What if there was an alternative to the traditional four-year college education? One where instead of racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, you got paid around $15 an hour while you learned. Where 90 percent of participants are offered jobs after completing the program. And where the starting salary for those jobs is around $60,000 a year.
The good news is, programs like this already exist. They’re apprenticeship programs, run by businesses, trade organizations and unions, and they’re helping young adults across the country get their career started off on the right foot.
Apprenticeship programs are a great alternative for teens and young adults trying to escape the mountain of student debt and one-size-fits-all approach that often comes with the traditional college experience. The hands-on learning gives apprentices on-the-job experience that can’t be replicated in a classroom.
But right now, too few apprenticeship programs are available, and too few students are taking advantage of them. Undergraduate students still outnumber apprentices 26 to 1. That’s bad news for young adults looking for work but also bad news for the manufacturing industry as it struggles to find skilled workers to fill thousands of open positions.
This week, the Labor Department announced the 23 members of an apprenticeship task force that will focus on helping industries expand apprenticeship programs. The members include lawmakers, executives of manufacturing companies, union leaders and trade association representatives.
The task force is part of the Trump Administration’s larger push for more apprenticeship programs. President Trump signed an executive order in June that would create more freedom for businesses and other organizations to create their own program guidelines instead of the government-driven approach of the past.
These are all good steps in the right direction. College is a great option for many teens and young adults, but it shouldn’t be the only option. Expanding apprenticeship programs won’t just create more opportunities for our generation, it will create a more vibrant economy for everyone.