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June 6, 2014

BMW apprenticeship paves road to unique opportunities


Twenty-nine-year-old Dustin Reid is part of the BMW apprenticeship program that is like a typical apprenticeship model, which offers on the job training combined with classroom instruction, to teach workers the practical and theoretical skills that help them succeed in their chosen profession. Reid’s choice to enroll in this program has helped him secure a job he loves in an economy that still showcases high unemployment rates for those under 25.

“There are a lot of students nowadays that graduate with a four-year degree and can’t find work. But with this two-year degree, I’m able to come and get a career for the rest of my life at a premier manufacturing company. It pretty much speaks for itself,” Reid said.

The Scholars Program at the BMW factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina –BMW’s only U.S. auto plant–offers an all-expenses-paid associates degree at one of three area technical colleges, and the near guarantee of a job.

Apprenticeships are more common in Europe than America. “This German dual system has a long history in Europe. It goes back hundreds of years, so it’s really very much embedded and it is actually a recognized, you could call it educational pathway that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it over into the U.S.,” explained Werner Eikenbusch, BMW’s head of workforce development for the Americas.

BMW recruiters who visit high schools say they often find a cultural resistance to mechanics as a career path.Amanda Echols, an associate at the plant, said, “I think when they hear manufacturing, they think dirty, sweaty, and nasty. But they pay for your college, first of all, so you will get a degree when you’re done. You make good money while going to college. I just could not see anybody turning it down.”


Warm up questions
  1. What are some of the possible academic or career options for students after they graduate from high school?
  2. Do you feel any pressure in choosing a certain career path after high school? If so, where or who is that pressure coming from?
Discussion questions
  1. When asked about Apprenticeship Carolina, a state-funded office he runs, Charles Neese reported that, “We have built this thing from 777 apprentices to over 10,000 now. When we started it, we only had 90 companies. We now have 650 today.” Why do you think the program has had such growth? Do you think this model might work in other states too? Explain your answer.
  2. Neese defended the practicality of the program. “So what if they’re not reading Shakespeare? These guys want to work with their hands. They want to get into the theoretical knowledge, not of the iambic pentameter. They want to get into the theoretical knowledge of Ohm’s law,” he said. Is Neese perpetuating a stereotype here? Explain your answer.
Writing prompt

There are risks and benefits to choosing a four-year college degree, just as there are risks in enrolling at an apprenticeship program. The value of these risks and benefits will differ for each person. So for this exercise, imagine the person is you. Divide your paper into quarters, and label each box as follows: Benefits of Apprenticeship, Risks of Apprenticeship, Benefits of a Four- Year College, and Risks of a Four-Year College. On your paper, list as many risks and benefits as you can think of under each category. Once you are done, circle the most important points from each section. Now, using the circled answers, create informative text that explains the most important points and arrive at a conclusion that explains which option suits you best at this time.

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