May 29, 2013

The past 10 years in Jordan thousands of disadvantaged youth have been assisted to obtain basic education credentials to access accredited vocational training and improved employment opportunities.  The success of programs providing such assistance reaffirms that learning is central to human identity, and is essentially about social participation. Every youth is highly motivated in a social environment that respects their identity as learners and where they contribute to the learning process.

Apprenticeship/vocational skills programs are a critical means of tapping into this powerful dynamic of building identity and social participation, two issues at the core of MENA youth concerns. Such programs have key roles in school-to-work transition by providing general knowledge and transferable skills, combining classroom instruction and supervised work experience.

An apprentice is mentored into a community of practice, in which he/she belongs, behaves and improves.  He/she belongs by sharing common knowledge, participating, and gaining meaning from experience. He/she picks up behavior in the social fabric of the community – learning valuable tacit knowledge from context-based experience.  Technical assignments engender competence and motivation for continuous improvement.

For apprenticeship to succeed, employers, individuals and public authorities are the three key players.  Employers who take on apprentices have the most important role: they transmit skills and knowledge, and the quality of their trainers determines the impact of apprentices on productivity. They provide the most efficient interface between supply and demand, being aware of trends driving volatility of the labor market.

Individuals perform most optimally when they have a chance to convert theory into practice in a continuous process of participation-reification. In addition, evidence indicates that workers are five times more likely to ask a co-worker than read a book – underscoring importance of social participation at work. They gain transferable knowledge and skills as portable assets for their futures.

Public authorities have significant responsibilities to ensure the legal status of apprentices and set standards for certification that maintain quality as well as prevent apprenticeship from being a source of underpaid labor. They also provide incentives to employers whose apprentices initially have less ability to enhance productivity.

Finally, incorporating entrepreneurship education in apprenticeship programs increases the attractiveness and status of such training, which is often an obstacle in the MENA region. This also increases the ability and ambition of youth to continue learning and improving their societies as they improve themselves. Applying the social dynamic of apprenticeship is a significant theory of change for societies whose youth want their lives to be different and seek means to achieve this difference.

By Curt Rhodes, May 26, 2013

World Economic Forum…