Companies in the United States often bemoan what they see as a skills gap. They say that while there are applicants available for their job openings, those applicants just don’t have the requisite skills and/or education to successfully perform the essential functions of these jobs. The problem becomes increasingly acute when, as is currently the case, the unemployment rate has been at a historic low.
Some companies have been looking at new approaches to help address the skills gap, such as intensive on-the-job training for new hires. Others are looking at historic approaches to address the same problem.
According to Lucinda Shen, “Industrial giant Siemens is importing something from its country of origin, Germany, to help resolve a major problem: finding enough skilled workers in the U.S.” Shen says that Siemens is in the process of adapting the so-called German apprenticeship model to the United States.
According to Siemens, U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton, apprenticeships allow potential employees to work at Siemens while still at school. It’s an opportunity that benefits both employers looking for technical talent and the employee apprentices as well. Those in these programs can come out of the program after just a few years, armed with a degree, a job—and, perhaps most attractive—no debt.
“At the same time, contacting potential workers earlier on in their careers has allowed Siemens to work with them to design curricula that fit what the company needs,” writes Shen. “This apprenticeship model has been credited with helping Germany maintain its manufacturing edge, while pushing the country out of the 2007–08 financial crisis more quickly than its peers.”
Shen says that the state of Georgia has also looked to German-style apprenticeship programs to help address skills gaps. In 2016, the state launched the Georgia Consortium for Advanced Technical Training, which uses the German apprenticeship method to train high school students in the state.
Companies are increasingly recognizing that, rather than bemoaning what they see as a skills gap and lobbying relatively slow-moving governments to do more to address the problem, they may be able to have a more direct and swift impact by tackling the problem themselves. Apprenticeships are one proven model that may be making a comeback to aid employers—and students.