Even when the US economy is humming along it contains a strange paradox. Employers have a hard time finding
workers, yet many workers have a hard time finding appropriate employment. This mismatch can be explained in part at least by the change in requirements in
the labor market. For example, of 100 workers in 1950, only two needed a
college degree, today it’s almost 50. In 1950, only ten needed prior work
experience, today it is more than 70. As it turns out, many employers have started
to demand a college degree even if the job does not necessarily require one in
order to screen for general work maturity. They just can’t seem to find a
better indicator for promising employees. That might be fine if most people had a
degree and the applicable experience, however it may be surprising to hear
that in the United States out of every 100 ninth graders only 21 graduate from
college within nine years. What sounds like an alarming statistic is actually
nothing unusual for a healthy economy. College degree rates are similar all
around the world, but as long as employers continue to screen applicants
for a college degree they’re missing out on the vast majority of our national
talent. Critical positions go unfilled and workers can’t find good jobs in
addition even degree holders may find it difficult to enter the workforce as they
lack the experience many employers require so what if there was an
alternative path to filling these well-paying jobs there is it’s called an
apprenticeship some have come to call it college without debt it’s an ancient
educational model still in use in the United States that combines classroom
instruction with job training in the workplace in the u.s. apprenticeship is
actually widespread and very successful in the trades and in recent years we
have seen it start to spread to other professions as well yet still
apprenticeships currently involve less than 1% of available jobs what if we
could scale this up and offer this education and career pathway to all
students in Switzerland which has about the same rate of college graduation 21
out of 1 nearly all the remaining students 75 out
of 100 go through apprenticeship programs from bank tellers to computer
technicians from nurses to bus drivers their education exactly matches what the
job market needs similar numbers exist in other European countries what would
it take for apprenticeship to go mainstream in the u.s. like it has
elsewhere well the Swiss start young typically in the last two years of high
school and they don’t expect schools to teach work apprentices learn academic
skills in the academy but learn job skills on the job they follow a
carefully balanced model that combines one to two days on campus with three to
four days on the job each week employers stay directly involved in eliminating
the skills gap apprentices also earn money while they learn so instead of
falling into debt they can make a living and even start saving from day one in
addition and this is another surprise Swiss employers also earn money while
apprentices learn they have figured out how to train workers at no net cost to
them and in fact at a substantial profit this is because trainees who work at low
training wages increase business productivity so much that they increase
company profits even while being paid for attending school and going to work
this win-win-win-win has turned Switzerland into one of the most
resilient innovative and competitive economies in the world now imagine what
the US economy would look like if its apprenticeship investment were scaled up
to this level US businesses would invest around 150 billion into their training
and earn around 165 billion on that investment during the training period
alone instead of its current 445,000 apprentices the US would have more than
6 million student debt would be reduced by almost 160 billion per year and the
youth unemployment rate would fall from a current 10 to 15% to 3% the mismatch
between what employers are looking for and what they find in the job market
would be erased many of the ingredients that are needed to make such a future a
reality are already present here in the US and in places where employers in
collaboration with highs schools and community colleges have
embraced professional style apprenticeships students and their
parents have embraced them too when the idea of college or nothing becomes
college without debt and students develop industry valued professional
skills as part of their education we begin to solve the strange American
paradox of both too many job openings and too many job seekers and best of all
we rediscover the depth of our national talents