This week the governor was talking about the apprenticeship program in Missoula.
I hope my son chooses this route in another 8 years when he’s done with high school. I wish I would have chosen that route.
In fact, apprenticeship programs typically have a 90% approval rating from those that graduate from them.
Compare this to liberal arts majors, over half of whom regret getting their degree.
A lot of it comes down to earnings and debt. When you graduate as an apprentice, you have no debt and you might have some savings, as you were earning while learning.
With a liberal arts degree, you graduate with no savings and an average of $30,000 in debt.
When you graduate with a liberal arts degree, your average earnings will be $42,000 a year. Bullock claims that apprentices will earn $55,000 to $62,000 a year here in Montana when they graduate.
God, I wish I would have taken that route...but society was lying to me just as they’re lying to our young today.
The only route to success is a 4-year-degree, they say.
What they don’t say is that without stupid young people like I was, how would the old fogeys in the hallowed halls of academia take care of themselves? Who would pay their retirement and healthcare and benefits package?
You don’t want them out there in the real world...the private sector, a place where they expect results, do you?
Trust me, that’s the last place you want those eggheads.
But something just as sinister is our societal attitudes toward those that 'work with their hands.'
Think about the parents, and their friends Bill and Sue, and the dinner party announcement that little Johnny is going to apprentice to learn how to fix heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC?
I imagine that kind of proclamation wouldn't go over too well. Bill and Sue will put on a smiling face, but on the drive home they'll have nothing but pity for little Johnny.
'So he's going to do that?,' they'd say, shaking their heads, all the while superbly content that their own little one made the wise choice to go to a private school, where she'll major in Women's Studies with the aim to change the world. Sorry little Johnny can only change some pipes and wiring - snicker, snicker!
I wonder who'll be snickering four years later, when little Johnny is making $24 to $35 an hour plus benefits and retirement and dental at his job, while Bill and Sue's women's studies major is now working at as some barista, making minimum wage while living with mom and dad because she can't afford her own place.
Of course, it wouldn't take little Johnny four years like the women's studies major. HVAC folk can get certified in six months, and an associate degree in two years. By the time the four-year student graduates, the apprentice will have earned as much as the other person took out in debt.
You tell me which route makes sense.
The good news is that a lot of parents are waking up to the sham that our four-year education system is, especially now that they want you to pay the exact same amount, even though everything is now remote learning.
For a year or two now, I’ve been thinking a lot of joining an apprenticeship program of some sort.
I really have no idea what I want to do...I just know I’d like to make a bit more money, perhaps have some retirement, all while better providing for my family.
The big problem is that I’m too old, or at least I think I am.
I mean...which business is going to want to hire an apprentice that’s going to be in their 40s by the time they’re done with their training?
Wouldn’t you rather hire someone in their 20s?
So that’s my main dilemma...in my mind. Who knows, maybe some of these businesses would like people with a little more real world experience, a bit more knowledge of how to work with different employers, and dealing with different people.
So I decided to call the representative for the Montana Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC)...but she was out of the office.
So I sent an email instead, and she got back quick, saying:
"We start school in the fall so classes have started. The best approach is to find a job with an electrician. As for the age I think if you are a hard worker many would rather have age and maturity than a young irresponsible 20 year old."
So there you have it. You had a good job but the virus stole it and now you don't know what to do? Sounds like you're not too old to become an apprentice. Chances are good it'll be the best decision you ever made.
Mostly, I really do wish it was easier to figure out where you even start. I imagine many Montana parents and young adults are thinking the same.
Here’s an example of the terrible state website for apprentices.
It’s only when you get into specifics like electrical or carpentry that you find industry-specific pages not related to government. These give you a bit more info, and an idea of which businesses to contact.
I’ve looked at all the Montana apprenticeship sites many times over the past two years, and from what I can tell you have to contact individual employers to see if they’re interested in taking you on.
This can be daunting.
Here is a good Montana state site that lists dozens of potential employers for interested would-be apprentices.
I wish we had a bit more, though.
I wish there was more of a statewide system that allowed potential applicants to submit a resume or letter of interest. Perhaps these could then be forwarded to industry representatives for trades like plumbing or electrician or carpentry or bookkeeping or nursing.
That representative might say, ‘Hey, here’s a young person in Havre that wants to stay here, they’re interested in plumbing, and I know this local company has expressed interest in taking on a new apprentice. Maybe I’ll try to set up a phone call meeting between these two interested parties, or at least an email.’
This would go a long way in making the Montana apprenticeship program a lot more successful.
Perhaps this will happen more when Gianforte takes office.
We know that for the past two years, lame-duck Steve has been focused on the presidency and then the senate. He hasn’t had time for Montana.
I hope that changes in January. I’m confident it will.
One of the greatest services our next governor can give the state is saving our young from the predatory practices of our four-year schools. Apprenticeships are a great way to do that.