SAT Essay Prompt August 2017
As you read the passage below, consider how Peter Downs uses
- evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
- reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
- stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
Adapted from Peter Downs "Can't find skilled workers? Start an apprentice program" by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Originally published in the Wall Street Jornal, January 16, 2014
1 One key element to a competitive workforce almost entirely overlooked in the U.S. is apprenticeships. These days, American businesses typically want someone else—trade schools, community colleges, universities or even the federal government—to train their future employees. If potential future job seekers haven't been provided with the training they need, many businesses expect job seekers to take all the responsibility on themselves, often taking on serious debt without any guarantee of future employment.
2 Worse, in the face of greater competition, many American employers are slashing training budgets and running employment software that rejects every applicant who doesn't already have the perfect combination of training and experience to perform the job on day one. Then employers lament that job applicants don't already know how to do the jobs that they want them to do. So shortsighted is this attitude that some construction companies that don't support apprenticeship programs complain that companies that do have such programs aren't training enough new workers. Yes, you read that right.
3 This sense of entitlement contrasts sharply with attitudes in some of the world's most competitive countries, where businesses are highly involved in preparing future workers through apprenticeships. In Switzerland, 70% of young people age 15-19 apprentice in hundreds of occupations, including baking, banking, health care, retail trade and clerical careers. In Germany, 65% of youth are in apprenticeships; in Austria 55%. All three countries have youth unemployment rates less than half of America's 16%.
4 Last year, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Spain all asked Germany to help them set up similar systems. In 1997, Britain introduced a program called Modern Apprenticeships, based on the German model, and enrollment has increased every year. It now stands at 858,900. In 2012, the U.K. added apprenticeship programs for commercial pilots, lawyers, engineers and accountants that are considered the equivalent of a college education.
5 The U.S. is headed in the opposite direction. The number of apprenticeship programs has fallen by one-third in the last decade. With only 330,578 registered apprentices in 2013, the U.S. had less than 40% of the number in Britain, a country one-fifth as populous.
6 There are glimmers of hope that the U.S.—or at least some savvy industries—might be starting to embrace apprenticeship. In St. Louis, technology entrepreneur Jim McKelvey convinced several large employers last year—including Enterprise, Monsanto and Rawlings —that it doesn't take a college education to become good at computer programming. What it takes is working with an experienced programmer.
7 These employers joined with Mr. McKelvey to set up what is essentially an apprenticeship program called LaunchCode. The program takes people with basic programming skills, pays them $15 an hour, and pairs them with experienced programmers for two years to give them the training to secure jobs as coders.
8 Some employers think apprenticeships could also work in other high-tech, high-growth industries. In recent years, the U.S. Office for Apprenticeships has registered new apprenticeship programs in information technology, health care, biotechnology and geospatial technology.
9 There is evidence that such apprenticeships can do more than just train young people for future careers: They can also improve student academic performance. In the few U.S. school districts that have offered apprenticeships, high-school juniors and seniors who have been apprentices have improved in the classroom.
10 In the Bayless School District in suburban St. Louis, for example, students who entered the district's Middle Apprenticeship Program with the Carpenters' Union had better attendance than before entering the program. The mean grade point average for these students was 1.7 at the end of their sophomore year, before they entered the apprenticeship program. By senior year, it was 3.13. They graduated with better attendance and better grades than did a group of similar students who weren't in the program.
11 To the extent that the American business community is involved in education reform, they are typically investing in faddish reforms such as banning tenure, that, even if passed, would do little to ensure the competitiveness of the nation's workforce. If this same money and effort went into pushing for a two-track education system—college or apprenticeship—it would do far more to produce students prepared to compete in the 21st-century economy.
Write an essay in which you explain how Peter Downs builds an argument to persuade his audience that Americans need to work fewer hours. In your essay, analyze how Peter uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Peter's claims, but rather explain how Peter builds an argument to persuade his audience.