From the Wall Street Journal:
German-Style Apprenticeships Simply Can’t Be ReplicatedIn other words, people whose main strength is a strong back do worse after age 50 in Germany than people whose main strength is a strong brain. But in America …
Half of young Germans enter vocational training, and the rigid labor market relies on certification.
By Eric A. Hanushek, June 18, 2017
Say the words “apprenticeship program,” as the Trump administration has been doing recently, and maybe you imagine a win-win: Young people welcomed by companies that want to train them to become skilled workers.
Some American policy makers have begun to see Germany’s approach—credited with helping it navigate the 2008 recession while keeping youth unemployment in the single digits—as the magic formula. But adapting the German system for the U.S. is little more than a dream.
Over half of young Germans enter apprenticeships, which can lead to certification in more than 300 different careers. Many are blue-collar jobs ranging from construction to baking, but apprenticeships also cover white-collar fields like information technology and engineering.
… But this comes at a cost. Workers enter the job market with skills that often become obsolete as industries change. The early-career advantage is offset by disadvantages later in life. Research shows that after age 50 German workers with general education do better than vocationally trained ones, many of whom leave the workforce.
Germany and the European Union recognize the need to retrain people whose earlier skills become obsolete. There are continuous calls for “lifelong learning.” Unfortunately, governments have not figured out effective ways to retrain older workers, and companies often don’t see the advantage of doing so. Training over the course of a career is significantly more prevalent among workers with a general education.It’s almost as if people who qualified for more advanced training when young were better at being trained some more when they are old.
The largest problem of skills in the U.S. today isn’t a shortage of young workers with specific competencies. Instead it is a need for more general cognitive skills that give workers the ability to adapt to new circumstances and new jobs. In that area, American schools are not competitive with their international competitors—and more apprenticeships won’t help.Okay, so All We Need to Do is, uh, give American workers more General Cognitive Skills…
Mr. Hanushek is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.