Monday, March 06, 2017

Apprenticeship — Raising The New Masters And Maestros

Sergey Brin & Larry Page - co-founders of GOOGLE (Image source: Wikipedia, 2017)
By Kenneth Nwachinemelu David-Okafor

This particular blog post is based on a personal project of mine.  I had undertaken the exploration after I had thought to call attention to a traditional method of transferring skills and learning that has fallen into disuse, even appalling neglect, in Nigeria  the apprenticeship system (but with a twist).

I have laid the premise of my argument in the first post published on this blog on Friday, November 29, 2013 (CLICK HERE) or CLICK ON Featured Post.

In this earlier post I stated that "Though the apprenticeship system has fallen into deep neglect across Nigerian cultures, for a vast variety of reasons, I retain a healthy respect for apprenticeship as it has produced undisputed results across creative disciplines."

The revival of the traditional apprenticeship system is not to drive Nigeria’s thrust backwards but rather to augment and accelerate whatever vision we wish to pursue. The most powerful argument to be put forward for revamping and enhancing revival of the traditional apprenticeship system is the cultivating a skilled workforce while gaining marketable work skills, laying the groundwork for their future. Perfectly positioned at the intersection between knowledge and training, apprenticeship schemes are ideal talent incubators. The positive outcomes of skills training are many: more productive and efficient economy, stronger communities, a skilled and confident workforce and an increase in the number of career opportunities for youths.

Now there is a research conducted by a notable business school in Europe on how to imbibe workable and effectual elements of traditional apprenticeship schemes in European countries for their national programmes for employment generation. Part of their findings where that the best way to address unemployment quickly is by encouraging SME built around incentivized apprenticeships. Another part of their findings also showed that in aggregate SMEs provides jobs far more than big companies per earnings, though the longevity of the big companies tend to produce a long term stability in the labor market. But the SMEs provided both immediate succor to unemployment and also as a source of experienced labor for the large companies.

Then, of course, there is initiative by the Isrealis. The idea of training youths to become a natural leaders/entrepreneur is part of the corner stone of the Israeli compulsory military training, which is the reason most of the successful starts up, SMEs around the globe tend highly toward being of Israeli extraction. For these young people, by the time they left the service, would have gathered experiences and training in leadership roles and entrepreneurship, which provides the needed skills for successful startups, hence, generating immediate employment and which in the long run metamorphose into big companies.

There is the concept of "pre-conditioning" which is actually related to nature and nurture I wish to introduce to the child conditioning required from birth to predispose any child to learning effectively under the apprenticeship system. I am going to use insights from the rather familiar story of Lawrence "Larry" Page and Sergey Brin co-founders of Google in 1998.

The argument of which affects the child most either nature versus nurture is still alive and thriving. There is a lot we can glean from interrogating the growth, development and maturation of successful entrepreneurs like Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The starting point what was the background, parenting and nurture of the two men who in 2015 the Forbes site stated that there brain-child, Google, is "the most influential company of the digital era."?

I will excerpt strands of the two men’s lives from biographies, media interviews they have granted and other publications focusing on select time spans and various aspects of their lives, development and emergence. Pay attention to every detail here.

First, Larry Page:

Page was born in East Lansing, Michigan. His father, Carl Victor Page, Sr., earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Michigan in 1965, when the field was being established, and has been described by BBC reporter Will Smale as a "pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence." He was a computer science professor at Michigan State University and Page's mother, Gloria, was an instructor in computer programming at Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. Page's mother is Jewish.

During an interview, Page recalled his childhood, noting that his house "was usually a mess, with computers, science and technology magazines and Popular Science magazines all over the place", an environment in which he immersed himself.

Page was an avid reader during his youth, writing in his 2013 Google founders letter that "I remember spending a huge amount of time poring over books and magazines". 

According to writer Nicholas Carlson, the combined influence of Page's home atmosphere and his attentive parents "fostered creativity and invention".

Page also played saxophone and studied music composition while growing up. Page has mentioned that his musical education inspired his impatience and obsession with speed in computing. "In some sense I feel like music training led to the high-speed legacy of Google for me".

In an interview Page said that "In music you’re very cognizant of time. Time is like the primary thing" and that "If you think about it from a music point of view, if you’re a percussionist, you hit something, it’s got to happen in milliseconds, fractions of a second".

Page was first attracted to computers when he was six years old, as he was able to "play with the stuff lying around"—first-generation personal computers—that had been left by his parents. He became the "first kid in his elementary school to turn in an assignment from a word processor". His older brother also taught him to take things apart and before long he was taking "everything in his house apart to see how it worked". He said that "from a very early age, I also realized I wanted to invent things. So I became really interested in technology and business. Probably from when I was 12, I knew I was going to start a company eventually."

Page attended the Okemos Montessori School (now called Montessori Radmoor) in Okemos, Michigan, from 1975 to 1979, and graduated from East Lansing High School in 1991. He attended Interlochen Center for the Arts as a saxophonist for two summers while in high school. Page holds a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, with honors and a Master of Science in computer science from Stanford University. While at the University of Michigan, Page created an inkjet printer made of Lego bricks (literally a line plotter), after he thought it possible to print large posters cheaply with the use of inkjet cartridges—Page reverse-engineered the ink cartridge, and built all of the electronics and mechanics to drive it.

The Google Garage - It was 18 years ago in this very garage that a young Larry Page and Sergey Brin started building one of the world's largest tech companies. Google's co-founders rented the space -- along with three rooms inside the house -- while they were still living in the dorms at Stanford, less than two miles away. (The co-founders used Stanford's servers to host their new search engine.) Image source: Mashable
Second, Sergey Brin:

Brin was born in Moscow in the Soviet Union, to Russian Jewish parents, Yevgenia and Mikhail Brin, both graduates of Moscow State University (MSU). His father is a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, and his mother a researcher at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

In May 1979, when Brin was five years old, his family felt compelled to emigrate out of the Soviet Union.

In an interview with Mark Malseed, co-author of "The Google Story", Sergey's father explained how he was "forced to abandon his dream of becoming an astronomer even before he reached college." He said "Communist Party heads barred Jews from upper professional ranks by denying them entry to universities, Jews were excluded from the physics department, in particular, at the prestigious Moscow State University, because Soviet leaders did not trust them with nuclear rocket research." Mikhail Brin therefore changed his major to mathematics where he received nearly straight A's.

In another interview with Dominic Lawson of The Independent, Mikhail said: "No one would consider me for graduate school because I was Jewish." He went on to tell Lawson how MSU required Jews to take their entrance exams in different rooms from non-Jewish applicants, and how they were marked on a harsher scale.

The Brin family lived in a three-room apartment in central Moscow, which they also shared with Sergey's paternal grandmother. Brin told Malseed, "I've known for a long time that my father wasn't able to pursue the career he wanted", but Brin only picked up the details years later after they had settled in the United States.

In 1977, after his father returned from a mathematics conference in Warsaw, Poland, Mikhail Brin announced that it was time for the family to emigrate. "We cannot stay here anymore", he told his wife and mother. At the conference, he was able to "mingle freely with colleagues from the United States, France, England and Germany and discovered that his intellectual brethren in the West were not 'monsters.'" He added, "I was the only one in the family who decided it was really important to leave."

Now a closer study of the lives of these pair, growing up, would throw up several parallels and similarities regardless of differing cultural contexts in shaping their outcomes and development trajectories: the role of their parents own education (information, knowledge and learning); the visual and mental stimulants in form of books, toys and play in their growing environments; personal interest in computers and studying of books; access to/use of study aids/other publications; qualitative parental guidance; and opportunity for experimentation/learning by doing.

The reason I am bringing this issue of "pre-conditioning" is that Nigeria education system and its actors are "pre-conditioning" the Nigerian child to perpetual mediocrity rather than excellence. Rather we should endeavour to help our youths get several parallels and similarities regardless of differing cultural contexts in shaping their outcomes and development trajectories: hands-on parenting; the benefit of enlightenment from the parent(s)’ education (information, knowledge and learning); the visual and mental stimulants in form of books, toys and play in their growing environments; personal interest in computers and studying of books; access to/use of study aids/other publications; qualitative parental guidance; and opportunity for experimentation/learning by doing.

I will subsequently expatiate on just four of these factors in subsequent installments including qualitative parental guidancethe benefit of enlightenment from the parent(s)’ education (information, knowledge and learning) and/or lack of formal educationthe visual and mental stimulants in form of books, toys and play in their growing environments; and studying of books; access to/use of study aids/other publications.


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