Apprenticeships – Text for reading comprehension
Are apprenticeships really necessary In America?
I think the answer for most Americans would be ‘no’ even though they do exist in the United States. Aside from the traditional ‘hands-on’ professions, such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, pipefitters, machinists and welders, which require one. Apprenticeships are almost non-existent in America compared to their European counterparts. According to The Atlantic (an American magazine and multi-platform publisher), “Today in America, fewer than 5 percent of young people train as apprentices, the overwhelming majority in construction trades. In Germany, the number is closer to 60 percent – in fields as diverse as advanced manufacturing, IT, banking and hospitality.”
Underlying factors here may include the negative connotation associated with doing an apprenticeship in the USA and the fact that educators push the need for higher education. Quite often, the perception or reality is that an apprenticeship program is seen as an alternative for someone not able to successfully complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree program. Even those with poor grades feel compelled to attend university.
One could argue that an American has to complete 12 years of public education or obtain a GED, which could possibly offset the need for additional classroom training afforded during an apprenticeship. This contrasts with Germany where most people doing an apprenticeship only have 9-10 years of formal schooling while those attending university have 12-13 years under their belts.
The US Department of Labor’s website states, “Apprenticeships are restrictive in the sense that the training and skills that you gain are specific to a particular industry or role.” Nonetheless, apprenticeship programs produce thoroughly trained, well-skilled individuals for the job market. This is especially true in Germany.
A university degree, however, allows more flexibility and unlimited possibilities. For example, while a degree in biology, chemistry or physics would qualify a person to work in almost any science-related profession in the US, it would also allow them more opportunities, such as doing research, teaching, pharmaceutical sales and marketing to name a few, whereas an apprenticeship as a laboratory assistant would qualify you just to work in a lab in Germany.
Let’s take a look at several jobs that require an apprenticeship in Germany but not in the United States. In Germany it is possible to work as a waiter, as hotel staff or as a store clerk checking out customers without an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is required though, if you are going to move forward along the career path in these industries.
Upon receiving a high school diploma in the USA, a young person can enter the job market quite easily. The key to the American ‘learning on the job’ business model is having an employee trained as quickly as possible with sufficient training to do the job. No cross-discipline training in other fields is required. For the positions mentioned above, this basically means having a co-employee showing you how to perform the job and then shadowing you for a few days until you are able to do the job alone. For someone working retail – this would be waiting on and checking out customers, accepting returned items. For waiters – learning the menu, entering orders, serving food , printing checks. For hotel staff – learning front desk duties, billing, customer service tasks. Not in 3 years but less than one week! That’s it! You’re qualified!
Not taking anything away from doing an apprenticeship in Germany but the United States seems to be more focused on maximizing profit with as little training and associated costs as possible. While initially earning more under this model, young Americans lacking an apprenticeship could result in significantly lower lifetime earnings and fewer opportunities for advancement within a company. A young person completing an apprenticeship program in Germany is better qualified entering the job market but it also comes with a higher price tag as well.