Tech apprenticeships are changing lives as well as company futures
If the word apprenticeship conjures images of tool belts and construction sites rather than computer science and software, you’re not alone. The skilled trades, such as carpentry and masonry, have been hiring apprentices based on their passion for or interest in the field and training them on the job since the 16th century. By contrast, most professional services and industry fields, including technology, have exclusively relied on four-year college degrees as a basic requirement for employment, at least until recently. Apprenticeships, however, may be the pathway to a career in tech that solves the pressing frustrations of employers and workers alike.
“No degree, no opportunity” has been the norm for most jobs in tech since tech became more or less ubiquitous with the personal computer in the 1980s. Of course, there are tremendously successful tech leaders who dropped out of college to focus on their startups—Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, for example—but those outliers didn’t exactly blaze a trail that more than a few could follow. And “more than a few” is what the tech industry needs right now, especially in the state of Indiana.
As laid out in his article “Indiana’s collision course with a ‘perfect storm’ shortage of tech talent,” Dennis Trinkle, executive vice president, talent programs and pathways at TechPoint, explains that Indiana will actually end up losing tech talent over the next several years if employers don’t implement alternative pathways like apprenticeships to the traditional degree-based hiring process. CIOs across the U.S. already rate “competition for talent” as the top issue they face this year, and it’s not going to get any easier.
It’s also worth noting that degree-based hiring requires candidates to have spent four years and, on average, $140,000 on an education that may or may not have a direct impact on their performance and success in an entry-level tech role. For obvious reasons, this disproportionately precludes many minorities and other people who are already underrepresented in tech from entering the employment ranks. Apprenticeships, however, offer promising candidates an income instead of accruing debt, all while they are both training and contributing to the employer’s work load. Apprenticeships are also a great way for the apprentices themselves to accelerate their earnings potential through skills development—technical, soft and leadership skills—as well as credentialing through industry-recognized certifications that are part of most apprenticeships.
In order to exceed the results of natural attrition and grow the workforce to meet demand, Indiana must double the national tech workforce growth rate by 2030, which is equal to 41,000 new tech workers. There’s only one way to achieve this level of hiring, says Trinkle, and that’s to focus on inclusive skills-based hiring coupled with non-traditional pathways to tech employment, like apprenticeships.
How modern tech apprenticeships work
Crystal Peterson was working as a Home Depot sales associate in Raleigh, N.C., and had a daughter on the way when she began her apprenticeship through New Apprenticeship (NEW). William Blevins started his right out of high school in San Antonio, Texas. Both Crystal and William have since completed their apprenticeships, obtained numerous in-demand certifications, earned college credits towards their bachelor’s degrees and both are now working full-time in professional roles with tech giant Infosys.
The New Apprenticeship organization started in 2016 in Texas, but has since grown into a nationally recognized program that transforms the lives of the apprentices they serve while at the same time creating a more agile and inclusive workforce.
Altogether, it took just 12 months for Crystal and William to advance from circumstances of having no four-year degree and no industry experience, to full-time employees with the necessary skills to operate in the ServiceNow environment at a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting.
“I definitely see myself in the tech field long-term,” said Crystal, who has since been promoted at Infosys and completed her bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. “I’m getting to do so much learning and my coworkers at Infosys are great.” In reflecting on her transformation from before the apprenticeship until now, she notes that, “I am happier, mentally and everything is in a better place than it was a year or two ago.”
“The power of apprenticeship programs is their recognition of potential. Delivering skills through on-the-job training focuses on what is exactly needed for success and allows the apprentice to demonstrate their aptitude. It’s a win for the apprentice and a win for the company,” said Tan Moorthy, executive vice president of Infosys, in a recent case study.
Hiring Tech apprentices benefits employers
It’s worth noting that apprenticeships are incredibly affordable compared to other talent attraction and recruiting efforts, especially when factoring in typical attrition rates. Linkedin reports that the tech industry “turnover” or “churn,” which refers to the percentage of employees who leave the company over the course of a year, is the highest average turnover rate out of any sector, at 13.2 percent. By contrast, apprenticeship programs enjoy a 92 percent retention rate at completion across all reported programs according to apprenticeship.gov.
As hiring managers are well aware, talent lured from other parts of the country more often than not cost employers above-market rates in salary costs. Apprentice salaries provide livable wages that are cost effective for employers, with joint value realized through the investment of training, coaching and mentoring. The overall compensation is more predictable and controlled as the apprentices grow and develop into more skilled roles with more responsibility. And according to its most recent employer survey, NEW reports that 78 percent of hiring managers rate their apprentices as “high performers.”
The results of NEW’s placements also indicate tremendous problem-solving potential for employers too. Lack of diversity, which is a perennial problem for the U.S. tech industry, is equally challenging for Indiana employers, as TechPoint’s Trinkle documents in his article on tech pathways for women and Hoosiers of color. Central Indiana, for example, has a workforce that is 10 percent Black and six percent Hispanic or Latino, yet tech workers are only seven percent Black and three percent Hispanic or Latino. And while women make up nearly half of Indiana’s workforce (48%), the state’s tech workforce is only 28 percent female.
Fortunately, diversity and inclusion is an area where NEW excels. Fully 81 percent of NEW’s apprentices are people who are underrepresented in technology fields. This presents an opportunity for employers to realize gains that come with increased diversity as touted by Forbes, including improved and propelled innovation, increased productivity, higher performance and higher financial returns.
How employers can get involved with tech apprenticeship
Tech apprenticeships programs in Indiana have been made possible, first by an employer like Infosys being willing to shift away from degree-based hiring in favor of skills-based or skills-first hiring, and second by partnering with an experienced provider like New Apprenticeship.
Several Indiana employers, like Infosys, are already working with NEW, and now, through a collaboration with TechPoint, employers will be able to access Registered Apprenticeships in digital marketing, data, cybersecurity, cloud computing and other in-demand tech roles. In addition to launching the adult apprenticeship program with NEW as a top national partner, TechPoint is also developing software apprenticeships and tech sales apprenticeships with local partners, such as Sandler Training, Ivy Tech Community College and Eleven Fifty Academy.
According to Trinkle, this is one of the most significant opportunities for tech employers in Indiana to address the increasingly difficult challenge of filling tech jobs, by participating in a tech apprenticeship program.
As a U.S. Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program, employers are able to benefit from an abundance of local and federal funding sources to offset apprenticeship training costs to accelerate the adaptation. This designation also ensures that apprentices receive industry-vetted training that is administered within a best-practice framework.
Interested apprentices complete an eight-12 week pre-employment bootcamp program, customized to the skills employers need on “Day 1” of the job. This focused training provides participants the opportunity to earn in-demand certifications in a hands-on environment, while receiving job and performance coaching and support. This unique opportunity prepares them to start successful tech careers and lays the foundation to become high-performers as they work to become the future leaders in tech.
Ensuring future success through tech apprenticeship programs
Employers that recognize the need to pivot and utilize innovative hiring approaches like apprenticeships are going to be in a much better position to compete. Infosys, for example, has hired over 150 apprentices, and is expanding to include other in-demand roles like Cloud Computing, according to a recent press release.
“TechPoint’s leadership in advancing this statewide movement is enabling innovative employers within the state to take advantage of an equitable, long-term solution to building value for both the organization and the community in general,” Voeller said.
What’s next? If you’re ready to explore options for hiring apprentices at your company, sign up to be contacted when TechPoint and its partners like NEW have programs and opportunities for you to get involved in the movement to skills-based hiring.