An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study says apprenticeship programmes are major drivers of improved social and economic development across the world.
The new IDB study — Apprenticeships for the XXI Century: A Model for Latin America and the Caribbean — debunked the notion that apprenticeships are based on outdated workforce methods and are an inferior means to build a successful career in today’s labour market.
Based on data gathered from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States — where apprenticeships are in advanced stages in many companies and highly valued for their economic returns — the IDB study provided a strong framework to inform Jamaican policymakers and to strengthen a national apprenticeship programme in Jamaica.
IDB Caribbean Country Department General Manager Therese Turner-Jones emphasized that the apprenticeship model is for “young people looking for opportunities to unleash their potential and find their career pathways”. Turner-Jones said Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands report low levels of youth unemployment and narrow skills gaps, thereby allowing for a smooth transition from high school into the world of work. Given that Jamaica’s high youth unemployment rate is closely related to other social and economic ills, effective apprenticeship programmes in Jamaica could be immensely beneficial in addressing these challenges, the IDB head said.
Turner-Jones was speaking at the opening of a recent labour market forum, which was hosted at the Spanish Court Hotel by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, in collaboration with the IDB and HEART Trust/NTA. The forum, which included a workshop, panel session and presentations on the UK and Germany apprenticeship models, served to foster dialogue, elaboration and engagement among critical stakeholders with a view to expanding and strengthening apprenticeships in Jamaica.
The IDB study, which outlined 10 core elements of successful apprenticeships, suggested that they are an attractive means to addressing unemployment and stimulating growth in the region by their inherent characteristics.
Apprenticeships are defined by firstly being jobs; jobs in which apprentices are paid wages or stipends. There also exists a contract with rights and responsibilities for both the apprentice and the employer. They also feature a combination of off-and on-the-job training where there is a predefined and structured learning plan, the components and contents of which complement each other for off the job and on the job trainings. Also, there is an industry-recognised certification, and this is a critical part of the programme, as it becomes a seal of approval for competence and promotes the portability of skills for apprentices.
Recognising the high social and economic benefits that apprenticeships can yield, Jamaica has committed to the strengthening and expansion of the apprenticeships as prioritised under its 2015-2018 medium-term socio-economic policy framework and aligns to targets outlined under Goal 8 of the Global Sustainable Development Goals to substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training and achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people.
The IDB’s Turner-Jones said that to close this skills gap in the country, the private sector has a prominent role to play in the success of an apprenticeship programme in Jamaica.
She referenced data indicating the substantial gains received by companies with apprenticeships, noting that of those surveyed from countries worldwide, 81 percent of employers are satisfied with their apprenticeship programmes, 84 percent would recommend apprentices to other employers, and 68 percent have seen improved productivity. The return on investment for employers was furthermore shown to be an overwhelming 12 to one for employers; that is, for every dollar invested, there is a $12 return to companies with apprenticeships, according to Carmen Pages, labour markets division chief at the IDB.
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