Updated on 08.27.14

Teenagers and Careers

Trent Hamm

Is Apprenticeship an Answer?

I’m going to go a bit off the beaten path here…

Why Nerds Are Unpopular by Paul Graham is one of the most thought-provoking essays I’ve ever read. I’ve re-read the thing several times over the years, each time realizing how much it actually hit upon some of the fundamental truths of my teenage years. In short, I felt completely lost in most teenage social situations and I felt most useful and happy when I was involved in actually learning elements of a trade from an adult who would teach me (for example, my father integrating me into his fishing business). An excerpt:

Teenage kids used to have a more active role in society. In pre-industrial times, they were all apprentices of one sort or another, whether in shops or on farms or even on warships. They weren’t left to create their own societies. They were junior members of adult societies.

Teenagers seem to have respected adults more then, because the adults were the visible experts in the skills they were trying to learn. Now most kids have little idea what their parents do in their distant offices, and see no connection (indeed, there is precious little) between schoolwork and the work they’ll do as adults.

And if teenagers respected adults more, adults also had more use for teenagers. After a couple years’ training, an apprentice could be a real help. Even the newest apprentice could be made to carry messages or sweep the workshop.

Now adults have no immediate use for teenagers. They would be in the way in an office. So they drop them off at school on their way to work, much as they might drop the dog off at a kennel if they were going away for the weekend.

What happened? We’re up against a hard one here. The cause of this problem is the same as the cause of so many present ills: specialization. As jobs become more specialized, we have to train longer for them. Kids in pre-industrial times started working at about 14 at the latest; kids on farms, where most people lived, began far earlier. Now kids who go to college don’t start working full-time till 21 or 22. With some degrees, like MDs and PhDs, you may not finish your training till 30.

The point here makes sense. Most teenagers have no idea what their parents actually do for a living (at least beyond anything but a vague sense) and they have no idea how the things they learn in the classroom will relate to anything they will ever do.

The solution to that, of course, is right at the start of this: apprenticeship. Instead of loading teenagers up with extracurricular activities or menial jobs after school, why not pair them with actual professionals in meaningful relationships that benefit both of them?

Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s say there’s a teenager out there who dreams of being a writer. The school puts out a notice in the community looking for a writer who would take on an apprentice ten hours a week. The apprenticeship would pay something around minimum wage, but would also involve the apprentice building something of value on their own with at least some of that time. So, for example, I might have the apprentice spend five hours a week doing grunt work for me, then I would spend five hours each week with that person helping them to build a blog to share their writing, polish their writing skills, and so forth.

The student gets real experience in a field they’re interested in. I get to trade five hours of grunt work a week into five hours of meaningful mentoring a week.

You could do this at almost any job. Ten hours of apprenticeship a week. Five hours is spent handling grunt work for the master and five hours is spent doing meaningful work that builds into something more. Even better, in many cases, that meaningful work could be open-ended (like writing), enabling the apprentice to take the bull by the horns in their spare time and go even further.

How Apprenticeship Might Work

A computer programming apprentice

Spend five hours doing very basic system support and cleaning of equipment and five hours getting mentored as a contributor to a high-profile open source software project.

A park ranger apprentice

Spend five hours doing park cleanup and an additional five hours getting intense mentoring, going out on patrols, and setting up and running a large-scale project for park improvement.

A basketball coaching apprentice

Spend five hours handling managerial grunt work for the team and five hours watching game film and receiving lessons on how to motivate others, culminating with actually coaching lower-level sports.

An administrative assistant apprentice

Spend five hours collating and five hours involved in actual preparation of documents for the business.

A graphic design apprentice

Deal with correspondence for five hours and then spend five hours getting mentored on how to create great designs for real-world projects, culminating in handling a few smaller projects all on their own.

From there, it’s not hard to see how apprenticeship could work well in many career paths.

An apprenticeship, done well, can give a purpose and direction to a teenager that didn’t exist before. It can directly tie their classroom lessons to real-world work and initiate them into the true adult world that they often seek.

With that in mind, I am considering doing this very thing with the local high school, seeking out a student who is interested in writing to serve as an “apprentice” starting in the fall.

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  1. Audrey says:

    I think the reason “apprenticeships” no longer exist is because now they’re called “internships”. But what you describe is exactly what MANY high school and college students do in offices and businesses and firms – it’s exactly what an internship is. You spend five hours fetching coffee in exchange for seeing how business is actually done in the field you’re interested in, and hopefully some personal mentoring/training as well. My bet is that if you do call your local high school with that offer, they’ll list it to students as an internship.

  2. Emily says:

    My went to a magnate High School in KC and they actually did this as part of their HS program. You could choose a career path you wanted to follow – (it had to be professional) and then you’d spend half your day there 3 times a week. The rest of the days we’d learn about interviewing skills, how to create resumes, etc. We were supposed to pick a career we were interseted in. Mine was psychology – so I went to work at a Social Services organization…through that I found my true love was not social work – but accounting. Glad I did not waste my college years on that and I met mentors and people that I”m still in contact with (gulp) 20 years later.

  3. George says:

    Surely you’re not serious about this… how come you don’t suggest apprenticeships for dangerous jobs like oil rigger, miner, explosive demolition, or crane operator? Do you really want 12-year-olds exposed to the hazards of being an electrician apprentice? What happens when all the teenagers want the “cool” apprenticeships?

  4. shris says:


    Let us not forget ‘apprentice mom’ and ‘apprentice dad’.

    My mother taught me to cook some very basic stuff when I was in high school, and that became an occasional duty–to prepare and cook the roast chicken, for example. I had my chores of course, getting the dishes done before dinner, vacuuming, cleaning my room and the like, but there certainly could have been more.

    My dad had me out in the backyard garden weeding and harvesting. I was never at his house for planting, and I didn’t really like the gardening per se, but I did end up with some skills. My stepmother did more in the chore department as well, with different chemicals and methods than my mother used, and taught me some sewing.

    My dad had me helping him when he fixed the car or built something from wood. I learned how to stain wood furniture, the difference between metric and english tools, the names of various power tools, and a number of other more minor things. I learned a method of cleaning small carcasses (rabbits and squirrels) though I’ve not put that one to use yet. :)

    When my kids are ever so slightly bigger, they will be learning home maintenance and home improvement skills. They won’t be able to avoid it, honestly. :) I hope to be able to introduce these subjects with a little more of a methodical approach than I got from my parents, maybe a little more structure. I felt like there were some things I could have learned at my parents’ sides but didn’t. So money management, investing, cooking, home improvement & maintenance, auto maintenance, gardening & landscaping.. And whatever else we think of along the way.

  5. Carol says:

    We currently home educate our children. Although they are not yet at a high school level, we intend to have some sort of apprenticeship and/or volunteer service requirement to graduate. You might be able to find a home-educated student more easily than finding one in a local high school who would be interested in an apprenticeship with you.

  6. Kate says:

    How is this different from being an intern or participating in a coop placement?

  7. brad says:

    interesting idea, and very entertaining thought pattern.

    i think child labor laws would be one of the biggest obstacles. the 13-17 range isnt very practical for this application, since this is a much different society than the one that had a smithy’s apprentice running right next to an x00 degree forge.

    though the bit about respect was very thought provoking.

  8. JHunter says:

    This is a great idea, but can you really afford to pay the kid minimum wage? Where I live, that’s over $7 per hour.

    We’d probably would have more apprentices if there wasn’t a minimum wage. It’s too expensive to teach a kid and pay him to do menial work. That’s why gas pumpers don’t really exist anymore. It’s a job that’s probably worth $2/hour, but it’s illegal to pay that amount. So the job doesn’t exist anymore.

  9. Stephan says:

    great idea, and its very similar to what is practice in europe. The idea of really not doing any work beyond menial tasks until you graduate college is just ridiculous. Besides that, the goal of a student shouldnt be college. Way to many young adults only go to college because thats the normal thing for them to do, even if their interests dont require college. An apprenticeship for certain jobs would be a much better and cheaper way for young adults to enter the adult workforce.
    Preferred Financial Services

  10. lurker carl says:

    Unfortunately, few teenagers (or college graduates, for that matter) want an apprenticeship or to perform grunt work. Starting at the bottom rung of a professional career ladder isn’t glamorous, exciting or fulfill any passion career fantasies. Unless it’s an apprentice with The Donald as seen on TV.

    But the ones that have that industrious spirit are absolutely terrific. Best of luck with the search, both of you will learn a lot from the experience.

  11. Tom says:

    “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

    — Socrates ~ 400 BC

    People have always thought that kids were more polite in the past (or that x was better in the past) but the evidence usually suggests otherwise.

    Also, specialization has made it harder for individuals not doing something as their full-time jobs to contribute on a part-time basis. I work as an IT consultant (switching projects often) and it takes 1-2 weeks of working on a project full-time before anyone can contribute anything of use. 5 or 10 hours a week is simply not enough time to understand a complex system so that you can improve it.

  12. Ellen says:

    Our county education office funds a project that provides this type of program through a grant. The county pays a nominal hourly rate to the student; the organization they work for gets a young worker for up to 20 hours a month. Our local school district also has career-track programs in which students to attend school half a day & then work in a related field the other half day. So, I guess I agree it’s a good idea, but not that it’s anything novel or hasn’t been tried before.

    One thing that might make it more attractive to the students is not calling it “grunt work”!

  13. imelda says:

    Trent, I didn’t read all of that “nerd” essay. But I read a decent chunk of it, and I had to roll my eyes. Children who suffer from a lack of friends or popularity or whatever are not “concerned” with being smart. Most of them, I hate to say it, simply have little else to fall back on in school. Plenty of popular kids also want to achieve great things and also get good grades.

    The crux of that guy’s argument is that it takes skilled effort to be popular at school. This is certainly true. It’s also true, as he says, that many popular kids were raised by guardians who taught them those skills by example. But to say that a “nerd” could become a “popular” kid if only he tried hard enough is silly. He’s a nerd because he doesn’t know how to try. He has no idea what skills would lead to popularity, or how to learn them; he can only observe the results of those skills in use.

    It’s very different from, say, the workplace, where it takes very little effort to be “popular” (and where popularity means something very different). As an adult you can read a book about ‘how to win friends and influence people’ or whatever, and as long as you follow those tips and get practice conversing, and make an effort to talk pleasantly to other people, they’ll probably like you. It’s different for kids. I don’t know why, maybe because being at school is a much more intimate group social experience than anything we experience as adults (unless you’re, like, living in a commune), but teenagers have to have a much deeper and innate sense of social psychology, relatively speaking (for their age group), than adults do. Simply put, they’ve got to pony up more.

    All this said, I’ve actually gone back and read a little more of the essay, and he does make some great points. In particular, his point that the social construct of high school really serves no purpose, so teenagers are “idle” and therefore, well, crazy. I think there’s actually some truth to that; and that does connect back to the point of your post. But I object to his initial claims that “nerds just don’t want to be popular badly enough”. Tell that to the columbine kids.

    PS—I think it’s awesome that you’re planning to take on a high schooler interested in writing as an apprentice, especially a paid one. What a great opportunity.

  14. Johanna says:

    A lot of interesting ideas here.

    1. It is worth noting that in pre-industrial times (as far as I understand it, anyway), there weren’t a whole lot of people chasing their dreams. You became, say, a grocer’s apprentice not because you dreamed of being a grocer, but because that was the position you could get with your social standing and connections. If teenagers choose apprenticeships based on their dreams, some positions are going to be in far greater demand than others. Maybe that’s a good thing.

    2. This is a tangent, but if you’re talking about tensions between teenagers and adults, I think car dependence has a lot to do with that. There’s a period of several years where a teenager desperately wants and can handle some degree of independence (at the very least, the ability to stay after school to participate in those extra-curricular activities), but unless she lives in a town that’s walkable or has good public transit, she’s completely dependent on adults for transportation. At least, that was a big source of tension between my parents and me, and I’ve heard of similar experiences from other people too.

    3. I hope you’ll do a follow-up post on how the apprenticeship works out for you. And I hope your apprentice can proofread your posts. :)

  15. Zillion says:

    I agree with you that giving kids jobs is a great thing.

    I worked at a bike store every Summer from the time I was 11 until I was 16. I started out getting paid $2.50/hour and, despite being way below the minimum wage, it was more money than I’d ever seen. I had money for spending on things I was interested in, plus I had an enormous sense of pride in having a job.

    Child labor laws will likely be a problem, as are minimum wage laws. I can’t encourage you to break the law, but it is pretty ridiculous.

    You might be interested to read this essay titled “Everything I Want to do is Illegal” (http://www.mindfully.org/Farm/2003/Everything-Is-Illegal1esp03.htm).

  16. David says:

    Here, in Brazil, the apprenticeship is a program of all universities, and the undergraduates must have at least 60 hours in apprenticeship in career they choose to get their diploma (nursering, civil engineering, teaching etc).
    For teenagers in high school (here, ensino médio) there are oportunities to teens to learn some basics in what career they have some interest. It’s called “Menor Aprendiz”, in free translation “little apprentice”. In both cases, the apprenticeship it’s paid.
    The apprenticeship usualy takes 4~6 hours a day, 5 days a week, but cannot disturb the school.

  17. Colin says:

    First, why stop with teenagers?

    @2 George: “…12-year-olds exposed to the hazards of being an electrician apprentice…”

    Ignoring your straw man of using patently hazardous jobs as an argument against apprenticing, my grandpa was an electrician who started teaching me when I was probably about 12 or 13. [Residential really isn’t that dangerous compared to commercial or industrial.] If you are *that* paranoid about danger then I strongly recommend you don’t drive a car.

    When I started college I started as a computer engineering major and then I *added* electrical engineering mostly because of my experience of being an electrician. I’ve never made a buck being an electrician but it is an exceptional skill and knowledge base to have considering electricity dominates our lives.

    I would readily teach a teenager electrical basics. Would I put them up on a pole as a lineman: no. Would I put them on 430V motors: no. Would I give then an outlet or switch to wire up: absolutely.

  18. Michelle says:

    I think this is a great idea! Now I’m thinking I may see if one of the young ladies at church is interested in learning to sew. I can teach her how to hem pants (my least favorite alteration) so she can hem a couple pairs a week for me, and then I’ll teach her how to make more interesting clothes. This just might work…

  19. Beth says:

    I can personally attest to the value of such a thing. My high school required us to complete three internships (or one semester-long internship and one year-long internship) and had a very large list built up of community partners and organizations that would take you on. (Unpaid, unlike your scenario, which is probably much more realistic in many cases.)

    A lot of kids didn’t take it seriously, so maybe it’s not for everyone. I did, and many of the lessons I learned about the way I like to work and the kinds of things I like to work with (and don’t) came directly from those internships. I’m currently pursuing a career in museum/public history work, and an internship at the city archives did a lot to spur that interest.

  20. C Bennett says:

    Many high schools are implementing “Senior Projects” which can serve the purpose you describe. In CT, I think the Senior Project will be mandatory soon. There is no pay involved – it’s a prerequisite of graduation. One student worked under a physical trainer and helped teach exercises at a fitness center; another helped run a daycare. As a music teacher, I had a student take a song through the preparation process: He selected an appropriate song for the group, taught it, and then conducted it at a performance. It’s extremely valuable, and I hope all high schools adopt it soon.

  21. Laura in Seattle says:

    Trent, this sounds like a great idea to me. Keep us posted on how your apprentice search works out!

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of 8. At sixteen, I decided I wanted to be the next Stephen King. I would have LEAPED at the chance to apprentice with a working writer in high school. My college classes all covered either literary criticism & analysis or writing technique. Only ONE class had a professor who discussed how to submit to professional magazines, how to set up your manuscript, where to find venues and professional groups.

  22. Laura in Seattle says:

    My point being that high school and college are excellent at teaching you how to do the work, but mostly lousy at putting it in the larger context of the working world.

  23. Dean says:

    #8 imelda

    There’s a difference between getting good grades at school and being a nerd.

  24. J says:

    I have worked since I was about 14 or 15 doing these “menial jobs”, as well as participated in extracurricular activities, clubs and an internship in college. Each position was an experience, some better experiences than others. I now work professionally and have been involved in not only hiring full time people, but also interns. From being on the other side of the desk now, I realize how much toil goes into getting an internship going, before you even find the person you are going to mentor. First, you will be inundated with resumes or applications. Second, you will have to interview the candidates for the position. Third, you will need to actually go through the mechanics of paying them correctly. Not to mention that the school will also likely require a background check of you, as well. This is even before you get to the training and work aspect of the job — which will, especially at the beginning, be an entirely non-trivial amount of work and training on your part. Not to mention working in the scheduling of this young person, working around their vacations, sicknesses, school projects and so on. For an idea of what you are getting into, read up on “The Mythical Man Month”.

    The attached essay seems like a lot of navel-gazing, overanalysis and “boy things were better back in the day”. The truth is, a child today has opportunities out the wazoo to do many of the things you mention already without reverting to some old notion of “I’m doing what my father does and what my grandfather does”. I’m very glad that I didn’t have to follow in my father’s footsteps and was able to select my own path! I’m also glad I was able to have time to develop my own skills in my own free time, as well as participate in extracurriculars of my own choosing.

    Want to start a blog? It takes all of 30 seconds to create one, and it’s free. Tell your friends about it at school, and even your entirely uncool parents, and maybe they will read it, and critique you. Of course, most teens think blogs are for old people, so they may just want to work on making better tweets. I’m also guessing that the school likely has a newspaper/website and yearbook that are places to learn writing, right where they go to school everyday! Teachers they already know serve as the mentors, not to mention getting peer recognition and learning leadership skills.

    As for the park ranger, the teen need only make a phone call or look up a website. Parks departments tend to be woefully underfunded and rely a lot on volunteers, so the mentorship here likely comes under some volunteer program. Not to mention, of course, the number of “green” organizations that are always looking for people to do stuff.

    It seems most sports teams already have a “assistant manager” position. Unpaid, of course, but it’s there.

    An assistant to an administrative assistant just seems a bit funny. Plus, in an era where most office workers have their own PC and are expected to know how to use it, administrative assistant is a career path that is just shrinking. In every organization I’ve worked in since college, the admin work is pushed onto the professional people.

    For the graphic design apprentice, there are professional, college-educated people looking for exposure who will do that work for free. Vis a vis “The Simple Dollar Artists”. They traded their skills for essentially ad placement on your site. The good news here, though, is that the tools for graphic design are relatively cheap (some even Open Source) and education in how to use them is fairly ubiquitous. I can sign up for a Photoshop class at my community college for short money.

    We also live in an era of tremendous connectivity, and teenagers are connected to the Internet in ways that us old farts can’t even imagine. Pre-internet, things were harder to discover. Peers were hard to find. Now, with Facebook and mySpace and Twitter, you can be literally clicks away from peers, mentors and other people like you.

    So I do salute you for looking to mentor a young writer — I’m sure they will enjoy the experience. I do think that you will find that it will involve a lot more work than you expect. I’d also argue that the situation is not as bleak as you present it to be — there are plenty of opportunities out there for a motivated young person to take advantage of, in pretty much any field.

    Of course, the “motivation” part is something you can’t really put into someone, but that’s entirely independent of the availability of interesting things for teenagers to do.

  25. kiki says:

    Hmmm, great idea…though I think you’d be hard pressed to find enough teenagers who have *any* clue what they want to do in order to fill the program…

    I think there’s already too much pressure on high school kids to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Let them get out and explore a little!!

  26. wanzman says:

    I liked the essay.

    I think one major thing that has happened, is that the US economy has shifted away from being an actual production economy, to a so called “service based” economy.

    What that really means is, we really just create jobs in the US that actually don’t do anything. Therefore, it would hard to teach an apprentice how to do most of the jobs in the US, because at most jobs in the US, nothing really gets done. Mostly, paper just gets shuffled, and somehow a slice of profit is extracted from the consumer.

    Its like the Goldman Sachs hearing currently going on in Congress. They created some financial product that had no use and no backing, sold it to investors, shorted said investment themselves, and made a killing. Nothing was really created, but someone huge profits were realized.

    The fact is, the US economy is really just one giant casino, and we are too embarrassed to teach this to children at an early age, so we send them to school to learn useless crap.

  27. Heather says:

    So…. I don’t suppose this apprentice deal would be offered to an almost-40-stay-at-home-mom, huh?

    :>)) LOL

    Great idea for a kid who’s actually interested in learning something. They’re out there.

  28. Sarah says:

    I disagree with the article. I was smart, a nerd, and very popular at my high school. I was homecoming princess!

    Also, I think the author of the “Why Nerds are Unpopular” article is really using a superficial construct of “smart” that doesn’t accurately capture the mix of work-ethic, natural curiosity, brightness, and motivation that truly characterizes those of us that not only have IQ’s but actually use them! Many of the people with the best grades ended up not even finishing college due to lack of motivation and street-smarts (as my parents used to call it!)

    As far the apprenticeships, I’ve done several. I’m not sure what makes this analysis novel. Also, like some of the other commentators, I feel the author is portraying an overly rosy perspective on the historical apprentice system.

    My apprenticeships and my jobs all helped me pick a field where I am fairly compensated, have lots of opportunities for intellectual challenge, and have a great work-life balance. If I hadn’t had them, I’d have picked a sub-optimal profession.

  29. J says:

    @wantzman — it might surprise you to know that the United States is the world’s largest economy. Among other superlatives, the US:

    – leads the world in food exports
    – is the largest manufacturer
    – has the largest stock exchange
    – has the best higher education system in the world
    – has relatively low taxation
    – has few barriers to budding entrepreneurs
    – has a society that’s relatively law-abiding
    – our government is relatively free of corruption

    We also have one state (California) that *alone* is the seventh largest economy in the world. The US consistently has a low unemployment rate (versus the remainder of the world), and people from all over the world immigrate here in droves to fill job openings.

    Sure, there are things *wrong* with the US economy. We consume energy like no one else. We have a trade deficit. We have an enormous national debt. We are printing money and diluting the power of our currency. We have entitlement programs that aren’t properly funded. And so on and so forth. There are many, many things wrong and many things that need to be improved.

    But to say that the US is just filled with jobs where nothing happens is just not borne out by the actual facts.

  30. jim says:

    Yeah I think more programs to get teenagers involved in some sort of career path earlier is a good idea.

    When I was in high school over 20 years ago we had a track for kids interested in jobs that didn’t require college. They’d spend half the day doing classwork related to the job field. I wasn’t too familiar with it at the time but I know they had a program for auto mechanics.

    In the city I live one of the high schools has a special program to train kids in a skilled construction trade. After high school those kids are very well prepared for the actual journeyman apprentice program.

    My company employs some high school interns. Pretty good way for a kid to get some early practical work experience.

  31. Tom says:

    @wanzman Not that I’m standing up for Goldman but they didn’t create nothing. The instruments they sold lead to the building of millions of homes. Unfortunately they were then sold to people who couldn’t afford them.

  32. J says:

    Maybe your apprentice could watch the moderation queue ……

  33. Brent says:

    A major change away from apprenticeships has happened because there is a minimum amount of knowledge and skills before someone can do anything other than “grunt work”. If I as a computer scientist started being an apprentice without knowing how to formally prove something or decode a logic statement too much of the mentors time would be spent instructing or handing over a book. Its just not efficient. We’ve moved up and it takes more education to reach the base level now. The only way to make that shorter is by requiring less. But I think with everyone living longer we can spend more time in school, it makes more sense. But I’d rather see retirees encouraged to teach.

  34. stacey says:

    I think this a great idea and I have seen it work. My 18yr old daughter started working for an eye surgeon when she was 16. He asked her to work 2 to 3 mornings a week taking patient histories and running diagnostic tests on their eyes. She has learned how to interact very well with people of all ages. Having the opportunity to work in the health care field BEFORE she has spent thousand of dollars in college has been wonderful! She know what she would like to do without wasting time and money and changing majors like the majority of college students today!

  35. a says:

    many colleges and universities utilize the internship or co-op models to help students gain experience and credibility prior to graduation. the concept of portfolios as assessment for learning is also becoming very popular. paid internships will likely tip off child labor problems (depending on your state) but working with your local school to integrate this experience into an existing course or program could be smoother sailing for all. practical experience is crucial in the modern job market. many organizations don’t care if you went to school, where you went to school, or what you studied – they want to know what you’re capable of doing for them.

  36. Aubrey says:

    I had a lot of apprenticeships with horse trainers when I was younger (starting around the age of 10), and I can’t speak highly enough about the concept. I developed close relationships with adults whom I admired, and a strong appreciation for true competence. Plus, I learned skills that have not only paid the bills at times, but will continue to serve me in other facets of my life.

    I think your idea of taking on an apprentice is wonderful, and I hope that it goes well for you.

  37. chacha1 says:

    I agree with Brent – let’s get some retirees into the classroom – and make the teaching income exempt from social security income penalties. :-)

    While I have no interest in reading an essay about nerds and popularity, the segment quoted was provocative. And I think our teenagers would benefit greatly from being given more to do.

    Kids like to know things and like to have skills; they like to be involved; they like to feel competent; they like to feel they are contributing. This gets beaten out of a lot of kids by around age 12, in part due to our very non-participatory model of public education.

    Apprenticeship would be a good thing to go back to, bearing in mind it is still the parents’ responsibility to find opportunities for their kids.

  38. Niki says:

    My oldest son walked into the local taxidermy one day when he was 14 and asked for a job. He started out sweeping the floor and doing the “grunt” work. The owner took him on as an apprentice. Today, at 17, he’s a well-trained taxidermist. I let him graduate early (we homeschool) because he already has a trade, knows what he wants to do, and has gleaned skills and experience he wouldn’t learn at home from a textbook or in a class at school. Apprenticeship is a missing component in the American economy, and part of the reason so many of the skilled trades are lacking.

  39. idont says:

    Apprenticeship are really common in Germany and Switzerland. In Switzerland, most of the kids do an apprenticeship.
    They start at 16 years old. For “technical” jobs, it take usually 4 year and 3 years for “commercial” jobs.
    After the apprenticeship, they usually take more lessons to improve their academic skills.

    They work a certain number of day per week (it depends of the sector) and the rest is spend in class rooms where they learn the theory and other more academic stuff.

    They are paid for learning (in Switzerland) from 5200 USD to 19500 USD per year depending of the sector and the number of years of experience. He has 6 weeks holidays.

    Almost all the sectors have apprenticeship: from the banks, seller in a shop, chemical industry, house builders, etc.

    All the partners are winning:
    – Kids: they learn a real job (!), they get some money independance (they do not need to sell illegal stuff to have some money), they understand what working is, etc.
    – Companies: they can give “lower qualification” tasks to new apprentices (No need to underpay some poor adult.) Do not worry, the apprentice get rewared by having better tasks (and salary increase) when he gets more independant in his tasks.
    – Society: cheap way to have qualified population (it is partially paid by the company!)

    But it is not all clean:
    – The law needs to be really strict to protect against abuse. (But 99% of my friends had no issue)
    – For management jobs, it is usually needed to take lessons when they are older.
    – Even if they can work for 1 or 2 weeks to “check if they would love that work” before starting an apprenticeship, it is hard for the kids to know what they want to do for a living at 16 (Many shows are organised to promote them sectors of activity).

  40. imelda says:

    @Dean (#15): Read the essay!

  41. Leah says:

    1) In high school, I participated in the FIRST program (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology). About 25 high school students got to hang out with about 25 engineers four days a week. We designed & built a robot to take to competitions around the country. I learned a lot. Of course, then I got a BA in Journalism, an MA in Communication, and a JD (in just two more weeks). So I didn’t actually use any of the engineering knowledge I gained, but it was cool, nonetheless.

    2) Trent: A message from your friendly neighborhood law student — before you hire an apprentice (or any employee for that matter), please consult an attorney and an accountant.

  42. jgonzales says:

    My high school had a similar program to what you describe.

    In my senior year of high school I landed in the program because the course I wanted to take (Advanced Word Processing) to upgrade my skills for my part time job in an office was canceled. The guidance counselor asked me why I wanted the course and pushed me into this instead. It was a complete overview of many office programs and procedures. I spent 2 hours of my morning classes doing the learning portion, 2 hours in the final mandatory classes to graduate and the afternoon at my job.

    Sometimes I regret not staying in school full time, but only because I decided to go to college a few years later and was short a math credit (which was not mandatory) for most colleges. Overall, I learned a lot and I knew what how offices worked. Plus, the particular company I worked for is in a field that always needs qualified people (Title Insurance) so even though it’s been a decade since I worked for them, I still get calls asking to interview for similar positions.

  43. Meghan says:

    My husband (a software programmer) took on a High School Freshman 3 1/2 years ago in an “apprentice-like” situation. In the beginning it was voluntary on the part of the high-schooler, a necessity only because of how much time my husband invested into him. People thought it was crazy- here’s a guy, who’s already pretty overworked, spending more valuable hours teaching a kid how to “play around on a computer”.

    But it has turned out so well for everyone. He switched to homeschooling for his senior year, and does online classes in the morning and works for my husband (for a very good wage) in the afternoons. Doing real programming too, not just errands and such. Although we pay him very well, it is still less then we would pay a more experienced programmer, and because my husband trained him personally, they’re very productive together, they know how the other one codes, and can work on projects simultaneously.

    He is actually so much of a help that I was able to quit working at the business altogether and start up my own business (doing what I really wanted to be doing all along).

    He also got into a great college, for programming, and mostly because of the portfolio of work he’s built over the last 3 1/2 years, he’s received some amazing scholarships. Fortunately for us, his college is local, so we can keep him on part time for at least another 4 years (and we’re of course hoping to put in a nice lucrative employment offer once he graduates, although we’ll understand if he wants to try something new, or work for a larger company at that point).

    Anyway, apprenticeships can work out great for everyone!I am a huge fan, and now that I’m running my own business, have just taken on my own high school “assistant”.

  44. trish says:

    Trent, this is one of the best articles I have read in The Simple Dollar.

    It is so sad that in so many instances, the skills that are learned in high school are not applicable in the ‘real world’. Apprenticeships were a great idea once and definitely could be again.

    Keep on writing innovative articles! Blessing on you and your family.

  45. Brittany says:

    I agree that, while not a novel idea, this is a sound idea, and is the direction our educational system should be heading. I work for an organization called Citizen Schools which does apprenticeship-based programming for low-income middle schoolers after school. It’s really neat. Kids learn best when they can see why they’re doing something and can see the effects of their actions. Apprenticeships make learning far more relevant than classroom lectures.

  46. Deborah says:

    Finding useful work for teens may not require a formal apprenticeship. Currently, my family volunteers with the National Park Service several times a week. We work as living history interpreters. This has allowed my children to learn new skills, to learn how to relate to a vast pool of people, and to learn how to deal with office politics (or more accurately, how to stay out of office politics!). Their work is seen as valuable, and much appreciated. They are often complimented by the adults they work with (which really boosts their self-worth).

    Two of my teens trained as volunteer firefighters and EMT’s. They started volunteering as young as the local department allowed, and became accredited firefighters and EMT’s while still in their teen years. Their contributions to the community are invaluable. One teen took his experience and training into the military, another is attending college with the plan to become a doctor.

    Not formal apprenticeships, but these experiences are good training for them. They have learned valuable skills, and are more in touch with what they want to do with the rest of their lives. They have contributed to our community.

  47. Camille says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never seen this essay before. Thank you for sharing it! I’m interested in Imelda’s reaction that nerd-ism isn’t a condition curable by effort, that, “He’s a nerd because he doesn’t know how to try.” Drawing on my own experience, I’d say that this might be true of many “unpopular kids,” but all unpopular kids are not nerds. In my high school, we nerds actively rejected the principles of popularity. I remember grousing to my circle of nerd friends that the popular girls were all interested in clothes, and makeup, and who was dating whom…how incredibly boring and pointless! We identified the things that made the popular girls popular, but we had no interest in pursuing the same goals they did. Think about it — nerds are analytical. We can study human behavior just like anything else. Nerd kids do lack experience, of course, so it’s like being a pioneer in a scientific field — some of your hypotheses will be incorrect. That is, unless you are lucky enough to come across another scientist’s research to give you a head start. I did in fact read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” when I was in middle school. I don’t think I realized for many years what a godsend it was to me. That primer on social skills changed my life in ways I didn’t realize until much later.

  48. Mary says:

    I think this is a great idea. I taught middle school for 8 years and I think all of my students would have benefitted from something like this.

  49. Jen says:

    To me, it sounds like you’re talking about a paid internship. And oh, what a can of worms (good and bad) those are.

  50. Susan says:

    “But to say that a “nerd” could become a “popular” kid if only he tried hard enough is silly.”
    Actually _I_ did just that. I grew up too smart, and not pretty with parents ill equipped to teach me any social skills. My life was VERY nerdy and miserable until I discovered an old, yellowed copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Make friends and influence People”. Changed my life.
    That book taught me the basics about how to make friends, I worked hard and lost weight…and ended up not only popular in high school, but nominated for homecoming queen. If you are smart enough to program your VCR and can learn how to pick up social cues, you’re smart enough to have friends. Period.
    I think every smart parent should require their high school/college age kids to spend their summers working in career fields they are interested in. Like I tell my niece and nephews, since you spend the most time with your coworkers, and you become like the people you spend time with….make sure you LIKE the people in that field before you go into it!!

  51. dragev says:

    I think apprenticeship/mentoring should be a big part of a person’s education, no matter the chosen vocation (whether its a “trade”, “profession”, or whatever). I don’t agree with the idea that the kids should be in school all day and then, instead of pursuing other interests, get involved with an apprenticeship. No, the apprenticeship/mentoring should be part of the regular “school” day when our children enter the teens and are ready to start the transition to adulthood.

  52. Kai says:

    Michelle (#12),
    Would you consider seeing if any of the young men at church are interested in learning to sew as well? It’s a useful life skill for all people, not just girls.

  53. Kai says:

    To those who have wondered, I think it *is* much like a co-op or work experience program – but those aren’t offered everywhere, and really aren’t promoted enough.

    As for the relationship between teenagers and adults, I think a big issue is perpetuation of the norm.

    Adults start to view teenagers as worthless, or worse, detrimental to society, and they don’t pay attention to those that don’t fit the mold. I remember being in high school and frustrated with never being taken seriously. If I expressed an opinion, it was derided as immature. If I disagreed with something, I was told I’d grow up and learn. There were very few opportunities to be involved in anything that was considered real and contributory, or people to take anything I said or did seriously.
    In that sort of environment, it’s very easy for the teen to retreat and deem adults unworthy of real interaction.

    Adults who want teens to be a useful part of society need to start treating them like humans.

  54. Laurie says:

    Some of the ideas contained in that essay are why I chose to homeschool. Most especially my sense that school, especially high school, is just a place to park teenage kids and pretend that they are learning until they are old enough to graduate to “real” life. No emphasis on learning any real life skills, and lack of any true testing of materials (by the majority of teachers) convinced me that HS was a joke. Luckily rather than rebelling, I [thought] I figured out how to navigate the system while obtaining stellar grades to maximize my opportunities once I got to the real world (which I considered to be college at that time so I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.)

    I found John Taylor Gatto’s book “The Underground History of American Education” to be a spectacular answer to why we are churning out mass produced “popular” kids.

  55. Sachin says:

    great very well explained specially “the five additional examples”…thanks

  56. Aaron says:

    I tried teaching public high school after being home schooled. It was eye-opening.

    My understanding is that our public education system was created so that people under 18 would have something to do once child labor laws were enacted. Perhaps by making it nearly illegal for teenagers to be productive, we have robbed them of of a key element of maturation.

  57. Mel says:

    @imelda (#8): I did read that essay in its entirety (a few months ago, in fact). And it rang completely true for me. Although I was never the top of the class and I was good at sports, I was (probably still am) the classic nerd – my nose is always in a book, I had maybe 1 or 2 friends, I didn’t and don’t know what’s ‘cool’.

    And why? Because I didn’t care. I recognised from an early age that I had a choice: be who *I* am, or be who everyone else thinks they should be. I chose to be me. That did mean I got teased (by stupid teachers as well as kids) and I didn’t have many friends. But it also gave me the chance to figure out who I actually am, and my friends liked me for *me*. That’s something I think is far more important than going to the cool kids’ party. (Incidentally, by the last year of school, the girls who were the worst to me actually turned out to be pretty nice people – once they’d grown up a bit and weren’t trying to impress everyone anymore)

    I still believe that I could’ve been popular if I had wanted to be. But that would’ve meant giving up things I felt were important, and I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice. I’m not saying it was an easy choice to make, but conscious or not, it *is* a choice.

    Since you mentioned them, I totally understand the Columbine kids. There were definitely days when it would’ve seemed like a reasonable thing to do (and the holes in my bedroom wall were testament to that). And yes – those kids made the same choice I did.

  58. I think the computer programmer apprenticeship would work for anyone, regardless of whether they wanted to get into that field or not.

    That would be information and skills that would stay with you forever.

  59. Carmen says:

    I think this is a great idea Trent and have already decided to try to help my children do something similar throughout their teenage years, even voluntarily for zero pay (I would even subsidise them if needs be) if it keeps them occupied, happy and learning about things that interest them.

  60. Chirol says:

    Granted I completely agree, this is not really an original idea. The education system in Germany is similar to your idea. Highschoolers do apprenticeships, most actually have to, after some time in school and later do half school half work. After graduation, most also get a job where they apprenticed and it’s a job with a solid contract, not the at will crap in the US.

  61. Lucy says:

    I think this is a great idea. But I worry that delegating and mentoring seems to be difficult work. At least, I’ve worked for some managers who didn’t really know how to do it. I imagine it would be a great learning experience for all involved.

    Personally I hated high school, and there was a time when I was about twelve where I wanted nothing more than to get a job and feel useful instead of just a burden all the time.

    I would have loved this, and would have certainly been up for grunt work! Where I lived it was illegal for someone to work until they were almost fifteen.

  62. Steffie says:

    One of the problems today is that society as a whole does not value ‘manual labor’ on the same level as ‘the go to college’ track in life. But the plumber/electrician/car mechanic makes a fortune off of the college people who look down on manual labor until their toilet blows up. Many people see ‘vocational’ training as second choice to college and for the ‘dumb’ kids. IMO the guy who can take apart an engine and put it back together is worth whatever he wants to charge. I am trying to teach my kids, both boy and girls, to do the basics of home repair, sewing, cooking etc so that they understand the mindset it takes to do manual labor. That way they will respect the plumber/electrician/car mechanic.

  63. Bob Souer says:


    I’m doing this very thing with my oldest son. Since he graduated from High School a couple of years ago he has been my apprentice in my voiceover business. He’s earning pretty decent money and the load of work he now takes on had made it possible for me to take on more work than I could have done without him, thus allow us to grow this business.

    Be well,

  64. Rachel D says:

    This is an excellent and thought provoking essay and post, thanks! I work as a special education teacher in an underfunded, largely dysfunctional high school and I struggle everyday to justify to my students, many of whom are well below average in IQ and have no intention of going to college, why they have to learn algebraic functions and read Shakespeare. Our work study program has been gutted and federal law says that all students must have “Standards Based” curriculum regardless of ability or interest. The problem described by the author is a problem for kids on the other side of spectrum as well and unlike the author my students don’t have a lot of the natural and cultural advantages that will help the succeed outside of school.

  65. Dave says:

    Where is the money coming from, it costs ten hours at minumium wage for five hours grunt work, and five hours masters wage for teaching someone that will most likely leave and work for the compation.
    Apprentices were paid next to nothing to start, then as they got some skills were paid acordingly. Now with all the laws it costs to much.

  66. Amanda B. says:

    I went to a HS designed for teenagers who wanted to go into the medical field. My Sr. year I spent a half day working as an apprentice for a hyperbaric oxygen unit, transitional care and in a research lab at UNT. It was very rewarding and showed me that I did NOT want to be a doctor. I don’t think the teen should expect to be paid if it is part of a training plan. I especially can’t believe you would pay them 10 hours of minimum wage for five hours of work.

  67. SwingCheese says:

    #36 – I completely agree! For some reason, it seems that the thinking at the school where I work is that we must prepare all children for college. The problem is that not all of the children I have contact with are college material. Some would benefit from waiting and working a few years before going to school. Some would benefit from learning a trade or skill they find interesting, and moving on from there.

    We are very, very against tracking in this country, and while I understand philosophically why this is the case, I don’t always agree with it. My husband was saying just the other day that he wished he would have had the opportunity to learn a trade through just this type of apprenticeship situation when he was in high school. He feels as though he wasted a lot of time before figuring out his interests, and wishes he had been more productive.

  68. Nick says:

    Trent, can’t you see the slippery slope here? If you open the door to apprenticeships all of our children will soon have deformed, crippled hands and then they’ll turn to the Tea Party! We’ve seen this before, Trent. I have a sneaking suspicion you stole it from Forbes.

  69. As someone who was intentionally mentored by his father and others, I can vouch for the fact that it works wonders.

    Some things are caught more than taught, and the only way to catch the idea is to be around people who know what they’re doing.

    Love this post.

  70. jane says:

    So you think the apprenticeship should pay “something around minimum wage.”

    First point: You can’t legally pay less than minimum wage, probably something that #24 Leah@5:46 knows when she suggested that you contact an attorney.

    Second point: Minimum wage legislation is a major factor in this whole situation: most young teenagers don’t have the skills to command $7.25 per hour (even higher in some states, see http://www.laborlawcenter.com/t-State-Minimum-Wage-Rates.aspx?gclid=CNCu_P6RrKECFUNJ5wodk30pEw for a list). Employers have to consider costs versus benefits when hiring resources, and can’t afford to hire young teens if they don’t bring at least $7.25 per hour of benefits to the job.If potential employers were allowed to hire teens at less than $7.25 then a lot more teenagers would be able to get jobs, including apprenticeships, and would gain the skills needed to be productive, feel like (and actually be) an active member of society, and move up the pay ladder.

    Third point: Minimum wage laws hurt inner-city, minority teens even more than they hurt suburban kids, both because the inner-city minority teens bring fewer skills to the labor market (for whatever reasons, including poor schools) and because suburban kids have more opportunities for unpaid internships. To level the playing field Congress is now trying to force firms to make ALL internships paid internships, rather than to level it by eliminating the minimum wage for youth. This will just lead to the unintended consequence that even more teens will become disaffected.

  71. This is a really great idea when properly used. I do know that alot of colleges do this now. For example, I had a friend going to school to become an engineer and they actually engineers from real companies come in on a certain day and train the students. If they saw good potential in one or two or more they would then bring them into a training program so that while the student is in college they also got a job with that firm (or company) and would utilize their newly learned skills there.

    Starting in highschool would be even better.

    I would like to comment on the Shris thought about being an apprentice to your parent…..yes that’s awesome for learning the life skills you’ll need outside of work (parenting, taking care of a house, cooking, etc) but that won’t help you professionally unless your parents train you in a profession.

  72. matt says:

    They have what they call ‘Career Track Education’ Programs in high schools. They are federally funded, though not every school would have one. This fills the apprenticeship void well i think. I did that in high school for CAD/CAM design, and graduated with a 3 year certification in addition to my degree. I looked into it and could have gotten a job right out of high school doing tool design, but instead went to college and got a degree in engineering (which was helped immensely by my previous CAD/CAM and machining experience i gained in high school). They also had programs in culinary arts, and small engine/auto repair at my school.

  73. Todd says:

    Let’s not forget that learning can be a goal in and of itself. I can speak only for myself, but I loved school. I came from a family that only saw value in activities that paid money. I am sure that I would have been forced into a program in a workplace if one existed. Sure, I was a nerd, but if it weren’t for the handful of smart and dedicated teachers I latched onto in h.s and college, I would never have been encouraged to study literature. My parents were furious and refused to pay for a degree studying literature. So I put myself through college and graduate school–and now I teach the study of literature.

    Of course it’s not “practical” in some people’s view, but there is value to things that society doesn’t consider “work.” School itself is supposed to be an apprenticeship for these kinds of things. Band and choir didn’t make me want a career in music, but I’m glad I learned to play and appreciate music. I never did anything with chemistry, but to this day I’m proud of my A in that class. Sports, art, clubs, marching band… I did many apprenticeships–it was just called studying and practicing.

    I realize, though, that this isn’t the experience of many kids, and for them I agree that other options would be great. I just don’t want to see anyone urged or forced into a workplace orientation at a young age, during–ideally–the years when kids should have the freedom to learn without the necessity of focusing on the workplace.

  74. Kai says:

    @ Todd (#43)
    Problem is, schools are often bad at teaching even learning for learning’s sake.
    They have a one-speed-fits-all policy, and children who learn the week’s lesson the first day have to sit back and wait for them to move on.
    They teach quick facts that can be easily tested, rather than emphasizing how to learn from aggregate sources, and how to parse a wealth of information for useful knowledge.
    They teach many opinions as fact, and encourage students to consider their instructors infallible educators, rather than teaching critical thinking and assessment.

    I do believe that learning is valuable in and of itself. I enjoy learning myself. But as a high school student, I did almost all my learning on my own time, from books and people and the study of things that interested me. Often while waiting for the math class to move on to something new and challenging. That challenge rarely came from school.

  75. sewingirl says:

    I had to laugh at the nerdisms in the essay. To some extent, I was certainly a nerd by those definitions. My two best friends in HS are still my best friends 30 years later, and the three of us have laughed for years at how the snobby, snarky , popular kids, who wouldn’t have given us the time of day, always say hello on the street. It took several years for them to realize that they weren’t really any better than anyone else. We three are living in paid for homes, with decent jobs, not millionaires, but we don’t want to be. Maybe we could have been more popular, and un-nerdy in school, we just didn’t care to be.

  76. SwingCheese says:


    It sounds like you had a bad experience in high school, and I certainly cannot speak of all high school teachers, but I try very hard to make sure that my students are not bored and are not simply memorizing facts by rote. I go out of my way to create assessments that require them to draw conclusions about the bigger picture from a wide variety of sources, let them know when I’m spouting opinion as opposed to fact (and from what information I’ve drawn my opinion), and encourage them to use critical thinking not just in my class, but in all their classes. I bristle at broadly swiped condemnation of the US school system. Most teachers I know try to meet these criteria, and often in an environment in which students and families don’t care about the context, they just want the “A”. I wonder if the schools have shaped society, or if society has shaped the schools.

  77. Todd says:


    Thanks for speaking up for teachers. I had some wonderful teachers at all levels of the educational system, and my kids did too. Sure, there were apathetic ones, but I often found that they were burned out by the kinds of “I just want the ‘A'” people you describe. Trent’s apprenticeship idea is good, but these good things can happen within schools as well.

    When faced with these teachers, I told my kids, “Just go up and ask them if there is additional reading you can do on this topic.” In almost every case the teacher was overjoyed at finding someone who actually wanted to learn.

    I had hoped more people would stand up for teachers. Of course there are “bad” high schools and teachers who aren’t doing their jobs well, but before issuing broad condemnation we as parents and citizens should look at our own responsibilities for helping to improve education.

  78. Kai says:

    @ Todd and SwingCheese
    It’s the system that is broken, not the teachers. There are some great teachers, some awful teachers, and many somewhere in between. I had some excellent teachers, and I know some excellent teachers.
    But a good teacher can only go so far in a system that is not designed to teach real knowledge. A great teacher can work around the system, but it only lasts as long as you have that one teacher. I went from doing grade five spelling in grade three, with an excellent teacher who pushed students from whatever level they were, to doing grade four spelling the next year. The teacher can only go so far around the school system.

    Kids must be at one level in all subjects, and they must go at a certain pace. You’re not allowed to skip kids, so the quicker ones get bored. Additional reading isn’t a solution – that’s just filling time. I usually had some other project of my own to fill time. What these kids need is to move on to more challenging things.
    On the other end of the scale, you aren’t allowed to fail kids, so a kid that completely doesn’t understand grade five math is passed into grade six, where they will continue to understand less and less, and be unable to keep up because they just need a slower pace to learn.

    You as a teacher might not be attempting to indoctrinate your students, but a good chunk of modern social studies is opinion. The textbooks alone, before a teacher has to say anything.

    You’re right about the push for the A. And it has led to testing as a measure of success, and incredible grade inflation – because everyone believes they are above average, and a B+ should be attained just for showing up and completing work.

    I’m not trying to say that teachers suck. I’m agreeing that the school system exists primarily as a way to keep kids occupied – not teach them real things, or prepare them for much of anything in life afterwards. The system is great at what it does, but what it does is not education.

    And actually, I’m broadly condemning the Canadian school system – I didn’t attend school in the States. But I’m not aware of many huge differences, so I guess I’m probably still condemning the American system with it.

  79. mitigateddisaster says:

    Trent are you familiar with the Spark Program? (it’s only California so far) Might find it interesting to read about what they are doing: http://sparkprogram.org/

  80. Alan S says:

    At 22 and just beginning to see the career possibilities in the field I am entering(environmental science), there is still a lot to learn and work at before I can attain a position with the major I’m working at. I still have at least 2 more years in school, not to mention I need to be certified in a number of industry standards and have experience to boot at a related job.

    My dad works for the energy business and there is a direct relation in what I want to accomplish career wise with what he does in the energy industry. I can’t help but think what advantage I’ve missed out on by being out on the loop on what my dad does for a living. There is a a TON I could of learned from him over the years to help me a long but instead I’m just now trying to learn everything on my own when he has the experience to teach me a number of things.

    I’ve decided to make sure my kids really know what I do for a living and make them a part of my career.

  81. margaret ann murphy says:

    This was such an AWESOME article! I have raised 3 daughters one is in London @ the University and one is on the east coast with her career and the youngest of my 3 daughters (who is mentally retarded) works full time for Martins. NOW I am raising 2 boys both are very bright and both are L.D. The apprentiship program SAVED my oldest boy!! I am now trying to get the younger son into this type of program. Both of my older daughters apprenticed while they were in collage.
    But not evetryone wants or needs to go to colllage. So I see a real need to open up more apprentice programs at a much earliar grade.
    Thank You for reprinting Paul Grahams article. I love The Simple Dollar!!!!

  82. Todd says:


    A good response. I understand better what your argument is now. Thanks.

  83. SwingCheese says:


    It’s interesting to me that I assumed you were intending the US school system, and yet, you were referring to the Canadian one. I understand your point of view, and you make some very valid points. I’m not in disagreement with your assessment of the Canadian (or American) school system – there are many things that need work, I agree. I also believe that the system as it is set up is one of the reasons so many gifted teachers burn out so quickly.

  84. Jennifer says:

    These sorts of opportunities exist. I graduated from college almost 8 years ago now but I did similar things. I worked for CalTrans (CA Dept of Transportation) for their summer internship program (paid well) and learned I did not want to be an engineer. But a drainage ditch I designed on a road project exists somewhere. I worked in a couple psychology labs for professors through the last 3 years of college. The official rule there was that if you were a paid employee you did grunt work but if you were only earning credits it was supposed to be a learning experience. I did also work in retail in high school & college, but I still viewed that as a learning experience. I think things like counting change correctly is an important skill as is being really fast at 10 key. And just knowing how a business runs–inventory, stocking, etc. All reasons why I wish I had worked in a professional kitchen at some point.

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