Apprenticeships Could Develop Manufacturing’s Comeback

Here are seven key reasons they say the U.S. should be developing apprenticeship programs.


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Miles Free

Why does the U.S. continue to subsidize college degrees that are not providing any employment advantage while manufacturing suffers from a very real lack of skilled labor?

Stuart E. Eizenstat and Robert I. Lerman wrote about the need for apprenticeships in "The Washington Post" earlier this year in “Apprenticeships could help U.S. workers gain a competitive edge.” 

Here are seven key reasons they say the U.S. should be developing apprenticeship programs:

1. The United States is on the verge of a manufacturing comeback.
2. There are too few workers with the skills needed
3. The skills gap is real
4. U.S. unemployment remains at 7.5 percent
5. Only one out of two African American men in their early 20s has a job
6. There are an inadequate number of skilled workers for intermediate-level technical occupations
7. There is a dearth of skilled machinists, welders, robotics programmers and those who maintain equipment

The central answer to the mismatch between jobs and employment is a 21st-century apprenticeship program.

  • Apprenticeships have grown rapidly in other countries, tripling in Australia since 1996 and jumping tenfold—to more than 500,000 entrants last year—in England since 1990.
  • The group of 20 ministers of labor, the International Labor Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development strongly recommend expanding apprenticeship programs
  • Apprenticeships could help reduce youth unemployment
  • Apprenticeships could widen opportunities for young people
  • Apprenticeships could help eliminate the mismatch of skills that is holding manufacturing back

Government spending on colleges and universities tops $300 billion per year; outlays to apprenticeship programs total less than $40 million annually.

That is 7,500 times more spending for college, where many graduates remain unemployed without needed skills for employment that will earn the return on their educational ‘investment.’

If we are serious about the U.S. remaining a manufacturing leader, perhaps it is time to look at how we are spending our education/training dollars.

The need for skilled workers in manufacturing that we can’t find and the numbers of unemployed recent college graduates suggests that we can do better.

Does anyone besides me think that perhaps paying 7,500 times more for college education than to train folks to get valuable skills leading to employment might be out of balance?


Originally posted at PMPASpeakingofPrecision.com blog.