May 10, 2019

MARK RIPPETOE: Apprenticeship: Regaining Its Rightful Position as the Best Pathway to a Rewarding Career.

First, every kid who gets a job working for a plumber, an electrician, a stonemason, a carpenter, a house framer, a heavy equipment operator, or any other master tradesmen has a great opportunity to learn the skills necessary to become a successful businessman in a trade that’s not going away as long as people are living and working in structures built by somebody else. Some of these apprenticeships are formalized (the electricians have done it this way for decades) and some of them are informal relationships between older professionals and younger kids who have enough sense to know a good opportunity when they see one.

Second, colleges and universities have really dropped the ball here. Historically, universities insisted that they were not vocational schools, but rather Institutions of Higher Education, concerned with preparing the human mind. It’s difficult to understand how an accounting or engineering degree is other than vocational, but the haughty attitude was dragged out when it was useful – like when we asked about jobs in a depressed market.

But our Geology degree was not Philosophy. We were there to learn a trade, and markets change. But we got a hard science education – with chemistry, physics, calculus, and labs – and hard science is more useful than soft arts. If you have to have calculus to graduate, your job prospects are pretty good because, as it turns out, employers are always looking for people who can complete difficult tasks.

But don’t fall into the Barack Obama trap of dissing Art History, which is a substantive field with, as Virginia Postrel pointed out, a lot of practical applications.

But even Obama was right to acknowledge the importance of the skilled trades.

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