Celebrating Adult Apprentices during National Apprenticeship Week – and every week before & after
Like many college students, I had no idea what I wanted to do after I’d earned my diploma. The uncertainty was a huge source of stress. It’s only been in the last several months that I’ve realized what a first world problem that was.
I was fortunate to have had a great college experience and earned not just my bachelor’s degree but also my Master of Business degree. I knew I wanted to make a difference in whatever career I began. I knew I wanted to work with people and build relationships. But I didn’t know exactly how, even though so much opportunity was mine, nearly for the asking.
But in my role as Talent Program Operations Manager for TechPoint, I’ve seen firsthand how fortunate I was. And how so many of my fellow Hoosiers face much more significant employment stress and challenges than I ever have. And how too many of them don’t know they have access to a pathway that offers a way to meaningful, life-changing careers.
As part of my role, I coordinate TechPoint’s Adult Apprenticeship program. It seems natural to talk about how this new program – launched just a year ago – is doing during National Apprenticeship Week and how it can do so much more in the coming months and years.
The program is open to Hoosiers who are 18-years-old or older, have U.S. work authorization, can demonstrate technical competency, with an aptitude for accelerated growth and are commitment to learning. After being vetted by our process, participants go through an 8-to-12-week boot camp to learn more.
To date, I’ve met with 52 candidates for the program and helped place 25 of them into roles with companies like Allegion, Cummins and Eli Lilly and Company where they are thriving. As apprentices, they’ll work for a year, honing their skills and learning how to work in a tech career, not just a job. Ideally, at the end of their year, they have an opportunity to be hired on as full-time professionals.
These folks – and the hundreds I hope follow them are from all walks of life – represent all genders, ethnicities and ages.
Some had settled for low-paying fast-food or retail sector jobs, thinking they wouldn’t qualify for anything else. Some are parents whose family obligations kept them from the workforce. Some struggled to earn GEDs or stopped at high school diplomas. Some were in jobs that paid the bills week-to-week but didn’t offer advancement or hope of significant wage increases. Some had taken a few tech certification classes but remained unsure of their abilities. Some had no tech training at all. Some had chips on their shoulders because they’d seen others take advantage of opportunities that didn’t seem available to everyone else.
What they all have in common, though, was a willingness to place a bet on themselves that given a chance, they could change the trajectory of their lives and that of their families.
Adult apprenticeships are something relatively new to the U.S. tech sector though they’ve long been in place in other countries. Here, most apprentices are in the construction trades and it’s only been in the past few years that the tech industry has started to embrace them as a great way to develop talent.
More than 80 percent of apprentices come from backgrounds that are typically underrepresented in tech, and studies show that Apprentices have higher retention rates than employees hired through traditional pipelines. Nearly 80 percent of apprentices in the program TechPoint uses are rated high-performers by managers.
That’s not a surprise to me at all because the apprenticeship process is one that builds trust and loyalty.
Take Drake Crossley, for example. He was looking to transition from his job in real estate and had heard about the potential the tech sector offered. He had obtained two Cisco certifications that gave him a broad understanding of part of the data world and then he heard about the apprenticeship program at Cummins.
Drake wasn’t the most technically certified candidate the innovative engine company interviewed, but I think he was selected as their very first apprentice because of his passion and his demonstrated willingness to work.
“Don’t let your background or your education be a deterrent. If you are willing to do some self-study, there are plenty of opportunities to sharpen your skills and network. Take on those opportunities as much as possible!” he said. “I can relate it to being a translator; if you were in a different country and needed to get around, you wouldn’t ask the residents their what their degree is. In tech, there are many languages. Take it upon yourself to learn those languages and become a translator for others. Connect the worlds that don’t currently have a bridge.”
Then there’s Jefrie Polanco, who is an apprentice at Allegion.
Polanco was driven by responsibility to support his family. He had the tech skills but low confidence in his abilities and imposter syndrome kept him from taking that first step into a role in the tech industry. That changed when he was paired up with Allegion.
“The most rewarding part is being acknowledged by my peers,” he said. “I had a huge block coming in with imposter syndrome. I just didn’t think I fit in. I didn’t think I was good enough. So, it just kept me away from speaking up, once I realized the work I was doing was actually contributing to the team to the point that I was getting praise, it made me realized that maybe I do fit in here, maybe this is a good fit, as far as the imposter syndrome goes because I know I belong here but that is still something I have to battle that because it is still new for me. But getting that acknowledgement from my peers has definitely been the most rewarding part.”
Neither Crossley nor Polanco are typical of the apprentices I’ve worked with so far because there is no “typical” apprentice. They’re all very different. Which, to me, is a wonderful part of the program: it’s open to anyone willing to take a leap of faith.
One thing I do like to note about the program is that it may not offer an immediate solution or opening to every applicant. Sometimes it takes a while to place apprentices because the program is new to Indiana and we are still cultivating employers.
That said, if you’re an employer interested in the program, I remind you that each apprentice candidate is thoroughly vetted prior to being placed into the program, so you can trust you’ll be getting a highly motivated person with great potential. TechPoint is vouching for these people, and I continue to serve as a guide or a helping hand to the program participants.
After applying and meeting with me, each potential apprentice develops a profile that is updated as they receive tech certifications or other training credentials. I match applicants with companies, who then interview them and determine whether to extend a year-long apprenticeship to them.
These are people who have put work into making a transition. They’re invested in it. They have something to prove. Given a chance, they’ll grow with the company that takes a chance on them.
I began this article talking about how despite my clear advantages, I’d been stressed about what I would do with career. I definitely landed where I was meant to be. I’ve been so inspired by the adult apprentices I’ve been fortunate to encounter. I can’t wait to meet more and I really can’t wait to help get them into great careers.
I’d love for you to celebrate national Apprenticeship Week by not just learning about the program, but by getting involved.
Employers interested in learning more about these amazing apprenticeship candidates should reach out to my colleague Losalind Connell firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in becoming an apprentice, I’d love to talk to you. Reach out here Participant Interest Form.