Why so few IT Apprenticeships in the US?
A little background info on apprenticeships
In other countries apprenticeships are waaaaay more popular than here.
In countries like Switzerland and Germany for example, most kids switch after 9th or 10th grade straight to an apprenticeship.
Usually these professions are blue-collar type of jobs, like electrician and mechanical engineers, but there are also IT and programming related apprenticeships, insurance work related and others.
Why not so much in the US? We spend some time analyzing the situation here and what I think is going on, is this:
I “blame” the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 for the current situation here, i.e. the lack of good apprenticeships, especially for IT related jobs.
The “problem” is employers are required to pay minimum wage. And it is a real problem that breaks the deal. That’s why you won’t find real offers of this kind.
First of all, many of these kids aren’t serious, they are still babies, they aren’t productive, yet you have to pay them full minimum wage for every hour worked.
Contrast with this scenario:
Visit a night-shift busy assembly line in a factory or a very busy fast food kitchen at peak hours.
Those poor men and women have kids at home, work their asses off, get home dead tired and verbally abused from their ‘superiors’, and overworked, and receive only minimum wage. For many of them minimum wage and two incomes are not enough to pay the bills. McDonald’s, Walmart and other d.i.c.k. businesses out there then ‘help’ employees apply for food stamps to supplement their ‘income’. They created the class of the ‘working poor’. People who think the US is a classless society must indeed be living under a rock…. And those businesses should be ashamed!
So on the one hand, minimum wage is too low, and on the other hand, as in the case of an apprentice, it’s likely too high.
In other countries where apprenticeships are very popular, minimum wage laws either don’t exist at all (such as in Germany until recently) or there is a clause that permits lower income levels for apprentices.
In a nutshell:
Having to pay minimum wage for an IT apprentice in particular, unlike most other industries, is too high because that person will take a very long time to become productive, and on top of that it will suck out a lot of labor from productive workers to train that person, which costs way more than the amount paid to the apprentice. That’s basically my take on why you don’t see many real apprenticeships for IT jobs.
Typically in Europe an apprenticeship will run 3.5 years. In the first year, the pay is minimal, like $400 a month. Schooling continues and in between you would work full-time. The government pays the theoretical education bits.
In year 2-3 they would approach 50% of the pay of junior level, say $1000-1500.
This wouldn’t work here obviously, as the company would have to provide training and pay minimum wage on top, so it’s a legal arrangement that doesn’t work here without breaking the bank.
Also consider that a kid wanting to learn plumbing is somewhat productive from day #1: you can have him carry bags, pipes, hold stuff while you glue something, etc. I have experienced that kind of apprentice ‘abuse’ first hand (^_^).
An IT apprentice would take a long time before taking on a real productive function. Perhaps a feasible solution for both parties would be to only pay for productive work hours, once the apprentice reaches that skill level.