Unfortunately, when public pronouncements like those are transformed into policy and law, some effects include:
a) to cheapen what a college education should be by watering it down
to accommodate the masses who view it as an "entitlement";
b) to weaken the intellectual caliber of undergraduate programs by
proliferating trendy majors and minors that provide students no
marketable skills; and,
c) to expand the federal government's role in funding undergraduate
degrees, thus increasing the number of young people who shouldn't
have gone to college in the first place and who leave college (with
or without a degree) highly indebted.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op ed, the editor of the trade journal the St. Louis Construction News & Review, Peter Downs, directs attention to what European nations are doing to prepare future their young adults through apprenticeships.
For example, Britain introduced a program in 1997, called "Modern Apprenticeships," based on the German model. Guess what? Enrollment has increased every year with ~859k British youth currently serving in apprenticeships preparing them to be commercial pilots, lawyers, engineers, and accountants. The completion of many internships is considered the equivalent of a college education.
- In Switzerland, 70% of young adults aged 15-19 apprentice in hundreds of occupations (for example, baking, banking, healthcare, retail trade and clerical careers).
- In Germany, 65% of young adults are in apprenticeships
- In Austria, it's 55%.
Interestingly, youth unemployment in the United States currently stands at 16%. In Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, it's less than 8%. Success breeds success and, in 2013, guess what? Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, and Spain turned to Germany to help them set up similar apprenticeship systems.
With the rhetoric emanating from the bully pulpit of this President, the United States is headed in the opposite direction. Since 2003, the number of U.S. apprenticeship programs has declined 33%. That's 330k+ registered apprentices, less than 40% of the number in Britain, whose population is 20% of that of the United States.
Politicians--including President Obama--should stop peddling the narrative of a college education for every young person that's based upon the premise that it's a "right" of citizenship. Not every young adult is capable of, qualified for, or interested in attending college.
Given the President's affinity for almost everything European, The Motley Monk thinks a much more sane approach for educating the majority of post-high school young adults would be to promote the development of private and public sector apprenticeship programs for those who aren't qualified to attend college apprenticeship programs. These apprenticeship programs would provide those young people the marketable skills they will need to earn a living in the 21st century.
Let the discussion begin...
To read Peter Downs' op ed, click on the following link:
"Can't Find Skilled Workers? Start an Apprentice Program."