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How much is your degree worth? Is an apprenticeship the answer?



How much is your degree worth? Is an apprenticeship the answer?

The great thing about memes and Facebook vines is that you can relate directly or indirectly to what is being said. There are various memes about being an adult, better known as ‘adulting’. They are extremely entertaining because you can relate to it. There is one particular meme that struck me as eerily true. As a tertiary education graduate, it is difficult to find a job once you have left the comfort of the institution you studied at.


Your parents have spent thousands of rands in ensuring that you get a proper education that will enable you to support yourself in the future. Thousands of rands and thousands of hours are spent getting your qualification. It seems only fair that when you enter the career world that you will be compensated for all that money and time. But, and this is a big but, your potential employer scans your certificate and proceeds to ask you about your experience.

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This potential employer expects you to not only have a job but to have roughly five years of experience as well as four kidneys. I’m just kidding with that last one, but it definitely seems that extreme to a young adult. Many of us decide to pursue postgrads with the hope that this extended knowledge will get you further and put you above the rest. Postgrads make you more appealing to employers, but there is no guarantee that you will be paid more than the employee who has studied less than you. You are more qualified than said employee, but unfortunately your time and money spent on furthering your education can mean little to nothing. For one thing, it just shows that you are willing to learn and better yourself on a daily basis.


This knowledge is on a theoretical level. The problem is that it is not always on a practical level. This is why experience is required. But when were you supposed to get that experience when you were a full-time student? The reality is that more time and less money awaits you yet again. You will be working a 12-hour day with minimum wage, unable to support yourself. The situation is not only stressful for yourself but also for your parents who, let’s face it, can’t continue supporting you for the rest of your life. So just how much is your qualification really worth?

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There are various countries in Europe that employ an apprenticeship system. This position offers less of a theoretical basis but definitely provides more of a practical foundation. Study on a tactile level is notoriously celebrated compared to studying from a book (or e-source).

Germany may just be a model for the rest when it comes to apprenticeships. Mercedes-Benz is the main reason for this statement. Every year the Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler takes on around 2,000 apprentices. One in five of the 2,000 people are women. Nine out of 10 of the young trainees will land permanent jobs with the company. Others will be offered short-term contracts. The training varies according to the industry. Germany’s commitment in investing in the skilled labour force of the future is beyond commendable, especially when it seems that the rest of Europe, around Germany, is struggling regarding the economy.

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This model of apprenticeship has been duplicated in various other countries but has not had the same success as in Germany. This is because the model has to be adjusted and the school system also has to support the model. Apprenticeship schemes have their root in medieval guilds but they still play a vital role in the success of today’s Germany.

Kicking your career off with an apprenticeship programme is a great way to get a head start in the field you want to work in. Apprenticeships enable you to start working while earning a decent salary or wage. All of this is done while you are learning key skills. Most of all, an apprenticeship programme allows you to get the practical experience future employers will expect from you. It most definitely sounds like the answer to unemployment in South Africa, especially when it comes to the unemployed with qualifications. Too bad South Africa hasn’t thought of that just yet.

As discussed above, Germany’s programme will not be successful if replicated exactly. South Africa would need to adjust the programme especially in order to fit a post-apartheid society. Is this the answer to all our problems?

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