Reviving the Apprenticeship

Brookings has an article on why America has not yet succeeded in getting the apprenticeship reestablished as part of our educational landscape. They maintain some degree of optimism, but in the end conclude that a great deal must change:

[N]othing short of seismic shifts in college loan criteria, training regulations, hiring standards, and licensing rules will undo a century’s worth of incentives toward full-time academic degrees.

This is a subject in which I am deeply interested, both as a result of my own rather unconventional and degree-less career path, and as a result of my being on the board of my local manufacturers’ association and hearing constantly about the difficulties that our members face in attracting talent. And like Brookings, I also see a great many challenges that must be addressed before we shall be able to make progress.

First, we must overcome an educational establishment that is printing money on the back of the lie that a Bachelor’s degree is essential for any employee, and that a masters is an even better way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Second, we must hold to account the politicians who spend taxpayers’ money to fund their favored constituents in academia by means of subsidized loans for their customers, while also encouraging the endless adolescence of further education as a means to undermine any flicker of independence from the State and its approved institutions. Third, we must educate HR professionals who use degrees as a lazy way to filter their candidate pool, or perhaps more generously, to provide a lawsuit-proof process that can credibly claim to be objective. And finally, we must deal with the new American aristocracy—the graduates of Yale and Harvard and the rest whose often inherited membership of that club ensures their ascendance to the elite—and those who yearn to join them as our betters.

Pitched against all that, we have the slow realization, even among some members of the educational class, that the way in which we are saddling our children with debt in a never-ending race to acquire credentials that have little relevance to their career has crossed the line from being merely inefficient to being deeply immoral.

Apprenticeships may only be part of the answer, but they are nonetheless essential to taking back the future of our workforce from an establishment that has singularly failed the needs of both employers and employees. The exploitation of students and their concerned parents has to stop, and the higher education bubble must burst. Only then will American industry fulfill its promise to return to leading the world, and only then will we have righted the wrongs that so many years of misguided policies have wrought upon entire generations.

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