Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Youth Apprenticeship "American Style" and Career Development

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Youth Apprenticeship "American Style" and Career Development

Article excerpt

Almost all major educational reform proposals of the 1980s used, as a part of their rationale, the need for America to compete effectively in the international marketplace by preparing highly qualified workers. Yet, none of those proposals was centered on the goal of relating education and work more effectively.

The decade of the 1990s began with a dramatic change in this approach. With publication of America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages (Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce [CSAW], 1990), American education was challenged to change its structure and operations dramatically. Youth work-based learning is a centerpiece of this new reform proposal. No other new proposal heading in a different direction has come along so far in this decade.

The generic topic of "work-based learning" and the specific kind of work-based learning being referred to as "youth apprenticeship" hold great implications for all career development professionals. The purposes of this article are to: (a) document the current popularity of youth apprenticeship; (b) clarify the nature of the youth apprenticeship movement; (c) identify some of the ways leaders in the youth apprenticeship movement perceive career counseling; and (d) discuss a series of possible action implications for career development specialists with respect to youth apprenticeship.


First, a few examples will be presented to illustrate the current nationwide popularity of the work-based learning concept. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO; 1991) recently issued a report centered entirely on the topic of "connecting school and employment." That report endorses the concept of work-based learning as an important component. To help implement this endorsement, the CCSSO, using Pew Foundation grant funds, has awarded $20,000 to each of 10 state education agencies to construct demonstration projects in youth apprenticeship. This topic remains a top priority of the CCSSO.

On October 26, 1990, Senator Sam Nunn introduced S.3257--Youth Apprenticeship Act of 1990. Although no hearings were held on this bill, it has at least called the attention of the Congress to this topic. On October 2, 1991, Congressman William Gephardt introduced H.R. 3470--the High Skills, Competitive Workforce Act of 1991. Senators Edward Kennedy and Mark Hatfield introduced a companion bill--S. 1790--containing identical wording in the Senate. This bill follows very closely the recommendations--including a recommendation for "youth apprenticeship"--found in the America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages (CSAW, 1990) report referred to earlier.

October, 1991, marked publication of the first issue of Student Apprenticeship News--specified to be "an occasional newsletter for those interested in the progress of youth or student apprenticeship in the United States" (Halperin, 1991). This issue contains information on 31 specific youth apprenticeship activities. Endorsements of youth apprenticeships have come from a variety of sources. A good illustration is an article written by (then) Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton (1991) in which he stated the following:

the best alternative is to craft an American version of European apprentice-ships ...Most (high school youth) are working at jobs they will not hold 12 months after they get out of high school...what they are doing on the job is unrelated to what they are learning in school ...if you put ...these young people in apprenticeship programs, you'd be doing them a...favor. (p. 23)

The basic rationale behind these supportive actions lies in the difficulties recent American high school graduates seeking to enter the labor market have in making the transition from schooling to employment contrasted with their counterparts in other industrialized nations (Barton, 1991; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 1991; U.S. Department of Labor, 1989; America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages, [CSAW, 1990]). …

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