A very good piece on apprenticeships from Stuart E. Eizenstat and Robert I. Lerman:
…firms interested in investing in the United States are finding too few workers with the skills needed to achieve the productivity and quality required in today’s globally competitive industries. The skills gap is real… U.S. unemployment remains at 7.5 percent, and only one out of two African American men in their early 20s has a job. A survey of employers published last year revealed that about 600,000 jobs go unfilled because of a lack of skilled labor….The central answer to the mismatch between jobs and employment is a 21st-century apprenticeship program.
…Although apprenticeships yield significant earnings gains for workers, this country has too few programs, partly because of the massive bias in public spending toward a college-only approach. Government spending on colleges and universities tops $300 billion per year; outlays to apprenticeship programs total less than $40 million annually. A public-private initiative could increase competitiveness and youth employment, upgrade skills and wages, achieve positive returns for employers and workers, and reduce government spending if companies played a larger role in skills development.
As I said in Tuning in to the Dropping Out:
Why should a major in English literature be subsidized with room and board on a beautiful campus with Olympic-size swimming pools and state-of-the-art athletic facilities when apprentices in nursing, electrical work, and new high-tech fields like mechatronics are typically unsubsidized (or less subsidized)? College students even get discounts at the movie theater; when was the last time you saw a discount for an electrical apprentice?