Apprenticeships and Education

What kind of picture does the word “apprenticeship” conjure up in your mind? For some the concept of apprenticeship might be viewed as an undignified and outdated way to escape the college grind, while for others it might trigger a romanticized memory of reading Johnny Tremain in the fifth grade. Whatever the connotations this term brings to your mind, apprenticeship is clearly an overlooked concept in today’s culture that does not deserve to be so quickly ruled out. 

While the idea of apprenticeship has been around for centuries, the high point of American apprenticeship occurred in the colonial period of the eighteenth century. Rather than attending an institution of higher education, many young people of the Revolution era were skillfully trained in a particular trade or craft by a qualified and knowledgeable adult. This tradition continued after America’s founding period, but as times changed and industry and technology advanced, apprenticeships gradually fell out of favor. In more recent times, the free market possibilities of apprenticeships have often been stifled by government regulation and union dominance in apprenticeship-friendly industries.

As the economy weakens and college becomes more expensive, some people are beginning to wonder if a return to apprenticeship models might be a wise and feasible alternative to higher education. Indeed, apprenticeships offer the potential to learn important skills, earn a decent living, and be free from the burden of college debt. Apprenticeships also offer individuals the opportunity to think outside of the college box and pursue vocational positions that are often in high demand as the baby boom generation retires. 

Although apprenticeships are currently not the most common idea on the market, they have the potential to grow and greatly increase the menu of liberating career choices in our free society. This library section is designed to expose people to the history of apprenticeships and current apprenticeship options, as well as to ignite a new and expanding apprenticeship arena in the United States.

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In the words of Andrew Hutson, "one of the most effective and beneficial approaches to youth employment is the apprenticeship scheme. For those who do not wish to enter full-time higher education, it allows a gradual transition period between work and employment, teaching valuable skills and trades as well as life skills such as organisation and...

This piece covers American apprenticeship from the early colonial period to the present. Jacoby divides those years into four distinct segments and explains the difficulties and differences that were a part of apprenticeship during each era. This article...

This article reports on the rising interest in apprenticeships occurring in the U.K. Despite the perpetual difficulty many experience in pursuing apprenticeships, many employers...

This article reports on some of the logistics of apprenticeships in the founding years of our country. Although the author seems to take a somewhat negative view of eighteenth century apprenticeships, this article explains the responsibilities of parents, children, and...

In this article, Charles Murray wonders why vocational ability has come to be measured through the presence or absence of a four-year degree. Murray points out that since most new job recruits operate as apprentices, the time invested in college could be better spent by immediately...

This article explains the background and implication of the Fitzgerald Act, the 1937 law pertaining to apprenticeship regulation. Baird’s article also delves into the realm of union infringement on apprenticeship initiatives. According to...

The arrival of the GI Bill’s sixtieth anniversary prompted many to extol the virtues and benefits that it produced for the United States. In this article, George Leef takes a look at the idea that America would have a much smaller qualified labor force if...

This article provides some historical background on the practice of apprenticeships in the eighteenth century. Deming provides information on how a young boy entered into an apprenticeship, what the skill levels were that an...

In this brief post from the Phi Beta Cons blog, George Leef reflects on the managerial training of the WWII generation. Leef notes that contrary to today’s common practice of gaining a managerial business degree through...

This piece describes how apprenticeships are a viable solution to policy problems such as immigration and welfare. Barbara von der Heydt reports on the successful entrepreneurial efforts of a Catholic priest who created a program to equip immigrants with a...

In an attempt to provide alternative options to college, this piece presents young people with the opportunity of apprenticeships. According to this article, the principles of apprenticeship have been around since ancient times, and "[j]ust as in ancient times, today’s apprentice has a chance to learn on the job, alongside an expert who shows by...

Contrary to popular opinion, Jenna Robinson argues that college is not for everyone. This article describes many alternative roads to college, including apprenticeships, vocational degrees, and occupational licensure. Robinson encourages young people to take...

In this day and age, many young people are encouraged to pursue their careers through the medium of a college degree. This article takes the opposing viewpoint by encouraging young people to enter the career world via blue-collar apprenticeships. According to...

One possibility for not just improving but remaking higher education for the better lies in restoring the old-fashioned apprenticeship concept.

Chart or Graph

This chart demonstrates the difference between pursuing an apprenticeship and a college education.

This chart shows both the amount of trainees enrolling in apprenticeship programs and the prevalence of unions in the realm of apprenticeships.

Analysis Report White Paper

In light of the fact that the construction industry is one of the largest occupations to regularly train apprentices, this study seeks to examine the influence and effectiveness of apprenticeships particularly in the construction sector.

With a decided knack for bucking trends and thinking outside of the box, homeschoolers have long championed the somewhat uncommon idea of apprenticeships. In light of that fact, this article presents the homeschool philosophy on apprenticeships and gives parents a variety of tips on how to establish an appropriate apprenticeship for their child.

This study traces the development and effectiveness of several vocational training opportunities operated by the Registered Apprenticeship program. According to the Department of Labor, "Registered Apprenticeship training plays an important role in developing skilled workers."

Virginia Miller believes that while vocational training is good, it needs to be restricted to the post-graduation years of a student’s life because a decided emphasis on vocational training at an early age leads to the reduction of basic literacy and mathematical skills.

Video/Podcast/Media

This video features clips from conferences on Registered Apprenticeship. The speakers explain what Registered Apprenticeship is and some of the logistics and regulations related to apprenticeship programs. According to this video, there are a variety of industries that offer apprenticeship programs, and there is a great potential to create many...

Interestingly enough, the concept of apprenticeship seems to be more widely accepted in the United Kingdom than in the United States. This video from the U.K. seeks to increase interest in the many potentials apprenticeship has to offer both students and employers. In addition to explaining the benefits of apprenticeship, this film also discusses the many,...

This video extols the apprenticeship process because it promotes the "value of learning by doing." As this clip explains, some of the elements of apprenticeship have changed through the years, but the main pillar of apprenticeship - passing on skilled vocational knowledge and experience to the next generation - remains the same. This video...

Primary Document

This piece traces the development of apprenticeship-style training from the process of indentured servitude in the founding days of America to the country’s current apprenticeship options. Included in this document is apprenticeship information relating to several prominent...

As the title suggests, this piece contains the regulations for initiating, maintaining, and participating in an apprenticeship program. This document also establishes the "criteria for apprenticeable occupations" by stating that, among other things, "[a]n...

This document covers the rules regulating Minnesota labor laws. Sections 5200.0290 – 5200.0420 specifically deal with the rules regarding the establishment and continuation of Minnesota apprenticeship programs. Some of the areas covered by these rules...

Known as "The National Apprenticeship Act," this piece of legislation seeks to establish appropriate working conditions for those engaged in apprenticeships. In short, this act orders that appropriate monetary compensation, contracts, and working conditions be provided...

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