Olivia Hall is assistant vice principal at Salemburg Elementary School and Roseboro Elementary School. In addition to her work as assistant vice principal at two schools, she meets with other novice assistant vice principals in an informal monthly PLC and helps manage several family-owned businesses.
Thanks to my freshly printed driver’s license, I was free to travel on my own for the first time without my parents. I imagined I was just on the cusp of becoming an adult. I was discovering my identity and making plans for the future.
I remember these days of newfound independence and knowingly laugh at all that I had yet to learn.
Yet, my tour guide today, a young apprentice at the BMW factory, shared how he applied for the program while attending Realschule (the upper vocational school) and moved almost 100 miles across Germany to live alone in an apartment at the ripe age of sixteen.
This is not unusual in German culture.
In Germany, independence and personal responsibility is taught from a young age and is part of the social fabric of the country. When visiting the primary school a few days earlier, I noticed a sign instructing kindergarten parents to kiss their students good-bye at the school door. I discovered young German schoolchildren walk or ride their bikes to school unaccompanied by an adult. In conversation with one of our guides, she shared how she studied abroad alone in South America at just seventeen.
At BMW, the company trains young adults and trusts them to perform well. The Junior Company alone netted over a million dollars last year by selling marketing products, and a team of apprentices helped design a new vehicle model that will be in production next year. Throughout the program, which lasts two years or more, students cycle through many job titles as they learn their strengths and hone their talents.
BMW trains future employees and fulfills their social responsibility, all while the school and community benefit. Time is spent at both the company and the school, and trainers ensure students receive all the support they need.
Today, however, no trainers were in sight. Instead, the apprentices lead the presentations, the tour, and discussion.
Our entire group was impressed.
As one presenter stated, “Many students enter the program at the age of sixteen and are very timid. However, when the apprentices finish the program, you do not recognize them. They have grown into proud, young professionals.”
I have always believed that young adults are capable of doing great things when expectations are high. Maybe embedding this type of training would allow American teens to expect more than a driver’s license on their sweet sixteen.