–Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin–
Parents of American high school students are rightfully concerned about the cost of their students’ college education. Most of us would agree, and data indicates that there are financial and social benefits for getting a bachelor’s degree, and being an educational consultant, I work hard to help my clients achieve their college dreams. However, as a German native, I’ve always questioned why American high school students have such limited options! Yes, there are vocational programs offered in high school and there exist some excellent junior college degree options (which I wrote about in my previous post 5/8), but there seems to be an overall stigma associated with not having earned a four-year-degree.
Finally, 10 U.S. states have embraced Germany’s apprenticeship model to fill important manufacturing positions in their states. These career pathways include mechatronics, industrial maintenance technicians, welder and production technicians and other high-demand careers. According to a report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, American manufacturers will need to fill more than 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next 10 years.
The apprenticeship program, German-style offers students the option to partake in a “dual studies” program which is highly regarded because it offers genuine on-the-job training coupled with rigorous academics for a period of 36 months. This is not a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” certificate program, but a thorough combination of 70 percent work experience and 30 percent college.
Germany’s dual education program goes back to 1969 and it ensures that apprentices aged 16-19 are working in state-approved and funded organizations, usually mid-sized companies and attend publicly funded colleges where they earn industry recognized qualifications which are awarded by a Chamber of Commerce or a guild.
Approximately 4,000 German companies offer these apprenticeships, which can range from advanced manufacturing, IT, banking, and hospitality. Graduates have the option to earn a “Meister” or “Master” certificate upon successful completion and additional work experience, and can thus become entrepreneurs employing and training future apprentices.
Figure 2. Top Trends in Apprenticeship Programs: 2018 Survey Results, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
Georgia’s Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (http://www.gacatt.com) has successfully replicated the German program by taking students as young as 15 and matching them with nearby technical colleges and factories where they learn technical skills firsthand. The students are paid minimum wage and earn a high school diploma in addition to an AA degree after their three years of training. Most of them are fully employed upon graduation. In this model, companies train and mentor their student employees and commit $25,000 to fund their salaries.
Graduates profit from guaranteed employment, the opportunity to earn AA degrees with no debt to pay off afterwards, and a German DIHK certification (German Chamber of Commerce and Industry). This certification demonstrates to companies that the apprentice was trained to internationally recognized standards and has been trained to adequately perform the skilled work needed in most manufacturing settings.
I am certainly a proponent for advanced academic degrees, but it is time to offer American high school students genuine alternatives. Not just basic training, but certification to the highest international standards that is recognized globally.
By bringing corporations, technical colleges and state funding together, and training these students with best practices in mind, we can elevate the status of all high school graduates who chose not to get a four-year degree and become successful entrepreneurs.