News from Siemens this week revealed that the company has instituted an apprenticeship program in North Carolina, in partnership with both the University of North Carolina and Central Piedmont Community College, to train engineers for their gas turbine factory in Charlotte. According to the company, the move was necessary because of a “shortfall of adequately qualified workers.”
What caught my attention about this particular story was that you don’t hear much these days about apprenticeship programs in the U.S., especially not in an engineering context. Of course, such programs are a standard part of the education and training options in Germany and the U.K. as well as other European nations. But in the U.S.?
As this Business Week article from last summer shows, some companies are beginning to ask this same question. That is, whether or not an apprenticeship program could work for them.
In the past, apprenticeship programs in the U.S. were closely tied to vocational training, which was a different track from university and professional career tracks, and thus had a certain stigma surrounding them; mainly, that it was for students who couldn’t perhaps make the cut for these other more rigorous courses of study.
But perhaps the time has come to rethink such attitudes, especially in an era where companies persistently claim a shortage of skilled workers able to handle the demands of the high-tech, 21st century workplace.