Web Exclusive: Learning on the job, instead of the classroom

Web Exclusive

(CNN) - When most of us hear the term "apprentice," we think of manual labor jobs.  A new model is turning college graduates into apprentices.

Graduation Day and finding a great job is the American dream, but for too many college graduates, it's a different reality.  An average $27,000 dollars in debt when they leave college, and a job market where one in every seven can't find full-time work.

But there's a new model that could change the way students learn the skills they need to make it in the work world.  It's a little less Ferris Bueller and hopefully a little more Carter Duryea.

It is where future 26-year-old bosses are currently learning the skills they need to be successful, not in a college classroom, but on the job.

Working 40 hours a week in New York City as part of a pilot program for Enstitute, a non-profit that co-founders Shaila Ittycheria and Kane Sarhan think can change how students get the skills employers need, not only on college campuses, but through full-time, on-the-job apprenticeships.

"It focused on skills, both business skills and technical skills, so they can learn a coding language, they learn ops, and then they also learn marketing, biz development, sales tactics, strategies, they go to talks," says Shaila Ittycheria, Co-founder, Enstitute. "It is about taking whatever they learn and putting it into real life scenarios," says Kane Sarhan, Co-founder Enstitute.


The first class has 11 participants, chosen from a pool of 500 applicants, living together in a 36-hundred square foot loft.  Weezie Yancey-Siegel is one of them and brings a unique perspective.  She spent a year and a half at a Southern California College, costing $58,000 dollars a year before deciding it wasn't for her. She now apprentices at Flavorpill, a digital media company, getting paid minimum wage.

"In school, you have a teacher that tells you here is what I need, here is when I need it by and if you need help come talk to me. As an apprentice, I do a lot of scheduling and assisting, but I also get to see what's happening in different departments by working on different projects and campaigns," says Weezie Yancey-Siegel, apprentice.

So what's in it for Flavorpill?  According to Weezie's boss/mentor Sasha Lewis:  "The benefit that we're getting from the apprenticeship concept is that it's a longer term relationship, there's a deeper commitment, as opposed to an internship."

Apprenticeships are hardly a new concept. There are 358,000 registered apprentices in the U.S., but the majority of those are in traditional skill trades like electricians, carpentry and plumbing.  If Enstitute's push into innovative new industries is successful, it could help make apprenticeships an attractive alternative to college.

"We've been trying the pure college route for decades and we have not gotten good results," says Robert Lerman, Prof. of Economics, American Univ

For Weezie and for Flavorpill, the apprenticeship has paid off.

"Weezie would definitely have a full-time job here if and when that opportunity becomes available for the both of us," says Lewis.


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