There was an editorial in the Wall Street Journal last week concerning the apprenticeship model BMW is using in South Carolina. "In Germany, half the graduates of high schools and junior high schools choose a track that combines training on the job with further education at a public vocational institution." Hard to argue with the success of the German education system, that's for sure, but one thing that's never mentioned is the role unions have played in education. Companies relocate to the South to get away from unions but historically, the unions are the ones that have been supporting the apprenticeship programs. If you move away from the unions, where are you going to get qualified people for technical jobs? Sure there are vocational schools, but with the rising cost of secondary education you are going to be shutting more than a few people out. Also with the elimination of many vocational programs at the high school level, it's not surprising that young people aren't thinking about a skilled trade as a viable career option.
It seems the movers and shakers in education always want to use "best practices" but only if those practices agree with their personal philosophy. That philosophy being more testing and less skills based education. After watching a couple of twenty-somethings a couple of weeks back attempting to use a hack saw, it's obvious that we've neglected to teach any type of hand skills in school. It's also no surprise that it's hard to find qualified people when you don't teach skills in schools or through apprenticeship programs any more. Maybe the big muckity-mucks will start looking at the best practices of Germany and Finland so we can get our education system back on track.