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The NFL is an Apprenticeship System

Published from CareerWise Colorado.

I was drawn to apprenticeship because I know it works. When I heard about what CareerWise is doing with apprenticeship it clicked for me—because I experienced it throughout my football career, from my rookie season to my all-pro season as an NFL wide receiver. It wasn’t called an apprenticeship, but it may as well have been because it parallels the same classroom and practical learning structure that prepared me to step into full-time roles while contributing and learning on the job.

The most successful NFL teams are the ones that have figured out how to: 

  • identify and develop their own talent, 
  • create incredible film-study sessions combined with intense practices, 
  • and tap into their networks to ensure they’re always connecting with the best opportunities to better the team through trades and free agency.

And the keys to apprenticeship parallels those success factors: 

  • identifying and training young workers to create an innovative pipeline of entry-level talent, 
  • providing a work-based learning experience that combines classroom theory with practical application, 
  • and apprenticeship lays the groundwork for the professional and social capital that will propel apprentices throughout their career.

In the NFL, it doesn’t matter what zip code you grew up in. That’s not always the case in today’s more traditional workforce. Youth apprenticeship is a way for us to start leveling the playing field for any student.