The lure of apprenticeships in times of crisis
At this moment the main western (macro-) economic problem is ‘demand’ (all of it: investment, exports, consumption, government demand). But we should of course never forget about ‘supply’. On this blog, people have repeatedly written that competitive supply is not just (or even mainly) about low wages but, surely in the long run, about having good products and services. And good products are initiated (often responding to interactions with customers/clients/students/particpants/…), developed, made and sold by experienced, educated and highly trained workers, working in a challenging but supportive environment. Can apprenticeships improve education as well as the working environment, diminish insider/outsider problems and enhance experience and other qualifications of students? Can they even be some kind of a countervailing power against the corporate university as well as teacher arrogance, as they require that curricula are tuned to the demand of the world outside (higher) education instead of to the whims of managers and teachers? According to the ILO, they can (see below). They are, in my opinion, absolutely not a ‘silver bullet’ to solve a lack of demand, as it’s about supply. Demand problems should be solved in another way – but again, that should not stop us from thinking about ‘supply’. So, can apprenticeships empower students in multiple ways? For instance as international apprenticeships might make it easier for students to find a quality job in another country? Share your thoughts.
from the ILO
Determined to avert the rise of a lost generation, the world is increasingly looking to apprenticeships as a silver bullet against the global youth jobs crisis. Any solution obviously would be complex but the renewed focus on apprenticeships and their job-creation potential is welcome at a time when 75 million young men and women are unemployed. Good apprenticeships provide young people with the skills they need to enter the marketplace and match the supply of skilled labour to the needs of employers. They can help reduce the incidence and duration of unemployment, while supporting economic growth.
“Better and more broadly available apprenticeships and other training opportunities, can reduce youth unemployment and poverty when combined with national efforts to spur job growth,” says Christine Evans-Klock, who heads the ILO’s Skills and Employability Department.
The positive impact of well-designed apprenticeships – and particularly dual systems that combine workplace and classroom-based training – has been clearly demonstrated. In countries where a fifth or more of all 16-24 year olds are in apprenticeships, such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark – which all have dual systems – youth unemployment is lower than in other European countries where apprenticeships are not that common. Apprenticeship systems have a centuries-old tradition in some countries but it is only fairly recently that their job creation potential has been gaining widespread acceptance, says Michael Axman, a skills development expert at the ILO.
“A lot of people are looking to apprenticeships as the silver bullet in tackling the youth employment crisis.” … While the wholesale export of even the most tried-and-tested apprenticeships – such as the much vaunted German system – makes little sense, countries can pick and choose elements that can be adapted to their own needs. Axman believes it is possible for developing, emerging and developed economies to set up apprenticeship systems, citing Haiti, Jordan and Israel as countries that have recently expressed strong interest in doing so.
Private sector involvement
However countries choose to set up apprenticeship programmes, involvement of the private sector is fundamental and must be a starting point, says Axmann. “What is needed is a commitment from companies and preferably whole sectors.” One of the main reasons for relatively smooth school-to-work transitions in dual system countries is that the availability of apprenticeships is closely linked to the needs of employers.
Worker organizations also have an important role to play in the design of quality apprenticeships, while the government needs to assure quality basic education, facilitate private sector involvement and share the costs of the dual training system.
Improving and rethinking
There is also scope for scaling up, strengthening and improving apprenticeship programmes in countries that already have them. This is all the more important as the emergence of new jobs – for example in the clean energy sector – means new skills are needed. Delivering quality apprenticeships entails ensuring that the curriculum is relevant to the needs of today’s world of work. In some cases this involves a rethink of the way skills are imparted, with less focus of memorization and more on analytical thought, says Axmann.
“Rather than a brain like a computer with a small processor and a huge memory, what is needed to succeed in today’s world of work is a brain with a much bigger processor unit.”
|The call for action on the youth employment crisis adopted at the International Labour Conference in June 2012 highlights the importance of apprenticeships. It urges governments to seriously consider improving the range and types of apprenticeships by: