Yesterday I ran across an item about a U.K. company, Ladbrook Engineering, that has taken on its first apprentice in 20 years. In an article published on cambridgenetwork.co.uk, Ladbrook's Manufacturing Director Paul Goodman is quoted as saying, "Capable and experienced engineers are very difficult to find at the moment. In order to compete in the world, we need highly skilled toolmakers and press setters; training our own seems to be the clearest way forward for us at this time. Taking on Tom as an apprentice is an exciting start."
I agree; taking on apprentices is an exciting — and smart — start toward addressing the lack of highly skilled labor — a step that more and more companies in the U.K. appear to be taking. Perhaps U.S. companies would be wise to follow suit.
Just today I read an article in Portsmouth, U.K.’s The News: "Employers invited to pledge jobs for 100 apprentices." It began by saying, "Are you an employer who could give one of our 100 apprentices a job? Then get on board with The News' 100 in 100 Campaign and help start the career of a young person."
A launch event taking place tomorrow is intended "to encourage employers in the Portsmouth area to come forward and pledge 100 new apprenticeship places and get young people into jobs with 100 days."
Quoted in the article, Gavin Smith, employer services director of the U.K.'s National Apprenticeship Service, said, "The campaign is really important to stimulate demand for apprenticeships in the Portsmouth area.
"Apprenticeships bring a number of benefits to a business; they can reduce recruitment costs, help [lower] staff turnover, and improve motivation and productivity.
"Statistics show 88 per cent of employers who employ apprentices believe they lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
"I'm really excited about the campaign and we need the employers in Portsmouth to step up to the challenge."
So what is the status of apprenticeships in the U.S.? I don't hear much about them, but that could be because they just aren't making the headlines. Google News for apprenticeships in the United States and you'll retrieve few links on the first page that actually address apprenticeships in this country. However, there was one to an article on seminal.firedog.lake.com, a community site that lets anyone post, that captured my attention.
In a thought-provoking article, "Outsourcing labor and the loss of American identity," polpit (whoever he or she is), discussed the effect of outsourcing on U.S. jobs and how we were sold a bill of goods that the economy of the United States could maintain its strength and vitality, if there were no more manufacturing jobs or low-tech worker positions available.
A particularly interesting (at least to me) paragraph said, "Some people learn by doing, not by classrooms, not my (sic) abstract thinking on a process, but by actually performing a process. It was not too long ago in this country when a man could begin on the factory floor and work his way up to management. We used to have apprenticeships in this country, where you could learn a trade by doing it. We seem to be in a state of denial about our own nature. Some people learn by doing, and we continue to ignore this fact. We alienate this portion of the population, we have no jobs for them, and we outsource their jobs to other country's citizens, either in the US or in their own nation. We are surprised when the Republican Party gains so much power by tapping into the latent anger of working class people. It is not that the party speaks to them or provides them with any help; it is because it pretends to respect them. The Democratic Party simply imagines they don't exist. The Democratic Party is still in a state of fantasy in which all laborers could simply be reeducated in the confines of the current educational system to do higher skilled work. Well higher skilled work is not even available, and if you want to teach people who do not respond well to classroom environments to do skilled work, you teach them on the job; because that's how they learn, and you allow them to move up in the company; because that’s how they flourish and that’s how their families flourish."
Wow … I can't argue with much of polpit's logic, but I do know, because fabricators have told me so, that skilled jobs are available, and companies are having a difficult time filling them. What I don't know is whether these companies with openings they can't fill are considering apprenticeships. If not, they should be.
Maybe it's time to go back to what works. It can't hurt.
You can go the apprenticeship route independently, through various associations, or by becoming part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program, which has resources for both employers and would-be apprentices.
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