Apprenticeship or College?

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If you're like me, the word "apprentice" conjures up fond childhood memories of reading about Johnny Tremain and his ill-fated silversmith training.

Apprenticeships like Johnny's may seem to be a thing of the past, but ifrecent articles and moves by politicians are any indication, the demand for modern apprenticeship programs is growing.

The high cost of college is a big driver of this demand, but it appears that a need for more capable workers is also motivating the rising interest. According to the Wall Street Journal, business executives are looking for capable, experienced workers, and “college degrees and internships don’t produce the same quality of worker as intensive, on-the-job apprenticeships.” Employers who take the risk of training an apprentice find that they are repaid with a loyal employee with a vision for future progress in the company.

All this is well and good for the employer, but what about the apprentice? What are some of the benefits they get out of the deal?

For starters, they get a financial and experiential jump on their peers in college. According to the U.K. Telegraph, “Apprenticeships allow young people to get experience and qualifications while still being paid.” These credentials and experience also come without the $65,000+ debt levelthat a college degree brings.

This lack of debt levels the playing field when it comes to the higher salary that a college degree is supposed to offer. Yet, not all college graduates are even guaranteed a higher salary. In fact, the Telegraphalso reported that over a quarter of college graduates actually make less than apprenticeship graduates. Furthermore, apprenticeship graduates are far less likely than college graduates to be holding only part-time jobs when they finish their training.

Apprenticeships may not be the answer for every student graduating from high school, but then, neither is college. Instead of pushing the latter so heavily, wouldn’t it be wise to open up the possibility for more apprenticeship opportunities here in the U.S. and let students choose the path that best suits their interests and abilities?

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