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Article on apprenticeships

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Rebeca Espinal admits with a shy smile that she's a straight-A math student. She's a high school graduate who dreamed of going to college.

Instead, Espinal, 17, is working in a Charlotte, N.C., factory that makes gas turbines and generators. She is an apprentice with the German company Siemens.

"I was planning on getting a degree in international relations, but with financial aid and how difficult it is to pay for college and everything," she says. "So when Siemens came along and gave me the offer, it was too good of an opportunity to just let it go.

With college costs rising and student debt mounting, a group of college-prep kids in Charlotte are opting for an alternative route: European-style apprenticeships.

Siemens hired her and five other apprentices last year. These days, Espinal works on the factory floor.

"Running a machine, learning about programs, how to set up a machine for a program, also learning how to use tools and learning how to read blueprints," she says.

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Thanks for posting this.

The apprenticeship model is a standard educational path in my home country, Germany. Typically, the students who choose to go this route finish high school after 10th grade with a recognized diploma (they are not dropouts!) and continue their education as apprentices in small or larger businesses. In addition to being trained directly in the company, they are required to take theoretical classes at a vocational school for 1-2 days per week, or on a 2week in the company/1 week at school schedule.

I find this a very sensible model.

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Having gotten a BA, a PhD, and then completed a 6-month apprenticeship, I can tell you that without question I learned and retain more from the 6-month apprenticeship than the previous 8 years . . .


I believe that apprenticeships can be handled many different ways. The one I did was through UC Cooperative Extension, and it was unpaid (in fact we paid a fee to participate).

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Ds#1 began an engineering: Heavy Fabrication apprenticeship this past April. He works full-time at a local engineering firm. One day a week he attends night school 5-7pm at our local polytech. One afternoon each week one of the foremen works with the apprentices on their block studies for a couple hours. They also have certain skills that must be signed off during the year. To become fully qualified an apprentice must past his night school classes, block course work & on-th-job skills + work 4000 hours. Apprentices at ds#1's firm start at $14.50/hr and can look forward to a 50 cent raise each 1000 hours if they have passed all of that year's credit work.


We also have cadetships here in NZ, that are similar. Cadets work fulltime, take night school classes one night a week, & are paid a modest salary. Unlike apprentices, cadets are sometimes bonded to the company for a number of years as a condition of employment.

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