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    How Registered Apprenticeships Could Ease Tech Talent Shortage

    The persistent shortage of technology workers across America could be eased if more employers relied on apprenticeships to develop new tech talent.

    Dozens of employers from multiple states around the country launched Registered Apprenticeship programs in 2022 through CompTIA Apprenticeships for Tech.

    It's a national initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to increase the number of skilled technology workers and expand tech career opportunities for diverse populations.

    Some two dozen intermediaries — organizations with the expertise to help companies create a Registered Apprenticeship program — have joined the program.

    Apprenticeships Combine Learning, Earning

    Stephanie Veck, a senior consultant with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Apprenticeships for Tech partner development lead, explained that a registered apprenticeship is an "earn and learn" model where businesses partner with a training provider.

    "They can do the training themselves or partner with a community college, a tech bootcamp, or any training provider that they would like to provide a learning experience for an apprentice," she said. "That is where you're learning on the job and in a classroom environment, either remote or at a location."


    One of the key things that are different about apprenticeships for tech is that they are not meant as a replacement for going to college, she said.

    "We're saying go into an apprenticeship and get the globally recognized credentials you need to be successful in a tech career that will also prepare you to go to college when you're ready to go to college," Veck said.

    If you already have a college degree and you need to be reskilled and retrained to get into a specific career pathway, a tech apprenticeship can build upon that college education.

    "You already had to get your foot in the door into a tech career," she said. "For us, apprenticeship lives alongside college, not instead of college. I think that's an important thing for people to recognize — it's never an either/or. It's both. And in a way that works best for the employer and the individual."

    A Golden Link, Finally Recognized by IT

    Tech is a field that requires even entry-level workers to have skills built through hands-on practical experience, according to Connor Diemand-Yauman, co-founder and co-CEO of Merit America.

    "The challenge is that this type of experience can be difficult to come by before taking on a full-time position," he said. "Apprenticeships are a golden link between people on the job daily and the eager incoming workforce who need to bring their knowledge to life."

    In addition, apprenticeships help new workers establish connections with senior workers in their field, enabling them to establish a meaningful network as they advance in their careers, Diemand-Yauman said.

    "Hiring a former apprentice also saves an organization time in training while reducing turnover costs," he explained. "Companies can shift away from entirely reskilling new employees from their start date and dedicate that time to productive outputs instead."

    Veck pointed out that registered apprenticeships in the United States have been very successful for 85 years, primarily in skilled trades such as construction and manufacturing. They're also picking up steam in the healthcare space. But in the tech space, there are additional challenges, including resistance from some employers because they feel the concept just can't work.

    "There are myths that apprenticeships have to last for years because in the skilled occupations they typically are three- to four-year apprenticeships," Veck explained.

    The apprenticeship structure AIR developed in partnership with CompTIA, on the other hand, allows for apprenticeships to be as short as 15 months — although they can last up to three years, depending on the amount of work experience the employer wants.

    "Someone could participate in help desk support in as little as 15 months," Veck noted. "They would get 2,000 hours of work experience and learn on the job along with 250 to 350 hours of classroom training. At the end of that apprenticeship, they would graduate with their certification and an industry-recognized credential that's of value to that employer and to the apprentice."

    What makes that 15-month timeframe work from a financial perspective is that in a registered apprenticeship program, while the apprentice is earning a wage, the wage scale starts lower and gradually increases as the apprentice earns more competencies, she said.

    "They're productive from day one, but by the end of the apprenticeship, they're fully competent and as productive as anyone else doing that specialist job," Veck said.

    Apprenticeships Are an Ideal Launch Pad into Tech

    CoderPad CEO Amanda Richardson believes apprenticeships and internships are a great way to move into a career in tech.

    "The roles allow 'real world' experience for candidates to build up their skills," she said. "Meanwhile, employers benefit from seeing a candidate in action, where internships or apprenticeships can turn into full-time roles."

    Also, with apprenticeships and internships, Richardson said that candidates can show their skills.

    "They can finally be judged based on the quality of their work, not necessarily which school or previous employer logos are on their resumes," she said. "Employers need to embrace apprenticeships."

    While it may slightly deviate from the traditional recruiting system, that uniqueness gives employers a chance to stand out and attract candidates for which fewer companies may be competing, according to Richardson.

    Veck pointed out that the tech industry doesn't need everyone to have a computer science degree to have a good job in tech.

    "Because it's a job, because you earn a wage, because you learn while you're working, a registered apprenticeship makes the opportunity accessible to more people," she said.

    This includes nontraditional students — for example, a woman who stepped out of the workforce to raise a family or a single dad who must work to support a family but who doesn't want to just stay in jobs that aren't taking him anywhere.

    "Minorities and people with disabilities that might not think they can be successful in tech roles can go into an apprenticeship and demonstrate to themselves and the employer that they really do have the aptitude to be successful in tech," Veck said. "It just offers a more fair entry level for everyone, rather than those who can get these jobs when they've gone to a very expensive bootcamp or already graduated with a college degree."

    Apprenticeships Level the Playing Field

    There is an "unbelievable" lack of transparency of ROI in higher education, which is currently seen as the primary on-ramp to the tech field, Diemand-Yauman said.

    "There are few industries or products in the world that operate like higher education, where you have to make a large investment without knowing whether it will work," he said. "This makes college a huge financial risk for many students and is a deterrent to pursuing higher education."


    Family income is a huge determinant of college attendance, and those from low-income communities are at a significant disadvantage when college is the only pathway into a field, Diemand-Yauman added.

    "Once more equitable pathways such as apprenticeships have been established, individuals from underrepresented backgrounds can access once-exclusive opportunities," he said.

    In this way, apprenticeships offer a bridge to an IT career path that otherwise may have been out of reach for underrepresented communities.

    In addition, these programs can be scaled to a wider audience and at a faster pace than the traditional four-year model of higher education.

    "By offering an opportunity to learn essential skills and experience while building professional networks, apprenticeships, and skills-training programs level the playing field," he said.


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    About the Author

    Kamal Rastogi is a serial IT entrepreneur with 25 yrs plus experience. Currently his focus area is Data Science business, ERP Consulting, IT Staffing and Experttal.com (Fastest growing US based platform to hire verified / Risk Compliant Expert IT resources from talent rich countries like India, Romania, Philippines etc...directly). His firms service clients like KPMG, Deloitte, EnY, Samsung, Wipro, NCR Corporation etc in India and USA.

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