Opinion // 23.08.2016 // Curated by Ed.

Professional Apprenticeships

Traditionally, the apprenticeship model has been (and continues to be) successfully employed in the trades. What if we applied this teaching and learning model for some office-based professions?

For example, instead of completing a 3-year degree in Marketing in preparation for an entry-level marketing role, what if a learner could work in a firm while completing an allied programme of study over a shorter amount of time? Or perhaps someone wants to become a computer programmer and, following a short course in programming, learns on the job while continuing a companion course of study? Could the system, in partnership with industry, support learners to acquire relevant skills along with workplace experience and, ultimately make them more employable? Could we do it more affordably for learners and the system while developing talent in demand by our employers more quickly?

After interviewing a number of employers and having received unsolicited feedback from others, there are areas where our graduates are falling short of employer expectations. This is not because they have not invested enough money or spent enough time in their learning endeavours. In those cases, we are just plain doing it wrong. Given the financial and life significance of studying today, we should not sit back and accept that this is just how it is.

It is true that employment is not the only objective of pursuing higher education.  However, when asked, 50% of learners told us (of 767 responses) that an employment outcome was the most important reason they are studying.  Where the learner’s intention is to achieve an employment outcome, we should be looking for every practical opportunity to integrate or connect learning with the workplace.

What might the barriers to this be?  What professions could use an apprenticeship approach?