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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Fear of tracking undercuts apprenticeship push

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America’s history of tracking could doom proposals for youth apprenticeships, writes New America’s Abigail Swisher.

Would a robust system of youth apprenticeship, scaled across the country, expand educational and career opportunity for all students, or would it return us to an education model that unfairly sorts and separates students into unequal tracks?

In the past, students from low-income and non-white families were the most likely to be labeled “not college material” and tracked into vocational courses, she writes. 

On the other hand, adult apprenticeships leading to good blue-collar jobs often discriminated against black males, reports Jobs for the Future in a paper on equity and diversity. That legacy of denied access continues, writes Swisher.

She sees the potential for well-designed youth apprenticeships that combine paid work and college classes and lead to middle-class jobs.

If rich folks aren’t preparing their kids for construction jobs, then Atnre Alleyne isn’t preparing his kid for anything less than a college education, he writes in Urgency of Now.

All students will need the strong academic content understanding, suite of transferable skills, and diverse interdisciplinary intellectual exposure to be able to win in a knowledge economy with increased automation and global competition. It is no surprise that millions of jobs were lost during the financial crisis in construction and manufacturing. Some reports predict another 500,000 jobs will be at risk in the construction industry by 2020 due to automation.

All students should “have the foundation and preparation to make real choices about their path to prosperity,” concludes Alleyne. He lives in Delaware, which now has nearly 9,000 students in workforce preparation programs in finance, health care, hospitality management, computer science, manufacturing, biomedical science and engineering via Delaware Pathways.

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