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Entrepreneurial GAP Years

Companies hire students for 1 year apprenticeship in exchange for a 1 - 4 year scholarship and college credit.

Photo of Miche Price
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

Business owners, corporations, universities, students

Building on the idea of the Waterloo co-op program, the US should add a one year service learning or apprenticeship model to the college admissions process, allowing a non-traditional alternative to college acceptance and funding. In addition to current service learning programs such as Americorps, create apprenticeship programs with companies throughout the US in all industries. These one year programs will occur during the first year after high school graduation, as additional GAP year options. Adding this GAP year alternative will not only create a source of funding tuition, it will allow students, regardless of their background, who are really unclear of their future career paths or those who just need a break from the academic rigor, to explore their strengths and weaknesses and how their passions fit into the 21st century workforce. 

During the first quarter of the apprenticeships, students will spend a few weeks working in different functional areas of the business, learning the overall business model, meeting key leaders, and creating the opportunity to identify their strengths and passions. At the end of the first quarter, students will then sit down with their mentor within the company and decide on two or three best fits within the organization. The goal will be for each student to split the remainder of the year working in two or three different roles. They can be different roles with in the same functional area or in completely different functional areas. By taking on the different roles students will develop a more diverse portfolio, better understand the similarities and differences, and build a broader framework for their college experience and career development goals.

During their apprenticeships,students will live with a host family that lives within a close proximity to transit, and be provided a nominal monthly stipend the company, for personal expenses. 

Upon completion of their apprenticeship, the student will receive $X, for tuition, books, and housing from the company.

During the year students will be required to document their experience, report on the specific projects to which they contributed, and write an essay about the corporate culture, the pros, cons, and their vision of the ideal work environment. The finished portfolios will be submitted to their college advisor for review and to be evaluated for college credit to be granted. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Work with companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, UCSF Medical Centers, major builders, government, etc to pilot 1 first to college student to pilot the program. Start with a group of 15-20 students. A mix of highly motivated students with strong leadership potential and students with untapped, unrecognized potential.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

As I am just now based on the given prompt coming up with this idea, and really haven't flushed it out or validated it at any level, this idea would benefit from input at all levels and experiences. Corporate contacts, would companies be amenable to this idea if there was a clear process, expectations and support? Would universities accept the idea and how does one go about getting that but in? How much would companies, hospitals, government agencies, foundations need/be willing to give? ...

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes


Join the conversation:

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Hi Miche Price – this a cool idea that I'd love to see gain traction. One thing that's important when we think about getting more lower income students to graduate with bachelor's degree is that the process of getting their bachelor's isn't delayed. How might students gain work experience, save money, and be progressing toward their degree? Perhaps some core courses could be taken online during their 'gap year'  – or something like that! Would love to see the idea build on that provocation so that lower income students still graduate with a bachelor's 4 years after graduating from high school.

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