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One State Tries To Build Skills


A SIGN of the times: One-third of the people entering Maine's technical colleges last year already had a four-year degree.

Gov. John McKernan points to this fact as a symbol of the increasingly demanding job market. Apprenticeships, he says, can help young people develop job skills early on.

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Maine's apprenticeship program, which Mr. McKernan developed after a first-hand look at youth apprenticeship in Germany and Denmark, emphasizes work experience. Students take the following steps through the apprenticeship program:

9th grade: General career exploration begins along with regular academic program.

10th grade: Midyear, students are tested for readiness for apprenticeship program, after which they can apply for apprenticeships.

11th and 12th grades: Apprenticeship begins; 20 weeks at a regional vocational high school or secondary school, and 30 weeks working for an employer. High school degree earned.

13th year: Sixteen weeks of training at a technical college and 34 weeks working. One-year degree earned. Apprentices also receive a "certificate of mastery," guaranteed by the employer and school, which lists the skills the person possesses.

Businesses will pay students a modest salary - roughly $5,000 a year - that will be paid out weekly whether the student is in school or at work. In the final year, part of that money would go to the community college.

Does this amount to too much business control of education? Roland Osterlund, director of Denmark's Ministry of Education and Research, says no. Mr. Osterlund, who was attending a recent conference here, says that businesses should "have their needs reflected in the activities" of schools - without stealing the whole show.

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