...Who can blame them? Sit-down learning is not for everyone, perhaps not even for most people. There are many roads to an education.
Consider those offered in Europe. In Germany, 97 percent of students graduate from high school, but only a third of these students go on to college. In the United States, we graduate fewer students from high school, but nearly two-thirds of those we graduate go to college. So are German students poorly educated? Not at all.
Instead of college, German students enter training and apprenticeship programs—many of which begin during high school. By the time they finish, they have had a far better practical education than most American students—equivalent to an American technical degree—and, as a result, they have an easier time entering the work force. Similarly, in Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, between 40 to 70 percent of students opt for an educational program that combines classroom and workplace learning.
In the United States, "vocational" programs are often thought of as programs for at-risk students, but that's because they are taught in high schools with little connection to real workplaces. European programs are typically rigorous because the training is paid for by employers who consider apprentices an important part of their current and future work force. Apprentices are therefore given high-skill technical training that combines theory with practice—and the students are paid! Moreover, instead of isolating teenagers in their own counterculture, apprentice programs introduce teenagers to the adult world and the skills, attitudes, and practices that make for a successful career.I don't really know very much about the apprenticeship programs in Europe. I think it makes a great deal of sense to make job training happen earlier in the educational process, as opposed to later. That said, I suspect that the US doesn't have the levels of cooperation between educational institutions and industry to make this happen. I also suspect that US corporations don't (believe they?) have the levels of financial security to make the 5+ year commitment to make this sort of program happen.
My last question is this: a educational credential is portable, but are apprenticeship credentials portable between companies? Readers, what's your experience with apprenticeships?