Apprenticeships: Benefits and Drawbacks

April 15, 2015
Year On TeamFuture of Work

Original post by Jean Fan

People who criticize the mass education system often point to the apprenticeship model as an ideal. In many ways, it’s, in fact, a lot better. In some ways, it’s worse.

Historically, apprenticeships have been a way for young people to gain skills from a master craftsman, by working under them for five to ten years. The modern-day apprenticeship, however, may span different jobs and internships. We see apprenticeships gaining popularity with programs like Enstitute and the University of Waterloo’s co-op education.

An apprenticeship offers a number of desirable things, depending on what you value and prefer:

1. One-to-one mentorship.

Benefit: One-to-one mentorship allows you to form an emotional bond with your teacher, who will then give you emotional support and encouragement. This will likely motivate you to try harder in your work.

Drawback: This is only effective if you like and are liked by your teacher. If this is not the case, you will have a highly uncomfortable experience, and the apprenticeship will probably be ineffective.

2. An individualized curriculum.

Benefit: An apprenticeship allows you to learn at a pace and progression that makes sense for you.

Drawback: The quality of the curriculum depends heavily on your mentor. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for you to evaluate the merits of someone older and wiser than you.

3. A curriculum that is highly relevant to your future work.

Benefit: By gaining knowledge that you know is useful, you will be more motivated to learn, and spend less time having an existential crisis because you know that you’re wasting your time.

Drawback: You have less time to learn about things just because they interest you because you’ll be focused on learning about things that relate to your work.

4. A greater chance of mastering a specific skill.

Benefit: By mastering a specific skill, you’re able to add significantly more value to the world. You also gain an advantage over your peers in terms of job security and work experience.

Drawback: Because you are choosing a skill to master earlier on in life, perhaps before you’ve explored the range of all the possible skills, you may not pick the right one for you.

5. The chance to spend time with people in many stages of their life.

Benefit: You’ll become more emotionally mature and more socially flexible. This will become apparent when you spend time with your peers.

Drawback: Dating can be difficult. Making close friends can be difficult. Neither is undoable.


What’s clear is this: there are subtle drawbacks to not going to college and choosing an apprenticeship that you have to compensate for (e.g. meeting people your own age, dating, etc.). Fortunately, it’s also clear that if you do the right apprenticeship, it can potentially offer you much more value than going to school.

Apprentices learn from the masters. To meet the Year On coaches, click here.

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