Apprenticeships Touted As Viable Career Route

Largely overlooked by policymakers, educators, and the public, apprenticeships offer a promising route for preparing large numbers of students for high-skilled jobs and professions, according to an article in the Summer 2011 Issues in Science and Technology.

Diane Auer Jones, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, argues that college is not a good fit for many students but that students often enroll because they lack other career preparation alternatives. She calls for an expansion of the options available so that each student can find the right path to success based on his or her personal and professional goals, life circumstances, learning style, and academic preparedness.

Jones writes that in countries such as Germany and Switzerland, apprenticeships are a critical part of the secondary education system, and the majority of students complete an apprenticeship even if they later plan to pursue postsecondary education. It is not uncommon for German or Swiss postsecondary institutions to require students to complete an apprenticeship prior to enrolling in a tertiary education program. In this way, apprenticeships are used to train engineers, nurses, teachers, finance workers and myriad other professionals.

In the United States, however, apprenticeships generally have been considered to be labor programs for training students to work in the skilled trades or crafts. They are not viewed as education programs, so they have not become a conventional part of most secondary or postsecondary systems or programs.

“Apprenticeships should be developed for occupations traditionally associated with a liberal arts education,” she writes. “It is shortsighted to assume that only economically disadvantaged or low-achieving students can benefit from apprenticeship training.”

Also in the summer edition of Issues:

  • Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, writes that although government support for R&D plays an important role in fostering innovation, “in practice, we know less than we would like about which policies work best.”
  • Peter Kahn of Rutgers University and colleagues write that although the dramatic increases in yields of annual crops are approaching their limits, similar advances are possible in hundreds of underused perennial plants.
  • William J. Parton of Colorado State University and colleagues write that agriculture is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions but say that providing farmers with incentives to use various best-management practices could reduce emissions by one-third, while also improving air and water quality.


Issues in Science and Technology is the award-winning journal of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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