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Boosting apprenticeships (seliger.com)
33 points by jseliger 120 days ago | hide | past | web | 12 comments | favorite



I did an apprenticeship in software engineering in Switzerland. Afterwards I did not go to university.

My experience was positive. I did not make a lot of money during my apprenticeship but that was before I was 20 years old and still lived at home.

Since then I make the same as others with bachelor/masters degree in the same company. Though at the beginning my salary was quite a bit lower.

The jobs I can take are also somewhat limited, since I won't be hired for a machine learning job that requires lots of math.

Still, I barely had the grades for my apprenticeship and I also barely made it through. So ultimately if it wasn't for my apprenticeship I probably would have an office job that is much more boring.


Intersting. Do you know what is required to take on apprentices? If I moved to switzerland and started a company there, could I just start training people?


Not quite. There are two requirements.

First is a "Ausbildungsbewilligung" from the canton your company resides in. This is basically a cert that verifies that your company is able to provide an apprentice with the proper environment.

Depending on the canton this can mean that your company needs to be of a certain age (e.g. two years) and that the work that you are doing actually qualifies your company to provide the apprentice with relevant skills (so a restaurant can't train engineers).

The second requirement is a person that has completed the "Berufsbildner" course. I haven't done it myself, but from what I hear it's a one-two weeks course that teaches you the basics of the apprenticeship system (your rights and duties).

After that you hire a 15-16 year old you think would be a good fit.

The first two years the kid will be in school for up to three days a week and you will probably pay a salary of around 500 - 1000 CHF (you would usually increase the amount each year).

The second two years (assuming you are training a software engineer) you might pay a bit more, but by then you might be lucky and the teenager is a young adult that can do good work for cheap.

Of course 16-20 is a time where lots of things change, so you might not be so lucky. From my experience you can't predict this either. I've seen kids that started great and dropped out later and troubled kids that found their calling in year three.

To find out more you want to search the web for "Ausbildungsbewilligung", "Lehrbetrieb werden" and "Berufsbildner". From what I've seen all information is in German/French however. I didn't find any good sites in English.


More apprenticeships would be better but there's also a tendency to overestimate their ability to solve economic problems that colleges failed at.

First the good: if we just look at apprenticeship in isolation for its curriculum content, this will be superior for many students because they learn material that's more closely tied to the jobs they will do. The apprenticeships will probably cost much less that 4-year colleges. (I asked my heating-air-conditioning technician how much his "apprentice" schooling cost and he said $15k. He's age 25 and still paying back the school loan.)

Then there's the bad: the overestimation of positive effects to the employment economy. There are 2 separate factors: (1) zero-sum game of job opportunities mapped to job seekers, and (2) social rank

I previously commented about (1).[1] Basically, there's an underlying tendency for humans to "rank" other humans and whether you make "college available to everyone for free" or "emphasize apprenticeships over college", it doesn't change that underlying sorting mechanism. There will always be a gradient from the very desirable apprenticeship programs down to the low-end apprenticeships that people only take because they don't want to clean toilets. Those unequal preferences forces a sorting mechanism on society.

I also previously commented about (2).[2] Essentially, the new apprenticeships will not command the same social prestige as traditional colleges.

But that said, if we ignore (1) and (2), apprenticeships may be an overall net gain for society.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10561911

[2] my 3 replies explains Jeffrey J. Selingo proposed remapping of "degree" to "apprenticeship":

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13520826

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13521075


> More apprenticeships would be better but there's also a tendency to overestimate their ability to solve economic problems that colleges failed at.

I'm the original writer and I definitely agree that they're not a panacea. But I would argue that they're a movement in the right direction, especially in the "college for everyone" world:

Apprenticeships are also an obviously good idea from the perspective of academia; anyone who teaches college students at schools below the most elite level knows that a large number of students really shouldn’t be in college. This was most obvious to me at the University of Arizona, but it happens across the academic landscape. I’ve been teaching undergrads for ten years, and it’s clear that many undergrads don’t know why they’re in college, don’t care about school, and are floundering in an academic milieu.

The debt students take to get degrees of dubious value, or, worse, to drop out after two years, is staggering.


Are there apprenticeship (or bootcamp-style) programs for hardware? I'm imagining a "maker" focused program where instead of learning to make web apps, one learns 3D design, 3D printing, milling and laser cutting, electronic circuit design, and microcontroller programming.


As someone who recently completed an apprenticeship in the UK for software engineering, I feel I was essentially used for cheap labor, sure I learned things, but the same things I would learn just doing an ordinary job.

The one remaining argument for apprenticeships are that they help you break into the job market, but I feel like for many skilled jobs, like the ones listed here, if you already have some skill or talent (usually a requirement for the apprenticeship) your time would be better spent being a bit more persistent looking for a job

The result? I'm going to university anyway. Employers continue to pay me less because I don't have a degree, and say so to _to my face_


>but the same things I would learn just doing an ordinary job.

What about the coursework and classes your provider made you do? Our apprentices have something like 1 day in 10 at college and have to do coursework projects through the course of the apprenticeship.


It was preposterously basic, and it was only a couple days in the entire duration of the apprenticeship.

The only one I found in any way useful was the SQL course that lasted a couple days but that's still something I could have just asked a colleague to give me a quick rundown of.

Essentially, I would have hoped that what I was taught outside of the work would be theory, such as data structures and stuff, but instead I got extremely basic introductions to existing programming languages that I for the most part either knew or could learn the basics in a couple hours.


Well, that's better than not telling you why you're being paid less.


The problem is going be based on the uk experience mc job employers will jump on the band wagon to get cheap labour at under the minimum wage eg apprentice supermarket assistants or baristas.


In Germany, apprenticeship is only possible for selected jobs and rely heavy regulation. It has its warts but I think it is a net positive.




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