An Introduction to Non-Traditional Apprenticeships
As we move into a new year there seems to be a renewed interest and momentum in expanding apprenticeship programs into more “new collar” fields in industries like information technology, education, and healthcare. Last February, the House of Representatives passed the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, a bill that would invest billions of federal dollars in apprenticeship programs. In April, the Government Accountability Office published a report that recommends employers develop apprenticeship programs to help workers weather economic disruptions due to the ongoing pandemic.
On top of the increasing government interest and funding, there has also been significant interest from private companies looking for a new way to expand and upskill their workforce. London-based tech startup Multiverse which specializes in creating apprenticeship opportunities worldwide reported in January raising $44 million in funding to bring apprenticeships in data science, software engineering, digital marketing, and project management to the United States. Multiverse apprenticeships typically last 12 to 18 months, as an alternative to both traditional college and corporate training.
Image Provided By Preston Cooper from Forbes and The U.S. Department of Labor
Recent studies have shown that many young adults increasingly perceive a traditional college degree as not worth the rapidly rising cost and are growing increasingly attracted to shorter and cheaper pathways to skill development and higher education. On top of this, there has been rising awareness that alternative education routes can lead to well-paying jobs, with 20% of technical certificate holders and 30% of associate’s degree holders earning more than the average B.A. holder. Apprenticeships are often identified with skilled trades such as welding and carpentry, and construction but new research indicates that expanding apprenticeships into other leading occupations would generate more job opportunities across the nation.
As apprenticeships continue to evolve and expand into new industries and occupations the tech industry has been brought to the forefront with its intense but rewarding apprenticeship programs. Tech apprenticeship programs provide career opportunities for aspiring young workers from various backgrounds. Participants often come from nontraditional educational paths and gain access to education, technical training, and mentorship from industry-leading experts. These Apprentices often receive gradually increased wages as well as employee benefits, making these programs more accessible for everyone.
“For the aspiring technology worker, this path makes complete sense. You get a foothold at a technology organization that’s already invested in a structure in place to get you to the next step, unlike a college degree, which largely leaves graduates on their own to find their careers.”
Jill Kouri, CMO at HCL Technologies Global
In addition to providing participants with an entry-level job as well as skills and knowledge, these programs can also lead to a degree or certificate or even a full-time position with the employer. Tech apprenticeship programs instill practical and up-to-date skills into their company's workforce. They may also help to diversify the industry by encouraging more women and people from underrepresented backgrounds to join. Apprentices can also access a federal grant program to cover some of the costs associated with the training. Some programs, such as computer coding apprenticeships, can lead to industry or vendor certifications.
An example of a flourishing program is CompTIA’s apprenticeship program. The national computer trade industry association introduced Apprenticeships for Tech in October 2020. They did this while keeping in mind the goal of growing and diversifying the national tech pipeline. The initiative helps companies establish apprenticeships programs through which they hire and train employees to their specifications. CompTIA’s programs include apprenticeships for a cybersecurity support technician, network support specialist, tech project coordinator, and tech support specialist. The National Guideline Standards outline workplace training and supplemental coursework for apprentices in each role. The standards also include qualifications and recruitment of potential apprentices as well as the duration of the training and recommended wage scale.
Introduction of Education Apprenticeships
With apprenticeships breaking into many different fields education was sure to follow. These programs come in response to the rapidly decreasing amount of qualified educators and an increasing need for educators across the country. In the U.S we have had a difficult time recruiting enough quality teachers even if every single graduate of every selective college opted to become a teacher next year, it wouldn’t even replace the growing gaps faced in the nation with 3.5 million educators. Educator apprenticeships are relatively new but could have a serious impact on alleviating the many obstacles in place to become a fully licensed teacher.
One program that is breaking down barriers in the industry is Austin Peay's Educator Apprenticeship in Tennessee where they are the first state in the nation to sponsor a Teaching Occupation Apprenticeship.
“We believe that the narrative around teacher education is misleading; people do want to be teachers in our schools, as our residency programs show. We just need to make it more accessible for all. This program is a giant step in that direction. We are honored to be the first in the nation doing this groundbreaking work with CMCSS.”
Dr. Prentice Chandler, Dean of the APSU Eriksson College of Education
This marks the first program to be approved as a permanent apprenticeship initiative and Tennessee Department of Education officials are optimistic that more like programs will be approved in the future. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s apprenticeship programs already offer 650 apprenticeship slots so far. If all 650 candidates complete the program successfully officials calculate that it would be enough to reduce the state’s teacher shortfall by almost a third.
This program will build upon the 65 current Grow Your Own programs that the state offers which provide free opportunities to become a teacher operating in Tennessee. This initiative hopes to clear the path for other states interested in launching similar programs with federal approval. This new apprenticeship opportunity will set the stage for a national model of Grow Your Own pathway for participants to become teachers for free and move on to attain high-quality jobs in their own communities.
Growing Belief in Healthcare and Medical Apprenticeships
The healthcare industry much like many other industries in America right now is facing a serious staffing shortage when it comes to qualified medical professionals which has driven industry leaders to think outside the box and look for new ways to train and upskill their workers. Among industry leaders in medical fields surrounding surgical autonomy, nursing, medical assistants, and other medical positions, there are many who believe that current incoming residents lack the skills that they need to enter practice. Participants in these programs will be provided with valuable industry knowledge revolving around many medical positions receiving training in skills required to be successful in the medical industry while also earning a livable wage.
Image Provided by the Community College of Baltimore
States like Texas are investing in apprenticeship programs as their solution to these shortages as the Austin area was recently awarded over half a million dollars to expand local health care apprenticeship programs. This a great opportunity is not only good for its participants but it also helps the hospitals in the area as we as the health care industry as they continue to deal with staffing shortages. According to data collected by Workforce solutions, the healthcare industry is one of the largest in Austin’s regional area as they have over 100,00 workers on payroll with around 65,000 of those being middle-skilled positions that can easily be filled by incoming apprentices.
The state believes that expanding apprenticeship programs is an opportunity for the unemployed and underemployed residents to gain new skills valued by hiring employers, while at the same time helping to grow and expand the region’s economy. By participating in this apprenticeship program Austin residents have the opportunity to earn their certification at no cost while being able to better provide for their families, and start a path to a more stable and well-paying career. Expanding programs like these will also help healthcare employers in Central Texas hire locally to fill roles quickly and continue providing safe and quality care to their patients.
More to Come
Recent research conducted by Harvard Bussiness School found that the number of jobs that commonly use apprenticeships could be expanded -- from 27 to 74. That increase alone would open up to 3.3 million job opportunities that could be filled by apprentices, according to the researchers’ report. The 27 occupations that currently use apprenticeship models account for approximately 410,000 apprentices.
With companies struggling to fill open positions and the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to be a factor businesses will have to adjust and find new ways to fill in-demand positions and eliminate skill gaps. Apprenticeships provide a proven pathway to success and can be applied to a vast number of occupations. More and more “new collar” apprenticeships programs are popping up across the country with no signs of slowing down with leaders like NFL team the L.A. Rams recruiting apprenticeship and luxury design brand Coach breaking into the apprenticeship scene more big names are sure to follow.