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OC Leader Board: Embracing the German Model Of Business-Funded Apprenticeships

Editor’s Note: Glenn Roquemore earned a doctorate in geology and geophysics and became head of the Applied Geoscience Research Office at the Naval Weapons Center China Lake, where he worked for a decade before becoming a college professor and eventually president of Irvine Valley College for 18 years. Roquemore, who now owns an Irvine-based consulting firm to help schools become accredited, wrote this Leader Board for the Business Journal. The Business Journal’s annual list of employment agencies begins on page 28.

In an ever-evolving global economy, where job skills rapidly change, a revolution in workforce development is necessary for America to foster sustainable economic growth.
Looking beyond traditional academic education, the German Model of business-funded apprenticeships offers a proven and successful path for skill-building, shaping a highly skilled workforce and engendering economic resilience.

By adopting this approach, the United States can bridge the skills gap, reduce unemployment rates, and create a robust foundation for its future prosperity. Similar workplace learning and paid apprenticeship models exist throughout Europe, including the Swiss Federal Institute’s Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and the U.K.’s Degree Apprenticeship models.

Germany’s apprenticeship system, deeply integrated within its education and business sectors, has played a transformative role in engendering economic stability. Businesses collaborate with schools, offering apprenticeships to high school graduates seeking hands-on training and valuable work experience. This model has proven effective, with over 50% of German high school graduates directly entering workforce training, compared to a mere 5% in the United States.

The Advantages

One of the primary advantages of the German Model lies in its ability to bridge the skills gap. By engaging in dual-track learning, combining practical training with theoretical education, students graduate with a unique skill set that fulfills the demands of the job market. This approach ensures businesses obtain qualified, equipped employees while fostering a direct correlation between labor supply and industry requirements.

America’s high unemployment rates for youths underscore the urgency for practical solutions. “The German Model consistently yields lower youth unemployment rates than America, statistics that can inspire change. For example, February 2024 youth unemployment rates show Germany at 5.6% while the U.S. reported 8.8%.”

By investing in apprenticeships, American businesses can tap into a pool of talent at an early stage, providing quality training and fostering a direct pathway to employment. The model reduces the mismatch between education and job market demands, increasing job prospects and long-term career stability.

Adopting the German Model of business-funded apprenticeships is not only about closing the skills gap and reducing unemployment rates; it also fosters innovation and entrepreneurship. This model ingrains entrepreneurial spirit by exposing apprentices to real-life challenges and encouraging them to become problem solvers, critical thinkers, and creative contributors. This mindset has been pivotal in Germany’s global technology, manufacturing, and engineering leadership.

Amid the waves of change that continuously reshape the economic landscape, the United States must embrace bold reforms to unlock its full potential. By embracing the German Model of business-funded apprenticeships, America can harness the dual benefits of reducing youth unemployment and bridging the skills gap that plagues the nation.

Increased investments in workforce training will strengthen our human capital, boost economic growth, and ensure a prosperous future for generations to come. Now is the time for America to step forward and embrace a transformative model that has propelled numerous industrial nations to economic growth and well-being.

Apprentice Degrees?

Should America consider allowing businesses to confer degrees for apprenticeships?
Businesses possess specialized knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. Allowing them to confer degrees would ensure that apprentices attain high competency and proficiency in their chosen industry.

In addition, many industries face a shortage of skilled workers due to a disconnect between traditional academic programs and industry demands. Allowing businesses to confer degrees would enable apprenticeships to address specific skill gaps and meet the needs of the labor market more effectively. With businesses conferring degrees, apprentices would receive recognition for these practical competencies and theoretical knowledge.

Businesses conferring degrees would give apprentices a recognized credential that validates their comprehensive skill set, making them more appealing to potential employers. Of course, modifications to the accreditation system would need to include a highly regulated process for business conferred degrees.

Since businesses understand their industry’s evolving requirements, they can tailor their apprenticeship programs to match the rapidly changing nature of specific sectors. This customization ensures that apprentices stay updated with industry practices and technology. Allowing businesses to confer degrees for apprenticeship would foster stronger public and private sector collaborations.

This partnership can help align educational institutions with industry needs and ensure that the skills taught align with the demands of the labor market. By recognizing apprenticeships with degrees, businesses can motivate individuals to embark on continuous learning journeys. Doing so would encourage workers to develop skills throughout their careers, increasing their adaptability and resilience in a changing job market.

Adopting the German Model of business-funded apprenticeships, or a blend including the Swiss Federal Institute’s Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and the U.K.’s Degree Apprenticeship models (among others), and allowing accredited businesses to confer degrees for completed apprenticeships can bridge the gap between academia and industry, address skill shortages, and create a more efficient and responsive approach to education and workforce development.

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