Youth Unemployment and the Apprenticeship Gap

Kudos to David Leonhardt for calling attention to the staggeringly high American youth unemployment rate — 26.6 percent — compared to rates in Europe and Japan. I just want to add that in addition to overall sluggish job creation, one of the problems is that American employers tend to avoid job training and seek workers who already have the exact experience they're looking for. A Boeing executive pretty much sums up this world view: "To expect business to bring graduates up to speed," he told the Chronicle of Higher Education, "that's too much to ask."

Compare this attitude to the one that prevails in nations like Germany and Switzerland, where schools and employers work together, through the apprenticeship system, to prepare young people for the specific jobs the economy needs. Here's my interview with an expert on those aprrenticeships, who explains how they work and why, contrary to American assumptions, they don't prevent young people from pursuing higher education. I've also reported on promising attempts to replicate the European model in the U.S. at both the high school and community college levels. Even Boeing maintains a small apprenticeship program in Washington State. But there is almost zero political will to provide schools or employers with the incentives they need to create and scale these systems. 

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