This I Believe

Douglas - Des Moines, Iowa
Entered on July 17, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: work
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Apprenticeship for our Future

In the fourth century BC, Plato recognized that the majority of any population needed to be working class citizens contributing to the tangible product of their nation; and that the decay of that nation could be gauged by the percentage of people who essentially contribute nothing. We are a nation in distress.

Education has failed in its fundamental responsibility to provide the working class with marketable skills. Serving only the higher motivations, education has become an obtuse bureaucracy that many cannot and will not respond to. With higher education costing tens of thousands of dollars, the working class is excluded, left to the mercy of an ownership society. Apprenticeship is the missing ingredient, and only apprenticeship can fulfill the responsibility and our obligation to future generations.

Apprenticeship must overcome the conventional wisdoms of academia, while becoming part of the academic woodwork. A program of apprenticeship must contain the same integrity systems of higher education, but requires much more participation than just listing tools available in a tool chest. Apprenticeship must involve each individual in practical, financially responsible activities.

Conventional apprenticeships are negative and narrow, concentrated only upon the needs of a particular trade or industry. True apprenticeship is a lifelong, intellectual pursuit; that endows the ‘journeyman’ with an immutable purpose, and creates equanimity between the ‘artisan’ and his material. In discussing apprenticeship, we are talking about the individual and the entire concept of apprenticeship is oriented towards that thought.

Apprenticeship is not geared exclusively to preparing the individual for paid employment but to contribute to a more enterprising work force. Apprenticeship encourages the development of skills and attributes that employers are looking for, such as teamwork, commitment and flexibility, but also develops a realistic knowledge and understanding of business and the working life. Apprenticeship sets the standard for quality.

The survival and competitiveness of all companies, small and large, depend increasingly upon the quality of their workforces. Employees need to be able to work autonomously, to take responsibility and make decisions; to work in small teams and units, to be flexible and creative and to update their skills continually. Employees need to be enterprising, and qualities like planning and decision making are ones that count.

The labor market is changing. Apprenticeship takes the initiative to help the working class to deal proactively with an unpredictable world. Apprenticeship develops in the individual the necessary enterprise skills and an awareness of how their community, including business and industry in a global economy, works. The individual and the whole working class needs to be ‘opportunity ready’.

The need for apprenticeship in this scenario is clear. People need to be able to package skills and knowledge into working livelihoods; become contractors rather than employees; see opportunity in job change, override periods of unemployment; recognize the ongoing need for learning and training; be creative rather than passive; capable of self-initiated action rather than dependent; know how to learn rather than expect to be taught; and they need to be enterprising, not think or act like an ‘employee’ or a ‘client’.

This I sincerely believe; apprenticeship is the key to our future prosperity, and the only key available to unlock a new age of renaissance.