Benefits of a National Apprenticeship System
This summer, the National Youth Service (NYS) placed approximately 25,000 young people in internships across the island. Last year, the target was approximately 15,000, which suggests that the Government sees the value of these internships and the positive impact they have on both youth and employers and is trying to ensure that more of our young people get the opportunity to participate in such a worthwhile initiative.
However, the Government needs to go a step further and implement a national apprenticeship system, which would combine classroom education with on-the-job training (OJT), leading to employment, as recommended by New Employment Opportunities for Youth (NEO) Jamaica in a series of technical proposals designed to strengthen the youth employability ecosystem.
The benefits of such a programme are many and redound to both students and employers.
One of the many complaints from youth leaving high school or university and trying to find a job is the requirement from employers that they have some level of work experience. Of course, the response from youth is, "How do I get experience if no one is willing to hire me?"
An apprenticeship is the solution to this as it will increase marketability to employers, while at the same time giving youth the opportunity to experience the workplace first hand. This would lead to more youth being able to find jobs quicker, thereby advancing their careers at a faster rate, and it would also have the long-term benefit of reducing the national youth-unemployment rate. It is a fact that countries with advanced, national apprenticeship programmes show a low level of youth unemployment.
Apprenticeships will also allow youth to learn about a specific industry and decide if it's the right fit. This would be further enhanced if there's a mentoring component in the programme, which would allow youth to partner with an older professional with significant experience, who would be able to provide deeper insight into a particular industry, advice on how to navigate the world of work, and open doors to a network of professional contacts.
Perhaps the most important benefit of apprenticeships is the ability to get a better understanding of soft skills and their applicability in the workplace. According to an informal, rapid assessment of Jamaican employers conducted by NEO Jamaica, it was found that when recruiting, the Jamaican private sector ranked soft skills such as communication, self-efficacy, personal responsibility, and teamwork (40 per cent) above cognitive or academic skills (33 per cent).
In addition, tardiness and inappropriate communication with clients, i.e. poor customer service or communication skills, followed by use of mobile phones during work time or excessive socialisation, and absenteeism were cited as youth employee behaviours that can reduce productivity and thereby affect the ability to retain employment.
By participating in apprenticeships, students will be able to learn new skills and add to their knowledge base, demonstrate the soft skills they do possess, and learn more about why they're important on the job.
Apprenticeships also have tremendous benefits for employers. For example, they provide employers with the rare opportunity to evaluate prospective employees risk free, thereby allowing them to recruit new, energetic, and skilled employees. In the United States, many Fortune 500 companies retain more than 80 per cent of their interns as new hires.
Employers also have the unique opportunity to use interns to enhance their social-media strategy. Young people today are seen as being extremely tech-savvy, and employers can opt to share their strategy with their interns, get their feedback, and incorporate changes where necessary.
Similar to interns, individual employees can also benefit from apprenticeships through mentorships. Many employees look to mentor young people, and an apprenticeship programme provides an opportunity for current employees to connect with young people, interact meaningfully with them, and ultimately, mentor them. This mentorship component can help to improve organisational culture, as well as the student's well-being and continued learning. It can also help to inspire employees to be better, stronger leaders.
Finally, for employers, hosting interns can serve as a form of corporate social responsibility for many companies as it strengthens the relationship with the community, while allowing the employer the chance to have an impact on moulding the lives of youth, ultimately projecting a favourable image of the company.
The Government has said that there are currently plans to implement a national apprenticeship system, and while no timeline has been announced, given the many benefits that will accrue to all participants in such a system, and the fact that it will allow young people to gain valuable experience as they move between study and the beginning of their working lives, it is hoped that this will come on stream in the very near future.
- New Employment Opportunities for Youth (NEO) in Jamaica is part of the regional programme. NEO seeks to improve human capital and the employability of one million vulnerable youth across Latin America and the Caribbean by 2022. NEO is being executed in Jamaica by Youth Upliftment through Employment (YUTE). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org