January 30, 2020


This article presents a new outlook on academic apprenticeship, academic apprenticeship as a workforce strategy. The new idea is to foster long-term consulting relationships between faculty at the academy and employers. The student enters apprenticeship to the employer as an apprentice of the faculty member.

Today’s internship

Generally, internships in academia are limited.

Internships are competitive. Consequently, every student does not get an internship. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assume that every student is at the academy to obtain qualities to enable them to be employable. Every student needs an internship opportunity.

Internships are usually implemented as projects with limited scope, and they may not be designed to lead to long-term employment. Moreover, the internship application process delays and impedes participation on one hand, and it ensues administration cost on the other hand. Internships are usually offered to juniors and seniors. The internship occurs late in the students academic training. Internships are not always paid work experiences.

In summary, internships do not serve most students well, and this culture is ripe for change.

Apprenticeship for clarity and training

The author envisions academic apprenticeship to offer all students opportunity to experience work in their chosen field of study as early as the freshman year. In so doing, the student uses field experience to inform their career path. That is apprenticeship for clarity. Apprenticeships enable the student to avoid the unfortunate and costly discovery late in their academic studies that the major isn’t suitable to them.

This academic apprenticeship workforce strategy seeks to offer apprenticeship opportunity to every student from their first day as a freshman through fostering relationships between faculty at the academy and employers. Faculty establish a long-term work relationship with an industrial partner or government. Students seek out and find an apprenticeship with a faculty member.

The barrier to admission to apprenticeship is expected to be low. Students can move between apprenticeships. Admission is as easy as asking. Students are vetted because the student was admitted to the academy.

How does it work

This strategy assumes that there are employers with problems to solve seeking to resolve those problems with the (human) resources available at the academy and willing to invest into the academy with paid consultant and apprenticeship positions.

We do not envision major policy changes at the academy. The academy already has regulations regarding consulting because faculty already engage with industry and government [R1999].

Faculty members may engage in relationships with industry to identify meaningful research problems [R1999]. This strategy brings student apprenticeships to that relationship and extends the consultant relationship to include the student apprentice. The faculty member draws interested students to this project of mutual interest, supervises the student, and advises the employer on compensation. Compensation is paid by the employer. The student may eventually apprentice on-site with the industrial/government partner.

Established professional organizations can bring employers and faculty together. The SIAM job board would be a possible resource to announce both faculty and industrial/government opportunities.

SIAM already has the website Infrastructure featuring career opportunities [SIAM]. Professional organizations such as SIAM may be willing to empower faculty and employers to find each other using their established “job board”. The well publicized, existing job board offers a low cost/no cost, ready made solution and enables faculty and employers to find each other. In so doing, this apprenticeship strategy builds on this kind of infrastructure, enabling the professional organization to fulfill their mission. SIAM has well established relationships with industry which enables the program to receive wide attention and diverse problems. Fields other than mathematics have professional organizations like SIAM, and these professional organizations may be willing to foster relationships between faculty and industry in those fields.

Benefits for each stakeholder

This apprenticeship workforce strategy is apprentice focused, on one hand. On the other hand, we envision benefits for each stakeholder.

The Employer

The industrial partner gains by resolving difficult problems through an extended research relationship with the academy.

The industrial partner risks less in talent acquisition by obtaining talent very likely to remain with them. The student adapts to the customs of the industrial partner, and the student becomes an obvious fit for the company. This apprentice workforce strategy empowers the employer to hire graduates that know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. The employer helped train this graduate.

When the apprentice has experience with the employer and chosen to seek employment with the employer upon graduation, the graduate stands behind the employer’s mission and purpose. This accomplishment is one cultural change of eleven that The Forbes Coaches Council identified for employers to make to win at talent acquisition [FORBES].

The employer has an established relationship with the apprentice. Although the author could not access retention and cost benefit data, it is reasonable that talent retention will increase, because the student expressed satisfaction by choosing to remain with the employer. It is costly to pay and train an apprentice, but this cost is offset by the same cost to train any new employee.

The Student

The student should graduate from the academy essentially debt free from working as an apprentice and trained for the job they love. Apprentices are paid. Apprenticeships financially enable the student to attend university by covering the price of education. The support also says that there are employment opportunities for the graduate in a job they love.

The student has been vetted for the apprenticeship by the admission process to the academy. There is no need for further human resources screening and long decision processes.

Traditionally, university students engage in work study, research assistance, teaching assistance, and grading. Apprenticeship as a workforce strategy offers apprenticeships beginning the first year of study as an alternative to traditional university work just mentioned. Apprenticeships in the academy build on the foundation that every student has employment value from admission to graduation, enabling the student to experience employment in their intended major.

The work hours should enable traditional academic education, as is the case for traditional university work. The university should continue to engage the student academically, and the apprenticeship is in addition to standard academic training. Universities should not become vocational schools.

Of course, employment outside the academy is available, but these jobs may not be related to the education interests of the student. The apprenticeship is better for the student than a “collage student job” such as a waitress or clerk in a stockroom which offers very little after the degree is obtained. The apprentice opportunity avoids the need to work in the local community at work that does not support the student’s educational objectives and delays the student from work experience sought by employers upon graduation.

Apprenticeship enables the student and the academy to futureproof education. Recent publications sound the alarm for the speed of technology advancement outpacing education [HODGES2017]. Apprenticeship addresses the problem of the student’s education being obsolete upon graduation. Apprenticeship offers work experience at the cutting-edge needs of industry, and, consequently, keeps students up to date with the fast-paced, ever changing demands caused by advances in technology.

The faculty

The contents of this section were influenced by the referenced article [R1999]. The article acknowledges consulting opportunities have advantages such as increased credibility for the faculty member and the institution. Consulting relationships with government and industry offer faculty an excellent source of ideas, data, and problems as well as extra money. However, the article offers advice with examples to faculty considering consulting opportunities, consulting may distract beginning faculty form university commitments and career advancements.

Faculty members do not have the time for consulting opportunities simply for financial gain. These types of opportunities, according to the article, include debugging software programs and expert witness assignments for courtroom cases, distract from teaching and scholarship.

Undertaking the apprenticeship workforce strategy demands the faculty successfully navigate these challenges on one hand. On the other hand, the apprentice will help with the work and engage with the faculty member’s clients, handling the work under the faculty members supervision.


As it is now, the academy graduates more graduate students who expect to fill teaching roles at a university than there are open positions [GRIFFEY2017].

Apprenticeships encourage involvement in industry early in the education journey, encouraging students to know how to do industrial things and industrial best practices. Industrial apprenticeships enable the academy to train the right number of students for positions outside the academy and the right students for positions at the academy. However, the apprenticeship should not lengthen the time to degree.

Apprenticeships enable the academy to quantify placement of students into jobs. With a more assured placement strategy, the academy can confidently confirm their placement statistics. A better understanding of the admission-graduation-employment pipeline enables planning and should help funding opportunities.

Through apprenticeships, the academy constantly provides value to the community and facilitates technology transfer at the most fundamental level.

Existing programs like this apprenticeship

The author found two similar programs to this apprenticeship workforce strategy.

Livermore Graduate Scholarship Program [LGSP]

This program claims to play a critical role in helping to recruit new scientific and engineering talent to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The LGSP has strong parallels to this apprenticeship workforce strategy. The major difference is that LGSP is designed expressly for the LLNL.

University-Industry Cooperative Research Program in the Mathematical Sciences [UICRP]

This program offers a collection of programs for students and postdoctoral students. The apprentice workforce strategy is the sum of this collection.

Call to action

Has your company signed the @WhiteHouse #PledgetoAmericasWorkers? Are you the faculty member interested to realize this apprenticeship as a workforce strategy at your home institution? Please comment about the merits of this proposed apprenticeship below. Let’s get this workforce strategy working for students, faculty, and academies all over the world!



Richard M. Reis (1999, October 22). When Faculty Consulting Helps -- and When It Hurts -- Your Career. Retrieved from [link].


SIAM job board, Retrieved from [link].


Forbes Coaches Council (2018, August 31). 11 Changes You Need To Make If You Want To Win The 'Talent War'. Retrieved from [link].


David Hodges (2017 October 19). Technology is outpacing business, education and government, says Deloitte. Retrieved from [link].


Trevor Griffey (2017, January 9). The Decline of Faculty Tenure. Retrieved from [link].


Livermore Graduate Scholar Program. Retrieved from [link].


University-Industry Cooperative Research Program in the Mathematical Sciences. Retrieved from [link].

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John Ernsthausen

John Ernsthausen


I'm John Ernsthasuen. I am a web developer and write software for high performance numerics. I write good software and I build engaging custom websites for Smarty Pixels in New Wilmington PA. I am well trained and keenly interested in scientific computing. I have experience as a data coordinator and worked in compliance with HIPAA standards.

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