The Apprentice

07/24/2012 03:59 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2012

Three point two million students graduated high school this spring. Of them, 1.1 million will never seek higher education. The other 2.1 million will become 2012's freshman class and six years from now, almost a million of them will have nothing to show for it. It's startling that in the most educated country in the world, over 65 percent of our youth are not successfully completing college. What is even more startling is the lack of social acceptance for alternative paths of higher education. It is time that we build other options for those that college isn't right for that delivers the skills students need to get jobs and the toolkit graduates need to be successful in life.

One potential solution could be a national apprenticeship program, the likes of which has worked for decades in countries like Germany. Germany's apprenticeship program serves over 65 percent of all graduates of secondary school with more than 300 trades and industries offered as areas of study. The programs completion rate is almost 80 percent, compared to the average graduation rate of only 45 percent of U.S. colleges, and eight out of 10 have jobs after completion of the three to four year program. It is the success of this apprenticeship program that has led to low youth unemployment in Germany and has caused other countries in Europe like the UK and France to start building apprenticeship programs of their own.

Apprenticeships could be a successful solution for both the American student and economy. By engaging the close to 40 million small to medium sized businesses across the nation and leveraging online and mobile technologies to build an supplemental curriculum, apprenticeships can be an affordable and scalable solution for educating students interested in a variety of industries like technology, hospitality, media, and entertainment. Apprenticeships also provide small businesses with access to valuable talent without the cost burden of training one off employees.

E[nstitute], a non-profit in New York City, is launching a pilot program for a national apprenticeship program with over 30 tech startups this fall. A full-time, two-year program, E[nstitute] apprenticeships study under founders of leading tech startups like Warby Parker,, and Learnvest and take a supplemental curriculum of over 50 subjects ranging from business and personal finance to leadership development and written communication. The first class of 15 students will graduate the program with a portfolio of recommendations, detailed work experience and accomplishments, and certification of competency in subjects of study and a network of over 150 companies that have signed up to recruit E[nstitute] graduates.

As the American economy matures and the demands of the job market change, so must our methods of education. University is not the end-all-be-all solution to an educated and employable nation; neither are apprenticeships. The solution lies in a diversity of educational options and their ability to serve the different learning styles of students and best provide the skill needs of specific industries.

You can learn more about E[nstitute] and an apprenticeship model here: