School-to-work plans studied as models President Clinton hopes to devise national program

February 23, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The chiefs of the departments of Education and Labor are reviewing experimental school-to-work programs in communities across the country, hoping to find some that can serve as models for the Clinton administration's national apprenticeship plan.

Secretary of Education Richard Riley said yesterday the Clinton administration was determined to link education and work to help non-college-bound high school students prepare for jobs.

"We believe that most young people can only be motivated to take academically challenging courses and to work hard to master difficult content if they can see a connection between the classroom and the wider world outside the school," Mr. Riley told a conference of administrators of high school apprenticeship programs.

"We need to learn from your experience as we proceed to develop a national strategy that can encourage and support the reform of secondary education and the creation of a wide variety of new career pathways for those young people who do not choose a four-year college education," he added.

Mr. Riley conceded, however, that the money allocated for apprenticeships in the Clinton administration's economic plan -- $270 million in 1994 and $1.2 billion over four years -- is small compared with the huge task of preparing the nation's young people "for the high-skill, high-wage jobs that our economy must generate if we are to maintain our competitive edge."

"For a major program," he said after addressing the administrators, "it's not a large amount of money."

Mr. Riley and Secretary of Labor Robert Reich attended a conference of leaders of Jobs for the Future, a non-profit corporation that for three years has used model programs to explore the viability of youth apprenticeship in America.

Apprenticeships differ from traditional vocational education in that they combine classroom work with paid on-the-job training. The programs often include two years of training after high school graduation. Upon completion, students receive certificates showing they have mastered work skills and, in many cases, are placed in jobs.

Mr. Reich said that the administration was still trying to determine what the federal role should be in such programs. To be decided, he said, is whether the government is "to set national standards, to provide seed money to weave together the best experiments in this country or to provide models."

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