Essays Sound Caution on Youth Apprenticeships

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President-elect Clinton's promise to develop a national youth-apprenticeship system has brought urgency to an issue that has been bubbling at the state and national levels for several years. But a report from the William T. Grant Foundation's Commission on Youth and America's Future cautions that the task will not be an easy one.

The group of essays--by such noted academics as Sue E. Berryman, an education specialist with the World Bank, and Stephen F. Hamilton, the chairman of human development and family studies at Cornell University--raises a number of cautions about how to implement an apprenticeship system in the United States.

"While all the writers are agreed that the principles of youth apprenticeship represent authentic and powerful tools for effective learning,'' Samuel Halperin, the director of the commission, notes in a preface to the report, "they differ sharply on critical matters of program design, location of learning, and, indeed, whether a wholly new system of learning is required or whether we are better advised to adapt existing structures and programs.''

Building an effective youth-apprenticeship system, he adds, does not only require new programs, but also major changes in the ways the education and employment systems relate to each other.

'Core Principles'

The report, "Youth Apprenticeship in America: Guidelines for Building an Effective System,'' suggests five "core principles'' that should undergird all school-to-work transition programs.

According to James E. Rosenbaum, the report's editor and a professor of sociology, education, and social policy at Northwestern University:

  • Programs should use work-based learning methods that build on school learning and are connected to schools.
  • School-based programs should build on work experiences.
  • Experience-based teaching in classrooms should develop cognitive as well as practical skills.
  • School-work linkages should reward school learning and effort with good jobs.
  • Procedures for awarding credentials should identify clear standards and certify attainment.

The authors cite several barriers to creating an effective apprenticeship system, including the lack of incentives for both schools and employers to participate and the negative view of youths held by many employers.

Copies of the 90-page report are available for $8 each from the William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship, Suite 301, 1001 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

Vol. 12, Issue 15

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