Apprenticeship Challenge

How might we build a meaningful apprenticeship that supports curricular and workforce readiness goals into a 4-year degree?

Why separate education and work experience when each can make the other more valuable and productive? The Lab is working with, Enstitute, an organization that is redefining the apprenticeship experience. Our Challenge Lead, Michael Youngblood, is applying his ethnographic and design skills to help George Mason University design a place for apprenticeships as part of a bachelor’s degree.

We’re imagining and building experiences that integrate classroom learning and meaningful, challenging work. As the workforce changes at a faster rate, building a strong and nimble mind will require simultaneous lessons from multiple learning environments. The conference room and classroom each have their unique strengths and opportunities. We’re designing ways to capture both.

Gain 21st Century Work Experience and College Credit

Enstitute, a national, non-profit creating full year professional apprenticeships for young adults, engaged the Education Design Lab to explore a university partnership model. The Lab brought George Mason University to the table to consider a for-credit, full immersion apprenticeship program for students to build workforce skills and a window on their own pathways.

Enstitute’s Early Success

In 2012, Enstitute launched a competitive apprenticeship program to prepare millennials for 21st century careers in entrepreneurship, technology, and social innovation. Fellows were placed at some of the hottest growth companies in New York City. At the completion of Enstitute’s first pilot (11 students):

  • 90% of participants are now in full-time jobs
  • 500 millennials applied to the program

Hundreds of companies are on the waiting list to be included in the program.

Designing a New Model

The four month design challenge identified the college within George Mason University that was most anxious to be the apprenticeship partner, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, whose students are hungry to combine real world skills with their liberal arts coursework. From there, the design work moved on three tracks: curriculum, credit and business model, with an additional student track that looked at timing within the degree and how to market the program. The program benefits for a university became clear:

  • Offer a unique program to place students in paid workplace environments with designated senior mentors treating them as regular employees (unlike most internships)
  • Provide work opportunities to Mason’s large population of first-generation college students who value professional work experience but need paid opportunities
  • Attract new, out-of-state students who will see Mason as a way to apply to Enstitute’s program
  • Establish relationships with new employers: startups, technology companies, and social enterprises
  • Close the gap between higher education and workforce, as policy makers are demanding today
  • Launch an innovative program that fits the president’s vision for a 21st century university

The Pilot

In early March, the President greenlighted the Enstitute pilot, while the university, Enstitute and the Lab developed fundraising materials and made contact with potential funders. While the program will be self- sustainable at scale, the team is trying to raise $70,000 to cover costs for the first 15 months. The pilot will commence in Fall 2014 with up to 20 juniors, who will go through Enstitute’s entrepreneur matching process. Students will earn 24 credits for the 12 month professional role that includes 3 hours a week with a facilitating professor and the cohort on campus for a course on synthesis and reflection.