The Future of Work Requires a Return to Apprenticeships

    January 7, 2021

    According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, there will be a shift of 42 percent in required workplace skills. Skills that are rapidly becoming more important include analytical thinking, technology design, and other forms of technological competency. At the same time, soft skills that are uniquely human such as critical thinking, persuasion, creativity, flexibility, and complex problems solving are becoming more valuable.

    Although these skills are vastly different, they have one thing in common—both types are challenging to learn in school.

    The learning challenge

    Of course, technological skills can be acquired in a classroom setting. But when we look at the rate at which technology is developing we see that learned skills quickly become obsolete in the workplace—unless you continuously use them, take them a step further, and develop and hone new skill sets.

    Soft skills, on the other hand, are notoriously difficult to learn in theory. They’re often innate skill sets—or talents—that can be developed by leveraging them in practical situations to attain certain goals.

    Using apprenticeships to acquire and hone skills

    To be prepared for the quickly evolving workplace and establish a workforce with both technical aptitude and soft skills, some experts are advising a return to apprenticeships.

    In an apprenticeship, you pair an apprentice who initially possesses only a small amount of knowledge and basic skills with a professional who excels in their field. The apprentice shadows the expert, learns from examples, an eventually puts the observed skills into practice, achieving proficiency along the way.

    This model is useful when it comes to keeping technological skills up to date, as someone who continues to excel in their field will need the curiosity and flexibility to pivot towards a new technology when the need arises. The apprentice will appreciate the need for agility—and learn the habits that enable it.

    It’s also useful for fostering soft skills, because the apprentice can observe the experienced professional handle a variety of challenges and approach situations in a range of ways to achieve the outcome they want.

    Establishing apprenticeships across the board

    In Europe, apprenticeships have long been used for a wide range of professions. Here in the U.S., the model can equally be applied to a wide variety of industries ranging from the financial sector to healthcare. The only thing that’s needed is for organizations and companies to facilitate it. And when you consider that this model could lead to a steady pipeline of knowledgeable talent with up-to-date skills and the ability to keep learning, there’s no reason not to.



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