sailing competitionThis summer, an 84-year-old sailing yacht, the Dorade, won the Transpacific Yacht Race, a race of more than 2,000 miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu and featuring the fastest, sleekest and toughest sailing ships in the world. For the Dorade, the win this summer repeats the ship’s win in 1936, 77 years ago.

Once considered the forebear of modern yacht racing, the Dorade had aged significantly when owner Matt Brooks bought it in 2010 with the goal of rehabbing the yacht to re-run its most celebrated races, including the Transpacific Yacht Race.

The ship received a modern makeover, complete with new sails and stronger masts made of spruce to accommodate the tougher sails. While the boat received a modern facelift, the sailing team looked back in time watching film of the Dorade’s 1931 team and using celestial navigation.

The Dorade’s journey back from the dry dock of history to sailing victory serves as a lesson to those who have given up on old ships, looking only at tattered sails rather than at the strong hulls holding the ship together.

America’s workforce has turned into a bit of an old ship. It has seen some rough seas over the past few decades, sailing through recessions, the rise of outsourcing, and growing income inequality. Like the Dorade, though, today’s workers need to retrofit, new sails to breathe new life into a workforce that still has what it takes to win the race.

Like the Dorade’s sailing team, workers today should take a look back in history for a guide for the future with apprenticeship programs.

A Brief History of Apprenticeships
Throughout the history of mankind, apprenticeship programs were the means to developing workforces. Thousands of years ago, Plato taught the most promising young interlocutor, Aristotle, the meaning of justice, beauty, and goodness. This practice was continued, revering the relationship between master and apprentice for centuries.

The United States, in it’s earliest days, also relied heavily on apprenticeship programs to bring colonists to the new world. Apprenticeships also allowed for families to pass traditions on through the generations. Benjamin Franklin, for example, served as a printing apprentice to his brother.

The psychologist Lev Vygotsky, considered a founding father of modern developmental theory, believed children learned best when working with what he termed as a “more knowledgable other.” A coach leads the apprentice through the learning process using modeling, feedback, instruction and reminders until the apprentice becomes the master.

Moving Ahead in the Modern Age
The Dorade won the Transpacific Yacht Race this summer relying on a combination of old and new. The old hull still sailed straight and true, using older sailing techniques and the stars as a guide. The new sail and mast strengthened the ship, allowing it to take full advantage of the wind’s awesome power.

The America’s Future Workforce program has a similar approach. Built upon the basic foundation of apprenticeships — less skilled workers learn best from more experienced workers. And with America’s Future Workforce, apprenticeships have a new set of sails and a new mast to steer through the 21st century workplace of cloud computing, a global market, and ever-changing technology.

The American workforce isn’t ready to go back to the dry dock, resigned to a historical footnote as the once greatest workforce in the world. It needs to get back in the water; like the Dorade, this ship was meant to sail.

Photocredit: Photodune

Tags: Nathaniel Mauer, Nate Mauer, Education, Equality, America’s Future Workforce