Apprenticeships, an Effective Way to Teach Technology

Apprenticeships might be a fast way to teach aspiring professionals the technical skills needed for technology jobs.  When I think of apprenticeships, I think of their origin (what I learned about in history class in grade school): protégés learning highly coveted skills such as printing, tailoring, and accounting from masters during the Middle Ages. There is an infrastructure for apprenticeships in Europe, so many of them exist there today. I think apprenticeships might be a very effective way to teach more modern-day technology skills, such as programming in a particular software language (ASP .Net), designing graphics in Adobe Photoshop, and networking hardware and software with Cisco products. One startup, Enstitute, has a long-term vision of their apprenticeships: “become an alternative to college” for aspiring professionals who think a college degree is too expensive, inefficient, or unnecessary. Moreover, they are targeting the intelligent, ambitious minded professionals. [1]

I would like to emphasize that in each of my examples above I describe a precise technology, because this distinction is necessary. It highlights the major advantage apprenticeships have over college courses: most college courses cannot teach precise technologies (they move too quickly for planned curriculum) and apprenticeships do through application (learning by doing). This is why colleges promote internships – a pseudo version of apprenticeships.  In addition, a well established mentorship can have a similar effect – a mentor passes on his methods to an employee.

In an article Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need, Peter Cappelli discusses how employers are having a difficult time finding qualified candidates. He blames it on employers for not properly investing in training to teach the necessary technical skills. And one of his suggestions is to “bring back aspects of the apprenticeship.”

Forty-seven percent of employers blame prospects’ lack of technical skills (for finding potential candidates).[2]

Apprenticeships fit perfectly with a Skills Based Approach. The idea of building the exact skills that will be utilized in a job is efficient and practical. Included with apprenticeships are assessments on how well you are learning skills. Furthermore, skills will be validated by references who can give you recommendations.

Instead of getting a paper diploma, the (Enstitute) fellows will graduate with a portfolio of skills they acquired… in addition to 5 to 10 recommendations.

[1] Hannak Seligson, “The Apprentices Of a Digital Age.” Wall Street Journal, May 5th 2013.

[2] Peter Cappelli, “Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need, ” Wall Street Journal, October 24th, 2011


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