Classrooms don’t prepare young people for success in life and career. They’re slow, expensive, often boring, the incentives are all wrong, the setting is dull, customization is almost non-existent, and lack of real choice means peers and professors alike aren’t the most valuable people to add to your personal network.
Home educators and self-directed learners know this. They eschew the conveyor belt approach to education. They step out of the classroom and into the world. They understand that real learning is a lot more fun, varied, and valuable than chasing the same paper as everyone else.
Education extends beyond youth and school. The biggest part of any profession is the learning that must take place to master any job, gig, or project. Professionals from startups to Fortune 500’s are beginning to realize that experience beats resume bullets too. The apprenticeship is making a comeback and it’s not just for blacksmiths and welders, but for everyone from marketing mavens to salespeople to operations experts and more.
On the job learning, shadowing those with more knowledge and skill, experimentation, and value creating projects are taking the place of arbitrary assignments and grades. Apprenticeship is the future talent and training funnel for the fastest growing companies.
There are great insights for learning that are embodied in the apprenticeship model.
The best personal and professional growth comes from…
Interest, not credentials
It all starts with motivation and incentives. If you’re doing something just for the paper prestige, you’re unlikely to really be transformed by the process. Real education is a process that transforms your brain, forming new pathways and paradigms. Following rules and dutifully spitting out papers and multiple choice responses don’t really enlighten and grow. You’ll always take the path of least resistance and maximum external reward.
Contrast that to an intrinsically motivated challenge. Genuine interest drives transformation. When value creation is the outcome instead of rule-following it creates the incentive for innovation and growth. When you’re working at a real company that can’t afford to make up valueless assignments you will learn quickly. When you chose to be there and need to prove they should hire you full-time, you’ll have no choice but to learn.
Doing, not memorizing
Who is more impressive, someone that read three marketing books and passed a test, or someone who built and launched a landing page and email campaign that had a 40% open rate and sold 500 units? No contest.
All the facts in the world are useless without context. An apprenticeship provides the context that gives meaning to otherwise random phrases like “Target Market”, or, “KPI”. Facts are also pretty easy to come by and can be learned very quickly when the need arises. You can take a semester long class on formulas in a spreadsheet and walk away with very little. But when you need to figure out how to crunch complex numbers ASAP for a business proposal a little Googling and few YouTube tutorials can get you up to speed in a matter of hours for zero dollars. And when you learn in context, the information tends to stick.
Being around, not reading about
Why do so few young people want to be entrepreneurs? Because they have no idea what it is. It’s not an easily defined role categorized neatly in a textbook. You can’t really know what it takes to start and run a company – or even to work in marketing or finance or development or sales or… – unless you’re around it. You can’t find your sweet spot if you just read about careers or pick a major based on the name. This is why there are so many unhappy lawyers. Kids thought it sounded like a cool job but had no real exposure to the day to day until it was too late and the debt was too heavy.
There is no better way to get better than to be around those who are. Apprenticeship provides examples of many kinds of work and inspires you to chase after dreams you didn’t even know existed. You can read about riding a bike for years but you’ll never learn to do it until you get out on the street and grip the handlebars.
Apprenticeship is the next step for unschooled learners
All of the above won’t sound different to people whose education already looks like this. Self-chosen study, hands on projects, early work experience, exposure to diverse people of diverse ages and level of experience. That’s what self-directed learners do.
Homeschoolers don’t even realize how far ahead of their peers they are in many ways. Focus on college acceptance dramatically undersells them. They’re ready for the next step in education and career evolution, the apprenticeship. They’ve been living it already.