It’s dinnertime, and a teenager is seated with her immediate family. She looks around—everyone has at least a college degree and a stable job. What to look for in a college and what to major in and how to become a doctor are the topics of tonight’s dinner conversation. Elsewhere, another high-schooler is seated with her younger brother chomping down on the meal she struggled to put together for the two of them. Her parents are away, working their second or third jobs. The girl is mulling over how to make money quickly and contribute to her family’s household.
People in that second example typically lack a reliable means for entering the workforce outside of traditional college—and college can’t address everyone’s needs, especially those who have immediate fiscal obligations. Apprenticeships could be one solution. Apprenticeship programs enjoy bipartisan support, with the Democratic Obama administration investing millions of dollars in them and the Republican Trump administration prioritizing their expansion; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has expressed support for skills-training programs, too, including apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction about the job at hand. Participants also make money while they learn new skills, which means that, unlike college graduates, apprentices can learn and gain new skills without going into debt. Additionally, 87 percent of apprentices end up with a job after their program. Yet just 5 percent of Americans participated in apprenticeships in 2014, compared, for example, to 60 percent of Germans.