This week marks the first annual National Apprenticeship Week. In recognition of it, here are five facts about apprenticeships that you should know:

1. Apprenticeship was Prevalent in Antiquity

According to author Paul Douglas – a University of Chicago professor writing in 1921 – the common notion that apprenticeship began in the medieval age is actually false. As proof, Douglas notes that ancients such as Plato and Xenophon refer to it as common practice. The roots of apprenticeship extend even farther back, as indicated by apprenticeship’s mention in the Code of Hammurabi. If apprenticeship worked so successfully for thousands of years, then why did we throw it away in the last century?

2. Apprenticeship Offers Impressive Starting Salaries

According to the Department of Labor, the average starting salary for a graduate from an apprenticeship program is $50,000, with wages supposedly expected to increase. By contrast, the 2015 college graduate can expect to receive an average starting salary of $37,300.

3. Apprenticeship Training Traditionally Included Character Training

In chronicling the history of American apprenticeship, Paul Douglas notes that an apprentice’s master was expected to be a good, upstanding man who instructed his charges in morality as well as a craft. Specifically, Douglas writes, “Another function of apprenticeship is the development of character and good citizenship. Originally it was a preparation for life, not a preparation for technical pursuits alone.”

4. Apprenticeship Leaves Students with Minimal Debt

Earlier this fall the Secretary of Labor said, “Apprenticeship is the other college, except without the debt.” This is largely because apprenticeship students are paid while completing their education and training. For comparison, the Wall Street Journal reports that the average student loan debt is now $30,000 per college graduate.

5. Apprenticeship Training Can Extend Beyond Blue Collar Jobs

Many today have a mindset that apprenticeship training is only for skilled labor professions. But Paul Douglas reminds us that all professions were once learned through apprenticeship – even law and medicine! This is because “apprenticeship is basically a process of learning by doing. It is a higher form of the trial-and-error process, containing a large amount of imitative motion. As such, it quite naturally antedates all theoretical instruction.”

Have we done ourselves – and the next generation of students – a disservice in thinking that white collar professions can only be learned in a college classroom?

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