The unfortunate reality today is that a college degree no longer guarantees an easy path to a well-paying job after graduation. As of 2012, 44% of recent college graduates are unemployed or working in jobs that that do not require the degree they have. Moreover, over half of recent college graduates are working jobs that don’t require a college degree at all.
In his article for The Wired, Dave Hoover reports that the youth unemployment rate in the U.S. of 15% is almost double that of Germany’s, which is 7.4%. In addition to being a huge problem for young people facing extreme student debt, high youth unemployment costs the U.S. government $25 billion.
Hoover shares his experience of developing a software apprenticeship program at Obtiva (acquired by Groupon) after learning of Germany’s “dual-path education system” that guides young people towards pursuing employment opportunities. He felt that employers, educators, and politicians in the U.S. were not doing enough to provide young people here with the same guidance and support and decided to do something himself.
An apprenticeship program combines on-the-job training with academic instruction and allows people to utilize their academic skills for practical use in various careers. Hoover explains that the key components for a successful program are a mentor, a project team, and an open culture of learning.
Hoover ran his software apprenticeship program for 5 years taking on aspiring software developers and giving them the chance to work hard for 6 months. The program allowed novice software developers to learn and develop skills that turned them into competent software developers.
The apprenticeship program helped to grow Obtiva’s engineering team from 5 to 50 engineers. Additionally, the program helped Groupon grow their engineering team to around 500 people.
Hoover and the apprenticeship program he established at Obtiva is a great example for other companies to follow if they want to overcome the skills gap. Rather than wait for candidates who possess all of the skills required for a job to suddenly appear, companies should engage and work with local amateurs who have the potential to be productive members of their team who will contribute to their success.
Companies may be wary about not hiring based on degrees and certifications, but Hoover encourages employers to make the jump. He cites tenacity and a passion for learning and developing as being just as, if not more, crucial to a company’s future success.
There are millions of young people who could possibly be the superstars companies are looking for. They just need to be given the opportunity to hone the skills they already have and learn the skills they need to be amazing team members.
Are apprenticeship programs something you’re considering for your company? We’d love to know your thoughts. Share in the comments below!