Thursday, April 4, 2019

New Pathways to Success: The Swiss Apprenticeship Model

I am on the record as having an education crush on Quebec's Cegep system. Read the previous post (it's short) to get a sense of what Cegep is all about and why I love it so. Cegep is great, but completely unattainable for the U.S., which loves its college machine (perhaps a bit too much). Still, a guy can dream, can't he?

A glimmer of hope that U.S. school districts could create something really great comes from The 74: Robots, Inequality, Apprenticeships: If America Is to Usher In an ‘Age of Agility’ in Education, Experts Say We Must Talk Less About Schools — and More About Students. First, the problem:
... The traditional high-school-to-college continuum leaves too many talented people behind. About a third of Americans have a four-year college degree, yet an estimated 6.3 million jobs are going unfilled for lack of skilled candidates.
Yep. That describes the problem pretty well. The U.S. system has too many academic dead ends that leave tons of students feeling like failures and unprepared for the workforce. If only we could create a system that helps more students really prepare for careers while exploring possibilities. If only this system could have ramps that allow students to move from career preparation to college if they want to.

It turns out that the Swiss have a solution:
After nine years of compulsory schooling, ... every Swiss student has the opportunity to opt in to a national system of apprenticeships. 70 percent of Swiss teens participate, choosing one of 250 career pathways. They continue to go to high school part time, and many later earn a college degree.
OK, so you create fewer dead ends and help prepare students for careers, but how would it be paid for?
Swiss businesses contribute 60 percent of the $6 billion annual cost .... Business sees the expense as an investment, not an act of corporate responsibility.
So, Swiss businesses are seeing that supporting a program like this is an investment. I need to take some time to dig into this more, but I am pretty sure that I have a new education crush. Cegep is still dreamy, but so is Switzerland's apprenticeship program.

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