A More Effective Model for Investing in Skills
Massive investments continue to be made in the institutionalization of Skills Development. The motivation is understandable; improving the productivity of the workforce and creating employment opportunities are urgent items on the political agenda and more technical schools seem to find this a reasonable response especially if the planning process is led by academics rather than economic planners. Build schools. Buy equipment. Hire teachers.
But in some developed economies, there is not only a resurgence, but an expansion of apprenticeship-style training initiatives that bear much closer examination by all TVET planners tasked by Government with responding to the demand for skills and the reduction of youth unemployment.
Apprenticeship is invariably associated with the basic construction trades as well as some art and crafts where significant academic preparation has not been seen as vital to skills mastery. The central features usually included a contract between a learner and an employer that discounts wages during a training period and uses on-the-job training as the core mechanism to master a series of skills, attitudes and behaviors.
Legal Framework for Apprenticeship
In some cases, Government has played a role by creating a legal framework for the apprenticeship covering pay, training expectations and duration as well as other conditions.
By the 1980s, apprenticeship systems seemed to be fading away as the triumph of institutional training meeting the social expectations of families became manifest. But, today, a new trend is emerging. Everything old is new again! As many drop-outs and graduates from higher education are unable to find jobs, they look for alternate employment strategies. Unpaid attachments to employers. Endless quasi-jobs in the service industries. Uber jobs with no continuity or skills development.
At the same time, as the skills required by new employees become more complex, employers have increasing difficulty in finding “qualified” workers. Adding to this, Governments face expanding problems with youth unemployment and new strategies are called for to link youth with jobs.
Apprenticeship Making a Comeback
Apprenticeship is making a comeback as some Governments moves into the subsidy business to make on-the- job training a more attractive strategy for employers. Social attitudes change at a glacial pace and parents are no happier with skills training for their children today than they were 20 years ago. But as young people grow older and move out on their own, they make their own decisions based on economic reality rather than Mom and Dads’ expectations and the thawing of acceptance for apprenticeship opens up training prospects
Target Apprenticeship in Government Policy
Government policy can be adjusted to target apprenticeship growth in any area of economic demand. In the UK management apprenticeship is now supported based on employers releasing young trainees with Government financial support, to attend College management classes while they “apprentice” with a manager in the company. This is the reverse of coop semesters in which College students go to Business and Industry during their degree programs, but it adds Government financial support to make management training much more accessible for those Businesses that have identified good prospects for the future of the Company.
Digitization of the Work Place and its Challenge
With the digitization of the workplace, employers need a new category of worker with an understanding of technology and continuously improving computer skills. As cloud based digital platforms and the industrial application of the Internet of Things become more pervasive, on-the-job apprenticeship for those with a good school-based understanding of computer basics becomes an attractive, shared cost training mechanism.
Challenge to TVET Institutions
One of the greatest challenges faced by Institution based trainers and students is the school to work transition. For employers, it can be a nightmare.
The employability skills, attitudes and behaviors are really difficult for Institutions to build into curricula as so few teachers have any experience in the private sector. Apprenticeship jumps this gap as it creates a training and wage framework that afford time for mastery of both employment and employability skills.
Finally, for developing and developed economies alike, cost must be a factor. Apprenticeship, even subsidized apprenticeship will always be less expensive than Institutional education.
Shared cost programs in which Government shares the costs with learners (wage limits during the training contract), employers (contributing the skills of existing staff and access to hardware) and government (subsidies to employers for independently assessed skills mastery and perhaps for some portion of wages) can be infinitely less expensive per trainee than the construction of more and more student places in schools.
Planners need to move outside of the Institutional box and rethink TVET’s future as the nature of employment changes and the needs of economies for a skilled workforce pushes for new models of work force preparation.
What are your thoughts on this?