educated workers, especially as baby boomers retire,” says Anthony Carnevale, the center’s director.

If the report is accurate, 23.6 percent of the workforce will need bachelor’s degrees and 10.9 percent will need graduate degrees, says economist Robert Lerman, an Urban Institute fellow. That’s close to the current percentages.

Georgetown also projects 12.7 percent of workers will need associate’s degrees, more than the 10.8 percent who have them currently.

Apprenticeships could substitute for associate degrees in some cases, Lerman believes.

Nearly half of four-year graduates said their jobs don’t require a college degree in a McKinsey survey last month.

Critics say previous warnings of a job skills gap haven’t come true. “It keeps going through these cycles,” says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers. “And every time it’s raised, there are serious studies that are done, and they say, ‘We can’t find the shortage.’”

The “middle-skills” jobs gap is real, but sending more young people to college isn’t the only answer, says Salzman. “College is not for everybody, and it’s really not an efficient way to do a lot of workplace preparation, if that’s our goal.”

Generation jobless

Youth unemployment is a worldwide problem, reports The Economist in  Generation jobless. Yet many employers in countries from the U.S. to Morocco say they can’t find entry-level workers with the right skills.

Poor basic education is only part of the problem.

Countries with the lowest youth jobless rates have a close relationship between education and work. Germany has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which in recent years have helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest growth.

Countries with high youth unemployment are short of such links. In France few high-school leavers have any real experience of work. In north Africa universities focus on preparing their students to fill civil-service jobs even as companies complain about the shortage of technical skills. The unemployment rate in Morocco is five times as high for graduates as it is for people with only a primary education.

Employers do much less training on the job.

Many countries are trying to improve vocational schools and develop apprenticeships, reports The Economist.

In 2010 South Korea created a network of vocational “meister” schools—from the German for “master craftsman”—to reduce the country’s shortage of machine operators and plumbers. . . . In Britain some further-education colleges are embracing the principle that the best way to learn is to do: North Hertfordshire College has launched a business venture with Fit4less, a low-cost gym. Bluegrass College in Kentucky and Toyota have created a replica of a car factory, where workers and students go to classes together.

Bluegrass is a community and technical college, so job training is part of the mission. Many community colleges work closely with employers on workforce development.

Via Meadia has more thoughts on practical vs. academic education.

Obama: Link high school, college, job training

High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.

Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

. . . Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.

Business, political and education leaders are trying to link high schools, community colleges and employers, reports U.S. News.

Despite high unemployment, some 600,000 jobs in advanced manufacturing and other high-tech fields are unfilled for lack of qualified workers, testified Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Chicago is trying to fill the skills gap.

 Five high schools in the Chicago Public Schools district, including Corliss High School, Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Lake View High School, began offering career-training tracks in September. The vocational programs are aligned with the needs of area businesses such as IBM, Motorola, and Verizon, which each partnered with a school to design alternative curricula, according to the CPS Website.

. . . Students enrolled in the program can earn a technical certification and credit toward an associate degree from City Colleges of Chicago, along with a high school diploma.

Two-year technical pathways can lead to lucrative careers, notes U.S. News. “Electrical engineering technicians earn a median salary of about $56,000 with an associate degree, and the median pay for nuclear technicians is roughly $68,000 with an associate’s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Radiology technicians also earn high salaries with a two-year degree.

Apprenticeships: Old idea is new again

Apprenticeships are making a come back – and not just in trade union jobs –but only a third of today’s apprentices are community college students. Apprenticeship has spread from construction trades to “skilled occupations such as computer operator, machinist, dental laboratory technician, tool and dye maker, electronic technician” and more, reports Community College Times.

In Switzerland, Austria and Germany, apprenticeships provide training for more than half of young people. There and elsewhere, apprenticeships have been grown to include information technology, finance, advanced manufacturing, and maritime occupations. Germany has the oldest and best-known apprenticeship system. It offers programs leading to recognized qualifications in about 350 different occupations.

In the U.S., “apprenticeship programs offer an array of advantages over pure postsecondary education programs,”  concludes a Center for American Progress report by economist Robert I. Lerman.

“Since apprenticeship openings depend on employer demand, mismatches between skills taught and supplied and skills demanded in the work place are unusual. Apprenticeships provide workers with a full salary so that participants can earn while they acquire valued skills. Apprentices learn in the context of real work settings and attain not only occupational skills but other work-related skills, including communication, problem solving, allocating resources, and dealing with supervisors and a diverse set of coworkers.”

Community colleges can provide the academic instruction apprentices need, while employers provide the occupational training and workplace skills, Lerman writes.

Some community colleges are “slow to develop new courses that are required as new programs or new technologies in existing programs arise,” reports Community College Times. But there are a growing number of successful apprenticeship programs.

In Washington State, more than 200 students are learning the ironworking trade through apprenticeships run by the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, a state-funded partnership among community colleges, industry and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The programs supply workers for Boeing Corp., the state’s largest employer.

South Carolina locates its major apprenticeship initiative, Apprenticeship Carolina, at its 16 technical colleges. The state-funded system is growing fast; since July 2007, the number of registered apprenticeship programs in South Carolina has grown from 90 to 230. All 16 of the state’s technical colleges are participating in apprenticeship programs.

The Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program was started in the 1990s and has matured into the nation’s largest apprenticeship opportunity for high school students. Under the two-year program, high school juniors and seniors complete up to 900 hours of work-based learning and related courses. Many also earn college credits, and 70 percent go on to higher education.

Apprenticeship could be used to prepare young people for the growing number of “middle-skill jobs” that require some postsecondary training but not a bachelor’s degree.

Top chef trained at community college

Richard Rosendale, chef at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, hopes to be the first American to win the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition in France, reports the Washington Post. Rosendale and chefs from around the world will compete Jan. 30 “in the world’s most challenging and prestigious culinary competition,” which is held every two years in Lyon, France. French and Norwegian chefs have dominated the competition.

In an age when many aspiring young chefs head to the Culinary Institute of America, Rosendale enrolled in the culinary program at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa. He earned his associate degree and entered the Greenbrier’s apprenticeship program, the one he now oversees. This led to apprenticeships with several certified master chefs, training in Europe and sous-vide training at the French Laundry.

Rosendale’s rise shows that “college” can mean real-world vocational training, writes Ben Wildavsky on The Quick and the Ed.

The current requirements for the degree Rosendale earned include not only baking, beverage management, and so forth, but also college writing, microcomputer concepts, social science or math, and more. Students also work many hours as apprentices in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. This culinary arts program . . .  combines practical classroom instruction, an out-of-the-classroom apprenticeship, and classes that focus on some core skills that could prove useful to students in many settings.

It’s not that “too many” Americans go to college, writes Wildavsky. “College” broadly defined — job training as well as Plato —  can benefit many more people.

Apprenticeship + college = opportunity

Apprenticeships are making a comeback, often linked to community college classes, according to the Hechinger Report.

In Tacoma, Jesica Bush earns nearly $25 an hour as an apprentice iron worker while taking classes at Bates Technical College. In three years, she’ll earn a journeyman’s card and an associate degree. A seventh-grade drop-out, she completed her GED while serving a prison term for armed robbery,

A state-funded partnership among community colleges, industry and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is turning out skilled workers needed by Boeing and the rest of Seattle’s aerospace industry. Ironworkers are needed  to help build a $4 billion replacement for the floating 520 Bridge over Lake Washington.

Higher education, advocates say, can not only provide these newly minted workers with the critical-thinking skills they need for today’s jobs, but also leave them better prepared and more appealing to employers the next time things get tough.

. . . Machinists these days have to operate sophisticated, computer-numerical-controlled equipment like the $3 million Makino vertical machining center that Seattle apprentice Irwin Downes has learned to run at JWD Machine in Fife, Wash. The company sent Downes and two other apprentices to Ohio to learn how to run the super lathe, which can cut titanium parts on several axes at once under high heat and jet sprays. Now the three are teaching the factory’s other 42 machinists how to use the time-saving machine to make critical parts for the aerospace industry.

Downes, who is 24, also spends four hours in class one night a week at Bates Technical College. “I knew my feeds and speeds for cutting aluminum, but why is it that way?” says Downes, who previously worked in a Chinese fast-food restaurant for a year after high school. “At Bates, they break it down into a math formula and show us where the numbers come from.”

Ironworker apprentices spend 11 months on the job, often doing hard physical labor, and one month taking 6:30 a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. classes at Bates during their four-year apprenticeships. In classes, they learn to follow codes and blueprints.

The skilled workforce is aging: Half of Boeing engineers are eligible to retire by 2015, and two-thirds of the company’s entire workforce is within a decade of retirement age.

Despite high demand and high wages, young people don’t want to enter the trades unless they can earn a college degree, says Laura Hopkins, the program’s executive director. “We have to convince their counselors and teachers and parents as well that this is a good career opportunity for them and that if the economy shifts and their industry goes down, they can move on to something else with that college degree.”

Will 4-year schools help fill skills gap?

Angel Gavidia worked low-skills jobs. He tried community college, but dropped out after a year.  Then he discovered a learn-and-earn partnership linking an IT-services company called Atrion with classes at Community College of Rhode Island, reports Jon Marcus of Hechinger Report.

The year-long program, in which Gavidia was paid to work as an apprentice at Atrion while taking on-campus courses in networking and other IT subjects, gave him the kind of real-world skills employers say they want but often can’t find in college graduates.

Gavidia, who now works full-time at Atrion as an associate engineer, says it was the apprenticeship part of the program that taught him not just theoretical knowledge, but skills he could actually use on the job. “I came into this position feeling like, we didn’t learn this in school, and we should have,” he said.

Community colleges have a long history of job training partnerships with employers, but universities are slow to adapt to employers’ needs, writes Marcus.

Eduardo Padrón runs Miami Dade College, the second-largest U.S. higher-education institution with more than 174,000 students.

“What I hear from business leaders who come to us is that the universities place before them all kinds of excuses,” said Padrón, whose institution has hundreds of partnerships with business. The universities “want to take three years to put a program together, and then they have all these excuses for not doing it the right way. It’s part of a tradition that’s not changing with time,” he said.

Corporations such as Farmers Insurance Group, Dunkin’ Donuts and Walt Disney World, do their own college-level training and education. Many others partner with community colleges on workforce development.

A growing number of jobs reuire “middle skills” — a certificate or associate degree, but not a bachelor’s degree.  ”Nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. now require an associate degree — a greater proportion than call for a bachelor’s degree,” reports Marcus.

However,  few CEOs or policymakers attended community colleges, points out Karen Elzey, director of  Skills for America’s Future. “They’re four-year grads. All the people they know are four-year grads. They don’t have experience with community colleges.”