Old ways, new gains: US apprenticeships expand, ancient Dutch crop revives

1. United States

Apprentice programs are giving young people lucrative career paths while filling employment holes. Registered apprentice programs are highly successful: 93% of apprentices are employed after their training, earning an average starting salary of $77,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In the decade following 2009, the number of training programs increased by 73%, with over 3,000 added in 2020 alone.

One fire department in southern Oregon doubled staffing this year through apprenticeships, after experiencing a serious first responder shortage. Prohibitive costs borne by trainees used to make it difficult to recruit. So in February, the agency launched a paid apprenticeship program with state funding that has brought in 21 new firefighters, allowing the department to hire a more diverse set of candidates.

Why We Wrote This

In our progress roundup, an embrace of tradition improves job training in the US. And in the Netherlands, bringing back flowering buckwheat as a crop is paying off in biodiversity – and old-fashioned pancakes.

In Indianapolis, new apprenticeship programs are training high school and community college students for work in local business, IT, manufacturing, and the medical field while they study. The idea emerged after a group of business and community leaders visited Switzerland to study its apprenticeship model. “Seeing the connectivity between government, employers, associations, the school system,” said Stephanie Bothun, vice president of Ascend Indiana, “I came back like, we have to … make this a core piece of our solution.”
Sources: KATU, The 74

2. Netherlands

TAKETO OISHI/THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/REUTERS

Buckwheat flowers are in full bloom in Horokanai, Japan, on Aug. 4, 2022. Originally native to Asia, the ancient seed is now grown around the world.

Dutch farmers are reviving buckwheat, a traditional crop loved by pollinators. Buckwheat was one of the most common crops in the Netherlands two centuries ago. But the grainlike seed was gradually replaced by higher-yield, lucrative crops like potatoes. Today, 23 farms covering 85 hectares (210 acres) in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe are now successfully growing buckwheat as part of a project to improve biodiversity in the region.

The plant’s long flowering period, from June through August, provides rich nectar for honeybees and other pollinators. “At any given moment during peak flowering, one hectare of the buckwheat field has an average of 6,500 wild pollinators,” says Thijs Fijen, an assistant professor at Wageningen University. “This includes 28 species of hoverfly, 12 species of wild bee, and 13 species of butterfly.”