The perception that a four year degree is the essential requirement for a good job and a fulfilling life is less true than it may seem. That path starts with four years of little income and an expenditure of over $120,000 most often in the form of a debt that may linger for decades. That journey is completed by fewer than 60% of people who begin, even allowing for two additional years. The cost of college and the lack of success for more than 40% make this less than a sure path to success. Additionally, white collar jobs, long considered resistant to unemployment, are suffering with current trends.
As the pandemic has made very clear, the jobs that remain “essential” are those that survive times of economic challenge. Access to these jobs is via paid apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are a mix of work experience and academic and technical instruction often in conjunction with local colleges. Long limited to trades, apprenticeship programs are emerging for other industries such as information technology, insurance and health care. Apprenticeships offer advantages for young people considering a career.
1. Make Money – Save Money – Owe Nothing
Apprenticeship programs cover most costs for the training, paid by employers and at a wage at the same time. Many apprenticeships can offer a direct route to a high paying job or serve as the base for further education, often fully or partially at the employer’s expense.
2. Training That is Relevant
Most apprenticeship programs are established by employers to produce workers trained for the tasks of the actual jobs in play. The line from apprenticeship to job is a straight and direct one.
3. Career Exploration In the Real World
College programs provide four years of classroom experience which may or may not match actual jobs in the real world and provide little understanding of job function to the student. Apprenticeships provide the real world experience along with the training needed for success. Apprenticeships experience the reality of the field immediately and show the relationship of academics and work.
4. Professional and Career Networking
Working as an apprentice provides contact with a variety of professionals in the field and can develop a network of contacts and relationships that facilitate career options.
5. Nationally-Recognized Credentials
Apprenticeships offer standardized, nationally recognized credentials which provide employers with confidence in the skills they certify. Employers know that the individual has demonstrated successful academic and work performance.
6. Government Funding Signals Support
Government funding recognizes the need for more skill trained workers. On February 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded nearly $100 million to 28 public-private apprenticeship partnerships to support the large-scale expansion of apprenticeships in industry sectors and occupations that have not traditionally deployed apprenticeships, such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology. These also include in-demand cybersecurity professions and emerging occupations involving artificial intelligence.
As the country emerges from the pandemic and the economy adapts, the need for workers with specific certified skills will be even greater than before.