President Trump signed an executive order last Thursday (June 15) significantly reducing federal oversight of apprenticeship programs that receive federal funds.  Good and good.  Or more precisely, less regulation will lead more businesses, unions, schools, and postsecondary institutions to participate in such programs.  And overwhelmingly they will do so responsibly, fiscally and in other ways, even with governmental officials demanding less paperwork than usual.

One name that has come up frequently has been that of economist Robert I. Lerman, who has studied apprenticeships more insightfully, and advocated them more energetically, than any scholar I know.  In a 2013 paper, “Skill Development in Middle Level Occupations: The Role of Apprenticeship Training”, he noted that the “scale of apprenticeship programs varies widely across countries,” with a barely detectible 0.3 percent of the U.S. workforce involved, while proportions are about thirteen times larger in Germany and Australia.  Not good, considering the virtues of apprenticeships, which he summarized fulsomely but succinctly.

“Apprenticeships to train workers for intermediate level careers work well.  Skill development through apprenticeships is closely suited to the needs of employers and the job market, reinforces classroom learning with applications at the workplace, involves trainees in the production process, makes for a seamless transition from school to a career, provides trainees with a natural mentoring process, allows trainees to earn wages while gaining occupational mastery, applies to a wide range of occupations, requires less government spending than other education and training strategies, and generally raises the quality of the workforce.  Countries with robust and well-structured apprenticeship programs appear to outperform other countries in achieving low youth unemployment, raising the status of skilled and semi-skilled occupations, and maintaining more good-paying manufacturing jobs.”

Sounds pretty good, with American Experiment focus on apprenticeships, and what they can do for young Minnesotans and the state’s economy, continuing to grow as part of our multi-year project, “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree.”

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