More on Apprenticeships

by on May 6, 2013 at 6:03 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Education | Permalink

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?

Alexei Sadeski May 6, 2013 at 6:33 am

Say, what IS the purpose behind student discounts?

Price discrimination “against” working professionals, presumably?

Alexei Sadeski May 6, 2013 at 6:33 am

Student discounts at movie theaters, I mean.

dan1111 May 6, 2013 at 7:25 am

Student discounts are simply a way to implement price discrimination. Students have less money, and are therefore willing to pay less money for things. With student discounts, the theaters can charge them a lower price without having to offer the lower price to everyone.

So I don’t think this really works as an example of the “subsidy” point.

The Original D May 7, 2013 at 12:08 am

Most of these discounts are in college towns, which are very reliant on money from out of town.

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 7:41 am

College students even get discounts at the movie theater; when was the last time you saw a discount for an electrical apprentice?

Let’s try:

University Professors even get lifelong tenure at the workplace; when was the last time you saw lifelong tenure for a Taxi Driver.

Alex’s objection is hilarious. Cheap tickets for college students isn’t some elitist ideological conspiracy. It is ironically free markets doing what they can best: maximize revenues.

TJIC May 6, 2013 at 7:57 am

> free markets doing what they can best: maximize revenues.

Free markets prefer to maximize PROFITS.

As the saying goes: “revenues feed egos, profits feed families”

tim May 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

True, but there can be a connection between revenues and profits – quite often increasing the former will increase the latter.

sort_of_knowledgable May 6, 2013 at 10:37 am

maximizing revenues from selling a products with minimal marginal cost, such as a movie theater seats, is maximizing profits. The gist of the post is correct even if the wrong terminology was used.

sort_of_knowledgable May 6, 2013 at 10:40 am

Or rather the gist of the comment by Rahul, not the original post. Just like suspect Rahul meant profits even if he said revenue.

The Original D May 7, 2013 at 12:10 am

For movie theaters at least, every showtime-seat is a perishable asset. Better to put a discounted butt in it than no butt at all.

dan1111 May 6, 2013 at 8:28 am

Tenure for university professors is not a great example of the free market at work. Nor is subsidizing college students (the main focus here). I do agree that movie theater discounts don’t really qualify as subsidies, though.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

The point is that society looks highly upon ‘students’ no matter what they are learning. He’s not really targeting movie theaters.

wiki May 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

Actually tenure in the US system is a lot closer to the free market than in most countries. Tenure is an alternative to ultra high salaries with short contracts for star profs. Tenure only guarantees employment, not salaries. And schools now use non-tenure track adjuncts in conjunction with tenured faculty. Older tenured faculty who haven’t produced much routinely earn less than young assistants who are much in demand. Non-pecuniary adjustments like lower teaching loads and more travel money for the top researchers also differentiate between “similarly paid” profs. That’s why average salaries in US schools are not too far out of line from those in (for example) Europe. But the variance both within and across departments (computer scientists earn more than American studies profs) is much greater than anywhere else in the world. Finally governments and central bureaucracies don’t dictate standards of tenure or promotion and different schools are free to try out whatever ideas they prefer. Some tenure all, some tenure very few with varying criteria depending on their university’s goals.

It’s not a case of purely flexible labor markets but then neither is compensation for ibankers or lawyers or computer engineers. And compared to systems in 99% of the other nations, it is much closer to free markets.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

I also tend to doubt people understand what is required and the caliber of person required to achieve tenure. It’s a little weird to kind of vaguely believe that people like Alex are making a killing when they might be making 2-10x outside of academia.

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 10:48 am

@wiki

I agree mostly with what you write. My original comment was not intended as a critique of tenure but more a critique of irrelevant comparisons.

I could as well have written “Hollywood stars ride Limos; why do University Professors have to drive Volvos?” or “Why do Wall Street Traders travel Business Class whereas academics travel Economy”

Alex’s question about movie ticket discounts and the comparison between students and apprentices was silly. There is usually no good answer as to why some cohort gets to enjoy a previlage better than another.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 11:26 am

I don’t think Alex’s quip about movie tickets was meant to be definitive but it is illustrative of the zeitgeist of subsidy that society offers to students regardless of what they are studying.

To put a fine point on it, Al Qaida members studying airline takeoffs can get the movie discount if they can produce a student ID card.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

Probably. And maybe the reason is that students have ID cards, and it is price discrimination that they can get away with politically correctly. The question is ‘why?’ on that last part.

j r May 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

Price discrimination isn’t really “discrimination against” anyone. It’s just a way for producers to get consumers to reveal their maximum willingness to pay, thereby capturing as much producer surplus as possible..

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 8:47 am

They have less money, so it’s fair.

Also, since they have less money, they shop based on price, so student discounts function as price discrimination. Everyone wins … except for the apprentices. Could this be one of many arguments in favour of more formal processes for apprenticeships (which would potentially open more space for funding this sort of human capital investments … probably more important in a flexible workforce where companies have less confidence in their ability to capitalize on their share of the training investment).

I personally believe that quality apprentice programs and practical work experience/training receive much less attention or resources than they should in many places.

I don’t know too much on the matter, but I reckon it’d be worth learning more about the German approach to this (where, if I understand correctly, you can easily change your mind later so long as you don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and get back in the door to the “higher” wide of education.

Millian May 6, 2013 at 6:55 am

The apprenticeship economy works if workers can rely on future employability to develop specialised skills, and if firms can collude to minimise the costs of mid-career defections by trainees. In a flexible labour market like the USA, it doesn’t work as well as in Germany. It would require (a) more corporatism in firm governance, such as union representation on boards of directors as a matter of course, and (b) early stratification of pupils to an even greater extent than in the USA.

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 7:52 am

Alex praises German industry for their willingness to take on many apprentices, pay them well and later absorb them into the workforce.

What his analysis misses out on is the strong role of Unions and government intervention in all this. e.g. “In 2004 the government signed a pledge with industrial unions that all companies except very small ones must take on apprentices.”

It’d be interesting to know how this rosy picture might change absent this heavy hand of intervention.

dan1111 May 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

Neither article advocates that we duplicate the German system; they both just point out the differences in what kind of education people in the two countries receive.

We don’t need a heavy-handed regime of unions and regulations to support technical education better. Simply removing the skewed incentives that are already in place would make a big difference. The huge subsidies to four-year college students is one thing that could change. Another is measuring high school performance by the number of graduates that attend a university. This causes schools to push as many people as possible into college, while neglecting other tracks.

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 8:49 am

I’ll restate my conjecture: In the absence of external pressures and sops the equilibrium level of German apprentices would be a fraction of what it is now. Leave alone paying them well.

collin May 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

Yes, I wonder why young people have not been going into manufacturering the last 10 – 15 years.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 9:13 am

My null hypothesis is that government is a follower not a leader. My assumption would be that custom holds that unions and firms embrace apprenticeships, and this is a known reason among economists why unions in Germany/Europe are superior (union =/= union) and the law follows on to reinforce the status quo and to shame/punish stragglers/misfits. So, you present the test hypothesis.

prior_approval May 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

‘In the absence of external pressures and sops the equilibrium level of German apprentices would be a fraction of what it is now.’

Hundreds of years of German experience show that this statement is not based on any awareness of German history or German society – whether in aristocratic, monarchical/imperial, totalitarian, or democratic forms.

For another example (one much more fitting the preconceived notions of many commenters here) of how some aspects of German society remain unchanging, check into the history of the Beamte. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beamter

wrparks May 7, 2013 at 7:21 am

Honest question. Has there ever been a time in history with high apprenticeship levels that didn’t have some sort of trade guild or labor union to drive up skilled labor costs?

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 7:36 am

Well-roundedness comes not from sitting in a classroom but from experiencing the larger world. —-Alex Tabarrok writing in The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

That sounds deliciously ironic coming from a man who’s probably spent a good part of his working life sitting (and standing) in these same classrooms.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:35 am

To paraphrase my new motto: “We can’t save the world.” Hypocrisy would be Alex arguing for more of the same instead of leading the revolution (e.g. MRU).

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

I don’t see our revolutionary sever ties with the establishment (nor classrooms) yet.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:53 am

Again, why would he? Why should he? He didn’t create the system. I use the mail and roads because I’m forced to pay for them. It’s not hypocritical.

dead serious May 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

Yes it is. Either you believe the bs you’re slinging and stand behind it, or you don’t and adopt a “Do as I say, not as I do” approach. In which case you shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 9:15 am

Nope. He is not saying it is wrong for someone to be a professor any more than it is wrong for someone who is forced to pay taxes and give up his land to eminent domain to the then use the road.

As I’ve said many times, I had to explain to a sitting congressmen the difference between self-imposed and formalized term limits. If there aren’t formalized term limits, self-imposing them, if you are doing it because you don’t want to be a hypocrit, is stupid.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 9:43 am

In Alex’s role as a professor, he’s dancing to the tune that others have foisted upon him.

In his role as an administrator, he is starting the revolutionary Marginal Revolution University.

Hero. Zero hyperbole and zero hypocrisy.

dead serious May 6, 2013 at 10:03 am

“Foisted.”

What a joke. He could renounce his tenure and continue to teach, I’m sure. If he were truly a market believer *and* great at what he does. One of those is possibly untrue.

Along the same lines: I hope these two (Alex and Tyler) don’t vote since they periodically raise the point that it’s an irrational endeavor.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 10:14 am

You cannot teach at a tenure-level capacity of that of Alex’s and renounce your tenure. They’ll give your seat to someone else.

Of course it is foisted. Alex is talking about the changes he’d make to the system. He’s DOING the changes, moreso than 99.999% of his peers. What you are saying when looked at big picture is kind of silly.

When I worked for a firm, I had a lot of disagreements with the firm and its policies. It is silly to expect people to agree with everything they have no control over and then only profess love for those things or else be called hypocritical.

prior_approval May 6, 2013 at 10:20 am

‘In his role as an administrator, he is starting the revolutionary Marginal Revolution University.’

And yet, the source of the funds that paid for 1250 project hours at inQbation remains totally cloaked in modesty, though the Youtube and 4 dollar app story did hit the media in a nicely unified wave of reporting.

There is nothing revolutionary about presenting a narrative supported by one’s patrons. Just check out the Beamte link to get an idea of how that works.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 10:21 am

Btw, TC said he wasn’t going to vote in the Prez election, I’d guess Alex may not, and it is not their opinion or POV that it is irrational to vote in those elections if you think your goal is to affect the election, it is simply fact. I certainly hope they don’t vote either and I certainly hope they don’t spend that opportunity cost time doing charity work.

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

@Andrew’s “When I worked for a firm, I had a lot of disagreements with the firm and its policies”

Yes, but did you write articles openly critical of the firm and then post them by the coffee machine? Bad mouth the stupid management in letter’s to the editor?

Try that at the next firm you work at.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 11:01 am

Of course, with anonymity on both the firm’s part and my part, which is irrelevant. The only reason anyone else should care about me or my experience with that firm is the degree to which non-anonymity doesn’t matter.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

Despite participation because alternatives are largely restricted the tenure system or the [insert academic custom] system is not something Alex is doing, it is something that is being done to him. These arguments that you can only do those things you 100% believe in and agree with break down extremely quickly and noone would apply these to the guy making Big Macs. It is particularly ironic when the same people who make the argument (not you) will attack Wal-Mart but not Wal-Mart employees.

Alex Tabarrok May 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

I actually did give up tenure for 6 years when I moved to the private sector before returning to academia.

Rahul May 6, 2013 at 11:25 am

I actually did give up tenure for 6 years when I moved to the private sector before returning to academia.

Which does make a lot of sense.

I interpret that as demonstrating the high risk nature of MRU (and online ed. in general) despite all the hype. And the iffy nature of a revenue model, credentialing, signalling etc. A private sector job must have been far more reliable and secure.

Online ed may yet be a revolution. Or a dud. Too early to know. Classrooms are not getting demolished anytime soon.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 11:32 am

You essentially can’t have Alex’s position and eschew tenure (and I still disagree that he should want to or have to, again, it is something the system does not offer much of a choice on). There are vagaries and exceptions, and he could opt to be the equivalent of an adjunct, but that is not who he is.

For example, to obtain grants the granting agencies have requirements to make sure you aren’t a fly-by-night operation. I suspect that customarily one of these checks is that you have tenure, are tenure track, or have some tenured sponsors or co-signers. That is partly because tenure guarantees you won’t be summarily ousted, but also tenure is a signal of more than just tenure.

Why arguing to change this and offering alternatives is seen as being part of the problem is beyond me.

dead serious May 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm

He also didn’t create the union, patent, government licensing and organ donor systems but he’s not exactly quiet about how fair he thinks they are and how they need to be eliminated or reworked.

He’s strangely silent on the tenure issue though, even though its effects are pretty damned close to government licensing and union membership: creating barriers to entry and wiping out fair, market-based competition.

You whine and gnash your teeth over how he’s just playing within the system. Well then shut the hell up about everything else that is systemic since we’re all to remain silent and accept things as they are.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:07 am

“Why should a major in English literature be subsidized with room and board on a beautiful campus…”

while true, it also shouldn’t cost as much as it does. We make these people room in a prison cell with strangers. My wife reminded me to add that little aspect to my “craziest business proposal” manifest for college.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:17 am

I wonder how much of the cross-subsidization is because “students” (despite everyone haranguing me that learning is lifelong) are at least not involved in demon profit.

dan1111 May 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

It costs that much because of the subsidies.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

Possibly. And that’s the walk the cat back into the bag problem. Don’t blame the cat.

Benny Lava May 6, 2013 at 8:47 am

Actually, not true and shame on Alex for not knowing (or lying).

http://www.today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/bottom-line-shows-humanities-really-155771.aspx

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 8:58 am

No.

He’s talking about societal subsidy. He’s not talking about whether or not liberal arts people pay their tuition same as others. In fact, if everyone pays the same tuition, then I’d think people reading their eyeballs out cost less than paying to maintain labs.

The university itself is subsidized. That the liberal arts students are overpaying along with everyone else is not the point that is being discussed.

Benny Lava May 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Do you have any evidence of this “societal subsidy”? Sounds like a bunch of rubbish to me. Citation please.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Alex points out that colleges and universities get $300B/yr versus apprenticeships getting basically zero. Whatever the relevant numbers and classifications are, they are for the sake of argument ahelluvalot versus jackdiddly.

wrparks May 7, 2013 at 7:30 am

In-state vs out-of-state tuition is the biggest example. Though this is a state subsidy for citizens. As to whether it benefits STEM or humanities more, who knows. It probably depends on when you ask the question.

Benny Lava May 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

I should point out that subsidies work the opposite direction that Alex claims. Typically it is the English major that subsidizes the other programs. English requires nothing but a professor and a classroom. Nursing requires expensive equipment and insurance policies. You would think an economics professor would know this.
http://www.today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/bottom-line-shows-humanities-really-155771.aspx

Andrew May 6, 2013 at 9:08 am

An accounting gimmick. I’d also bet not true. In your link it says that scientific grants don’t pay for themselves. That seems crazy on its face. The university gets a substantial portion of the grant money right off the top. What your link is doing is isolating fees and costs. There are also alma mater contributions, etc. Alex is talking about the societal subsidies. The cost of the university is too high- the entire backdrop for your linked article is HAVING to cut costs. So, the question is what does each major pay versus cost versus externality benefit to society that justifies the subsidization. In an environment of cost-cutting if something has too high a cost-basis it doesn’t even matter what the revenue is.

It certainly isn’t as simple as “English majors suck, dude.” I wish everyone could leave college with a B.S. in (broad) liberal arts + applied normal psychology + economics + general engineering + whatever I’m forgetting. But we apparently can’t do that, so people have to specialize and love what they do and sacrifice for it.

mulp May 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

The grant money has been shrinking for four decades as a share of education funding – in the 60s and 70s when I was in that environment, Federal grants for RAs, TAs, kept friends living well while taking classes and working on research papers. Today the TAs are replaced by adjuncts who work more at teaching while being paid so much less they must spend the majority of their effort earning enough to live. While they were mostly in the sciences, even literary students got TAs and RAs, though in smaller numbers and with smaller expense budgets – bus fare to a distant library was a lot less than a gas chromatograph.

Benny Lava May 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

What evidence do you have that this isn’t true? Can you provide a citation? This link took all of ten seconds to google. On its face it is intuitive. English departments require very little resources. A classroom and a professor is about it. Science and technology requires expensive equipment, lab assistants, and insurance policies. A grant might cover a particle accelerator. But all the costs of running it? Have you any evidence that grants cover all the costs? Or is your conjecture baseless?

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm

No, I said your link is ‘true’ as far as it goes. The problem is all it does is look at departmental revenue versus departmental (I think) cost. Even above I point out (as you do) that on a per-student basis (assume an English major) that reading books is cheaper than supplying a lab.

The broader point is whether we would have that English major at all if they had to finance their own education.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Where I suspect they are wrong is the claim that science grants don’t cover their costs, which they don’t support with citation. If you have to give something like 40% of the grant directly to the university, it would be odd for the university to put such emphasis on that if it were an overall money loser.

Benny Lava May 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

“No, I said your link is ‘true’ as far as it goes. ”

False. You said:
“I’d also bet not true. In your link it says that scientific grants don’t pay for themselves. That seems crazy on its face.”

“The broader point is whether we would have that English major at all if they had to finance their own education.”

No, the broader point Alex makes is:

“Thus, an argument can be made for subsidizing students in fields with potentially large spillovers, such as microbiology, chemical engineering, and computer science. But there is little justification for subsidizing sociology, dance, and English majors.”

First you and Alex have failed to separate how much subsidies for universities are diverted towards English majors and how much to STEM. Second there isn’t really an argument for increasing subsidies for apprenticeships here other than to rail against those feckless English majors with their lavish swimming pools – as if the engineers didn’t have one? As if the community college doesn’t have one for the x-ray technician?

tomhynes May 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

Why is the answer “more subsidies for apprenticeships” rather than “less subsidies for college students”? Where is the market failure on apprenticeships? If it is the minimum wage, say so and get rid of it.

How much do employers spend on education programs? Should it be more? Where is the market failure?

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 9:50 am

It’s always funny to me when people say things like “hey, you just have to pay the taxes bear the entire cost burden, but feel ‘free’ to then not use the henceforth free service.” Whether it is public schools, roads, or job training, or pizza buffet few people are going to pay again for something they’ve already paid for and not attempt to extract as much value from what is free after the cover charge. Only when public schools become marginally harmful will it be economically efficient to remove kids. Why should firms pay for training when the entire burden can be placed on taxpayers, parents, and employees? They don’t even really have an avenue to try with college-level human capital and don’t have the option not to with below college-level employees…until now that is.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 9:53 am

More directly:

“Why is the answer “more subsidies for apprenticeships” rather than “less subsidies for college students”?”

To a properly calibrated positive economist, which Alex is, the answer is “either, and here are the results.”

mulp May 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The subsidies for students have been replaced with easy credit that can be discharged only in death or repaying out of Social Security, if you don’t get a decent job.

The subsidy for apprenticeship was either funded by lifetime union dues or by pensions and benefits that handcuff you to the employer who trained you for life. Those have not been replaced by anything other than poaching from competitors who get so desperate they train workers, or the employers cut deals with Republicans who transfer wealth from existing businesses to bring in competitors for workers who are trained by the taxes of businesses who lose their best workers. It is Republican governors who tout their job creation by stealing businesses with huge tax abatement incentives from the Democratic States that expect employers to pay equal share of the costs – the existing employers in Republican States get no tax abatement because they didn’t move from a Democratic State.

Axa May 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

One little detail of appentriceships nobody has mentioned is that choosing apprenticeship over university is NOT 100% student’s decision in Germany and Switzerland. Basicaly, it’s not a personal choice.

At the end of elementary education (12-13 years old), students are “divided up based on performance, teacher recommendations and perhaps a test. Testing, behaviour, and work attitudes are used to determine whether a child continues to the next grade level.”

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/specials/switzerland_how_to/education/Educating_the_young.html?cid=29286538

At this age, students are separated between university material that go to gymnasium and manufacturing people that go to vocational schools. Basically, if your dad is “low class” and when he arrives home just watches soccer matches on TV instead of helping you with your homework……..most probably you will not be able to go to university.

The government is the bad guy in the history that says to some people “Sorry, you’re not university material. But you can still study in a vocational school and become a CNC operator for Breitling”. So, with the college = success narrative in the last century in the US, who wants to commit political suicide and separate students?

Ps. The student separation for seconfdary schooling in Germany & Switzerland is not a definitive one. A child that fails to go to gymnasium, can later in life take extra-schooling and still go to a university. But, working class resentment takes over curiosity and desire to go to a university in most of cases.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

It’s one of the funny little hypocrisies of the US that if you have high human capital we invest even more in you, but if you could use some human capital infusions we just dump you. And yet we call it education and call for even more of the same. Not to risk changing the subject, but kind of how the way to fight radical Islam is to blow up more funerals and classify pipe bombs that kill fewer people than some guns have without even trying hard as weapons of mass destruction. Calling my 38 special a weapon of mass destruction because without reloading it can kill 250% as many people as a punk with a pressure cooker is simply a counter-productive way to approach a war on terror. More college is probably not the way to attack the inequality problem. The way people can’t even see these examples confuses me. Not that I assume Europe knows what they are doing, file it under ‘blind squirrel finds nut.’

mulp May 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Your description of Germany’s system was the US system in the 60s based on my high school in Indiana.

But the current US system is way better, isn’t it. If you are college material you get the best education opportunity. But if you are poor because your parents are losers, well, you are a loser, and you are encouraged to drop out to avoid hurting the NCLB stats. No way will you get any trade school followed by apprenticeship because all the factories are located where 90% of the kids are college track so no trade school is there, and factories aren’t going to pay lots of money for trade schools in areas where the kids are losers and can’t afford cars to drive to work as apprentices even if the factories funded trade schools. Besides, if I funded a trade school for you, you would go to work with my competitor who is closer to you, but won’t fund the school because I am. What am I to do, promote unionizing in the trade school so we are both burdened by unions who takeover the trade school and force higher wages to fund the dues to fund the school and apprenticeships?

Peter Schaeffer May 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm

mulp,

“No way will you get any trade school followed by apprenticeship because all the factories are located where 90% of the kids are college track so no trade school is there, and factories aren’t going to pay lots of money for trade schools in areas where the kids are losers and can’t afford cars to drive to work as apprentices even if the factories funded trade schools.”

Wow is that far off. I have lived in or near quite a few American cities (Chicago, Houston, LA, Denver). The factories are located in blue collar towns where 90% of the kids aren’t on a 4-year college track. For example, Stafford, TX is standard factory town. It has high schools of course, but the kids aren’t marching off to UT, much less Yale. By contrast, The Woodlands, Kingwood, and Sugar Land are the kinds of college oriented places you are thinking off. Not too many factories though.

Of course, I could go through the long list of factory towns on the east side of Houston (Pasadena and Texas City to start). Not too many Ivy League applicants in sight.

The same holds for Chicago. Cicero is a factory town (one of many). Hinsdale and Winnetka have the college kids.

Moving on to LA…

The real problem is deeper. American society has assigned a zero status level to anyone who really works for a living. Both parties have embraced a “Yale or Jail” mindset that makes anything less than a 4-year degree an anathema. Perhaps even more devastating, the black and Hispanic leadership (along with the teachers unions) have decided that “trade schools” are a racist scheme to keep NAMs “in their place” and/or “we are too good for those jobs” and/or “as victims of American racism we shouldn’t have to do those jobs”.

One bright note. In Houston, you hear adds on the radio for union/management training programs for veterans. Clearly someone is trying address these issues.

Axa May 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm

“blind squirrel finds nut”, hahaha great one.

What troubles me in Alex’s text is this sentence: “Similarly, in Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, between 40 to 70 percent of students opt for an educational program that combines classroom and workplace learning.”

“Opt” is a really condescending (maybe ignorant) way to describe a rigorous selection process by the educational system to decide who is college material and who’s not.

Matthew Martin May 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Again, I don’t think that study finds what you think it does. Apprenticeships give people earnings gains relative to people who have neither apprenticeships nor college degrees. That doesn’t contradict the notion that employers systematically discriminate against non-college educated workers.

Even with the recent recession, the US remains a veritable jobs machine compared to all these countries, like Germany, that have much more robust apprenticeship systems. Few countries have matched the US in terms of job creation, unemployment rates, or earnings. I don’t know why people are pushing to make our labor markets look more like theirs.

Oreg May 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Unemployment in Germany is actually quite a bit lower (~2 percentage points) than in the U.S. right now.

Peter Schaeffer May 7, 2013 at 3:09 am

Oreg,

In what country do you think the typical blue collar kid has better prospects, Germany or the United States? Germany at least shows signs that it cares about creating jobs for its non-elite citizens. Ross Douthat recently mentioned America’s ever expanding “rainbow underclass”. Germany has its own problems, but they aren’t as grave.

Frank May 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Almost all the commenters here have focused issues completely unrelated to the crux of the matter here – the huge disparity between the $300B spent on degree based education compared to the $40M on vocational education which could help drive the US economy while reducing unemployment and increasing the tax base.

Peter Schaeffer May 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm

F,

Repeat of prior comment.

The real problem is deeper. American society has assigned a zero status level to anyone who really works for a living. Both parties have embraced a “Yale or Jail” mindset that makes anything less than a 4-year degree an anathema. Perhaps even more devastating, the black and Hispanic leadership (along with the teachers unions) have decided that “trade schools” are a racist scheme to keep NAMs “in their place” and/or “we are too good for those jobs” and/or “as victims of American racism we shouldn’t have to do those jobs”.

JKB May 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Can you imagine how deeply in debt those who went into vocational fields would be if vocational education got the same subsidies as a “college” education? But one of the reasons for the disparity is that with vocational education there are objective criteria to measure effectiveness whereas with college the lack of useful skills is dismissed with claims of “well-roundedness”, deep thinking, critical thinking, etc., all of which are subjective. Not to mention, those determining the subjective value of a college education, themselves have a college education so they can hardly find it lacking or of lesser value than vocational education.

Andrew' May 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

That’s kind of the whole point. The assertion is that the marginal person being nudged into “traditional” college might be better served if the nudge were at least balanced to neutral into going into something with a more direct monetization plan.

Matthew Martin May 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Your conclusion simply isn’t warranted. Shifting funds out of college subsidies into vocational subsidies could easily increase the unemployment rate if it means fewer college graduates. The fact is that the college-educated have the lowest unemployment rates of any demographic. No evidence has been presented that contradicts the idea that employers systematically discriminate against non-college educated workers.

Brett May 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm

While I support vocational education, all the apprenticeship programs in the world aren’t going to make $11/hr jobs more attractive. You might as well just go do a telemarketing/customer service position, since they often pay around the same.

Mike H May 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Yes. Auto mechanic for example, is one of the most miserable jobs you can possibly find in terms of working condition, occupational hazard, career advancement etc. Even after you spend years working with greasy hands and dirty cloths and advancing from being an apprentice to a full mechanic position, you still earn less than a customer service receptionist sitting in his comfortable office with air conditioning. Many senior mechanics in that profession openly admit that they would have pursued a different, easier career path had situations allowed.

Just because it isn’t as easy to get a college-level job as 30 years ago doesn’t mean that everyone should jump the ship and pursue something that the market clearly does not favor them of doing.

Joseph Ward May 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm

isn’t the whole college discount at movie theaters just another form of price discrimination? they’re finding an audience that (on average) has lower demand, but high interest and offering them a discount that matches their demand.

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