The future jobs today’s students will hold will require new skills. According to the World Economic Forum, knowledge sets such as problem solving, creativity, and cognitive flexibility are growing in importance in all industries. At the same time, technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics are automating repetitive tasks. Colleges and universities are working to find new ways to keep up with these shifts and prepare students for careers that are specialized and dynamic.
One option receiving increased attention has been the use of apprenticeship programs, with their trademark mix of classroom learning and on-the-job training, as a new workforce development model. But these programs have many moving parts and require an investment of resources from higher education, leaving college and university leaders wondering how to make apprenticeships work. The answer lies in finding the best ways to collaborate with employer partners.
Why apprenticeships matter
In 2016, Festo Didactic, Sinclair Community College, and other partners collaborated on an apprenticeship program in Mason, Ohio. The goals were three-fold:
- to help a new generation of manufacturing workers level-up their skills for a manufacturing industry that was rapidly changing because of Industry 4.0
- to minimize the impact of the skills gap in the local advanced manufacturing market
- to give students a way to earn an income while they attend school and thus reduce their need to incur student loan debt.
We adapted the model that has been used in Germany for centuries. From my years growing up and working in the country, I knew that apprenticeships can effectively deliver the theoretical learning and on-the-job training future employees need. At the same time, these types of programs introduce students to the knowledge and rhythms of the manufacturing industry, resulting in significant advantages for employers.