As the United States prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, too many American workers are on a permanent vacation. Seven million American men in their prime working years are not working nor actively seeking work, something that inflicts a multitude of harms upon them and society as a whole. Yet a European model may open the door for them to return, or enter, the ranks of productive society.
One of the few bright spots of President Trump’s March 17 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was Trump’s renewed emphasis on apprenticeships. The alternative to a liberal arts education has helped young German workers thrive, and it offers great potential for the United States as well, according to a new essay in Religion & Liberty Transatlantic. Alex Chediak, a professor at California Baptist University and the author of numerous books on college education, has no objection to traditional college education. However, he advises that it is not a successful path for every student, in America or Europe. In “Apprenticeships: When good ideas cross the Atlantic,” Chediak details how:
Apprenticeships have a long history of success in Germany. By age 20, about 60 percent of German young adults have earned some kind of professional credential, the equivalent of an associate’s degree or a trade school certification in the U.S. system. Not only have they done so without paying for college, but they earned income as apprentices during the two-to-three year process. Yet in the United States today, there are only half-a-million apprentices, compared to 17 million students in bachelor’s degree programs.
Chediak writes that people of faith should embrace apprenticeships as a pathway for America’s idle male population to provide for themselves and their families:
Apprenticeships have the potential of giving these underutilized men the skills they need to enter productive society. By raising the workforce participation rate, a greater emphasis on apprenticeships would boost productivity, aid human flourishing, foster innovation, promote greater collaboration between research and better-trained manufacturing personnel, and increase the growth of the U.S. economy.
Unlike too many economic policies that originate in Europe, this is a welcome example of a good idea that has crossed the Atlantic. With the onetime host of “The Apprentice” sitting in the Oval Office, there could hardly be a more propitious moment for the idea to take hold. The key challenge will be getting American industries to invest in apprenticeships the way German companies do; Michael Strain of AEI has some proposals to make this more feasible.
You can read them after you read Alex Chediak’s full essay here.
(Photo credit: The White House. Public domain.)