Siemens Has a German Fix for America’s Skills Gap

September 24, 2018, 10:02 PM UTC

Industrial giant Siemens is importing something from its country of origin, Germany, to help resolve a major problem: finding enough skilled workers in the U.S.

The company is in the process of adapting the so-called German apprenticeship model to America. In doing so, students about to graduate from college can gain on-the-job training while getting paid.

The program is currently active in nine states, Siemens U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton said at the Fortune Brainstorm Reinvent conference in Chicago Monday.

The apprenticeship allows potential employees to work at Siemens while still at school, so they “can come out a few years later with a degree, a job, and no debt,” she said. “It’s not white collar or blue collar. It’s that new collar, middle skills section of the economy.”

At the same time, contacting potential workers earlier on in their careers has allowed Siemens to work with them to design curricula that fit what the company needs.

This apprenticeship model has been credited with helping Germany maintain its manufacturing edge, while pushing the country out of the 2007–08 financial crisis more quickly than its peers.

Siemens isn’t alone in seeking to bridge the U.S. skills gap with the German program.

In 2016, Georgia launched the Georgia Consortium for Advanced Technical Training, a program using the German apprenticeship model to train high schoolers in the state in hopes of ending its shortage of manufacturing workers.

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