What Has Happened to the Apprenticeship Model in Corporate America?


Josh Bersin (President and CEO, Bersin & Associates)
It's back! Our research shows that more than 65% of organizations we surveyed this month (around 300 large organizations) cite 'critical skills shortages in engineering and technical roles' as one of their top three talent challenges this year. When asked how they plan to solve this problem, only 23% of these organizations feel they can hire to these gaps.

The result: the only way to build such technical skills is through internal development - and apprentice programs (or mentoring) are the only way such skills are developed. The best example I can think of is Siemens. Siemens, which has its roots in Germany where apprentice programs are considered as valuable as a college education, has now adopted manufacturing apprentice programs in its US manufacturing organizations. Apprentice programs not only develop skills, they connect the near-retirement programs to younger workers - creating a knowledge transfer process which is almost impossible to accomplish in any other way.

We have written case studies on these programs at Boeing, Amway, and a variety of other organizations. I'd love to hear more about examples in this forum.
3 Additional Answers
John Anderson (Principal, The Glowan Consulting Group)
Caty -- The American apprentice programs have been shrinking since the 1970's and the problem was exacerbated during the first Clinton Administration when Bill & Hillary declared that 'all American children should go to college'. Clearly, not all children should or should even want to go to college.

Many talented people tough it out four years or more to get some meaningless degree due to social and peer pressure. They then enter the job market and are surprised to discover that their degree guarantees nothing and, in fact in many cases, does not count for much at all.

Some trade unions still maintain apprentice programs but, for the most part, 'Trade Schools' or other non-traditional learning institutions are looked down at by many.

This combined with the entitlement mentality of a good portion of the younger population has significantly reduced the number of people willing to enter into trade programs including technical schools. Television has done much to add to the myth that younger people occupy the top positions in American corporations and that they too should be able to wear the $3,000.00 suits and work on the top floor in the corner office.

This mentality is hurting our children and our economy and the only was I see to turn it around is to change our expectations and to begin honoring trades as we have in years past.
Bob Gately (Owner, Gately Consulting)
John, excellent comments. The following is from memory and may need to be updated with current figures.

About 35% of the US workforce has a four year college degree.

About 20% of the jobs in the US actually require a four year college degree.

Therefore, 43% of college graduates are in jobs that do not need a four year college degree.

My take on college degrees goes like this.

After WWII employment soared but there were too many bad hires, i.e., unsuccessful new hires.

Employers knew that getting accepted into college meant an elevated IQ so they hired employees who had been accepted into college even if they did not finish but there were too many bad hires, i.e., unsuccessful new hires.

Employers knew that getting a college degree meant an even higher IQ with a good work ethic so they hired employees who had an associates degree but there were too many bad hires, i.e., unsuccessful new hires.

Since employers are never wrong they knew that getting a four year college degree meant a substantial IQ with a good work ethic and a college level knowledge so they hired employees who had a bachelor degrees but there were still too many bad hires, i.e., unsuccessful new hires.

Now employers know that getting an advanced degree means a superior IQ with a good work ethic and graduate level knowledge so they hire employees who have a bachelor and a graduate degree but there are still too many bad hires, i.e., unsuccessful new hires.

I think we are about to see the Ph.D. as the entry level degree era, but I predict there will still be too many bad hires, i.e., unsuccessful new hires.

After more than 60 years you would think that hiring managers would eventually realize that college degrees do not predict job success.

John Anderson (Principal, The Glowan Consulting Group)
Bob -- I agree. Employers are indeed a big part of the problem. What is required here is a new paradigm regarding higher education. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of getting a higher education (that's waaay different from just attending a college or university) and positioning one's self for jobs that actually require a degree or an advanced degree.

What needs to change is both the entry level person's expectations regarding what the degree is going to do for them and the employer's expectation regarding what they need and what they are getting in terms of entry level new hires.

Just because someone does not hold a college degree, should not, in many cases, disqualify them from consideration.

Let's start looking for the following:

Intellectual Intelligence, Technical Knowledge/Skills and Emotional Intelligence.

IQ + TQ + EQ = successful new hires.
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