Why Apprenticeships and Vocational Training are Key to Sustaining Excellence in the Auto Industry

While some may be familiar with the term apprentice by the popular television show launched by Donald Trump in 2004, its roots have proven much more significant throughout history in ensuring knowledge is passed along to the next generation of workers. Since the Middle Ages, apprenticeships have served valuable roles in teaching the skills learned by master craftsmen over decades of work so that services can be maintained and improved upon.

What does this have to do with the auto industry you might ask?  Plenty, actually.  Two of the biggest concerns we hear about from customers all over the globe are the shortage of skilled technicians and the escalating costs and scarcity of quality hands-on training.  A training program that incorporates both vocational learning with a formal apprenticeship program can help solve both of these problems and ensure that there is a competent line of succession as the current work force heads towards retirement.

There are different components to vocational training.  Programs can incorporate elements of academics (such as math, reading, analytical skills and advanced electronics), as well as technical and hands-on training. Whereas some other training programs rely solely upon classroom study, vocational training allows students to apply lessons learned in real-world settings and situations.  This mix of academic and on-the-job training has proven to produce technicians who are better prepared to step into full-time roles upon completion of their training programs.

Building upon vocational training, apprenticeships are a valuable asset in maintaining a competitive workforce and the benefits to the employers are also significant. Through these programs– sometimes a partnership between an educational institution and a corporation– students hone their skills under the watchful eye of master technicians with decades of experience. As a result, employers realize fewer mistakes, experience shorter ramp-up times and have more efficient operations when bringing on new employees.  In addition, graduates of apprentice programs tend to also exhibit greater company loyalty and are less likely to abandon the positions they have been trained for.

Some of the most famous figures in history, such as Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere, have served in the roles of apprentice and master, learning and passing along knowledge which can only be gained by years of honing one’s craft.  When it comes to applying these principles to the automotive industry I am reminded of a story of a young man who left his family’s farm at the age of seventeen and moved to Detroit to become an apprentice machinist. Two years later he had completed his apprenticeship and had become a certified machinist. Using this knowledge and experience he went on to develop the Model T automobile, revolutionizing transportation. Of course, that young man was Henry Ford.