- Bain helped Denver and Washington state governments develop new job training programs and studied others throughout the country.
- In a new report, Bain said that the United States would benefit greatly over the next two decades from developing a new approach to job training, based on apprenticeships.
- For it to succeed, it would require public-private partnerships and a cultural shift in accepting new alternatives to four-year colleges.
- This article is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
Whatever label you give it – the World Economic Forum is fond of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” – it’s undeniable that the developed world is in the early stages of another massive shift marked by rapid transformation.
Looking specifically at the United States, millions of jobs will be lost over the next two decades to developments like increased automation, displacing as much as 20-25% of the labour force, according to the consulting firm Bain. Inevitable changes do not have to be met with dread, however, as long as they’re met with action.
At WEF’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland this year, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget led a panel of labour leaders, executives, and a prominent Wharton professor who agreed on the urgent need for new methods of skills training, and that Switzerland’s apprenticeship program could serve as inspiration. Over the past three years, Bain has been working with American state and local governments on job training programs that are unlike anything the US has worked with before, while studying the results of others trying to do the same thing.
In a new report titled “Making the Leap,” authored by Bain partners Chris Bierly and Abigail Smith, Bain reveals its findings and shares its process for how “career-connected learning” (CCL) can forever improve the way Americans approach jobs, if it’s implemented through private-public partnerships with lasting systemic changes.
Bain found that Colorado, Delaware, Washington, and Wisconsin have job training programs among the best in the country. In 2017, Bain worked with Denver, and in 2018 it worked with the state of Washington to establish CCL programs.
Bain’s researchers learned that there is not a lack of jobs, but rather a lack of qualified candidates. Solutions to this problem can vary by state, but the following example from the report illustrates what a program would look like in practice:
- By middle school, a student learns the basics of their state’s CCL program, which could lead to a well-paying job shortly after high school. It could be either the start of a long career or a stepping stone to a four-year college. They’re interested in being a surgeon.
- In high school, they join a job-shadowing program for nurses and surgical technicians. As a junior or senior, they apply to a three-year CCL program for surgical technicians.
- They will mix in-class learning with on-the-job training, which they could begin either during senior year or after graduation. Throughout their first year of training, they will receive extensive coaching and mentorship. They will work three days of the week at a hospital and spend the rest of their time learning at a local community college.
- After completing 60 credits, they get an associate’s degree and industry- and state-recognised credentials.
- Upon completion, they can either begin work at the hospital full time with a salary of $US46,000 and benefits or pursue a four-year college degree that will then lead to medical school.
In Switzerland, 70% of all students begin a three-year apprenticeship at age 15. The Swiss system has been so successful because companies track returns on their investment, and because of this focus, it has been profitable for both the public and private sectors. The idea, according to the report’s authors, is that America can incorporate a similar system.
But for it to succeed in the US, it will require a cultural shift, where vocational schools and apprenticeships are not seen as lesser than a more traditional academic path.
“The biggest hurdle these programs face is if they are seen as ‘less than’ academic-only pathways,” Maud Daudon, the former executive director of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, told the report’s authors. “We need to ensure rigour and high quality as we change that narrative.”
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