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Why Employers Should Consider Apprenticeships to Address the Tech Talent Gap
The talent shortage in tech isn’t news to employers who’ve attempted to hire skilled workers in recent years. As technology continues to evolve at lightning speed, the demand for skilled tech professionals continues to outpace available talent. As organizations across a variety of industries strive to remain competitive and on the cutting edge of innovation, finding qualified talent with the necessary technical skills can be a daunting task.
Apprenticeships provide an alternative pathway for employers to recruit talent beyond traditional higher education, visas, and poaching from competitors. Jennifer Carlson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Apprenti, a federally recognized apprenticeship program that creates alternative pathways for employers to access diverse tech talent and address digital skills shortages, appeared on a recent episode of the “Jazzed About Work” podcast. Jennifer shed light on the potential for apprenticeships to address challenges employees and job-seekers face in the technology industry, and why employers might consider starting or expanding apprenticeship programs.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
1. Why the tech talent gap matters: Jennifer opened the discussion by highlighting the pervasive tech talent gap. As technology rapidly advances, businesses need more skilled professionals who are familiar with emerging tools and platforms. However, the traditional education system struggles to supply adequate talent to keep up with the pace of technological innovation. Higher education produces just 325,000 graduates in all STEM fields. Additionally, Congress grants only 85,000 H-1B visas each year, a program that enables U.S. employers to hire skilled workers from other countries on a temporary basis. And in many cases, poaching is both a costly and unsustainable source of highly skilled talent. Alongside more traditional pathways, Registered Apprenticeships provide a secondary system employers can tap into to source qualified, diverse talent and develop a highly skilled workforce.
2. How apprenticeship can fill the digital skills gap: Apprenticeships offer a practical and effective solution to address the tech talent shortage. By combining on-the-job training with classroom instruction, apprenticeships provide individuals with the opportunity to gain real-world experience while learning relevant technical skills. Jennifer emphasized that apprenticeships create a direct pathway for job seekers from underrepresented groups, such as women, people of color, Veterans, and individuals with disabilities to enter the tech industry and for employers to build a skilled, diverse workforce.
3. Benefits for employers: Jennifer noted that employers benefit greatly from apprenticeship programs. By investing in apprentices, companies can develop a pipeline of skilled workers tailored to their specific needs, organizational culture, work processes, and technology stack, resulting in a highly competent and more loyal workforce. Apprenticeships differ from internships because employers offer a robust training program with an intent to hire.
While graduates from higher education average a 75% retention rate after their first year with an employer, Registered Apprenticeship boasts a 91% retention rate. Even more impressive, 86% of Apprenti placements are from underrepresented groups. In addition to building a diverse talent pool through the model of apprenticeship, Apprenti provides employers with cost savings over traditionally sourced talent and, as a non-profit, has access to funding and subsidies to further offset training costs.
4. Benefits for job seekers: Apprenticeships also offer advantages for individuals seeking a career in technology, including a structured learning environment, mentorship opportunities, and a chance to work on real-world projects. In this way, apprentices gain hands-on experience, industry-specific knowledge, and valuable networking connections, all of which significantly enhance their employability.
Additionally, apprentices receive a credential at the end of their training that lets employers know they are fully competent in a given role, and they can perform that set of skills at most companies. This makes the apprentice easier to recruit for future positions because they’re able to do the work and understand the universal language and industry standards that apply to that role. They can easily demonstrate that knowledge during the interview process. It also makes apprentices more retainable, because they’ve invested their time and effort into learning the skills required to provide maximum value to the employer. In this way, apprenticeship creates a holistic ecosystem of talent that is scalable, sustainable, and portable—across state lines, industry verticals, and companies.
5. Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): Jennifer also observed that apprenticeships have the potential to foster greater diversity, equity, and inclusion within the tech industry. By actively recruiting candidates from underrepresented communities and providing them with accessible entry points into highly skilled tech roles, apprenticeships help break down barriers to hiring and recruiting and create a more inclusive talent pool.
As the tech talent gap continues to widen, apprenticeships present a viable solution for both job seekers and employers in the technology industry. By offering practical experience, valuable skills, and a supportive learning environment, apprenticeships provide a viable secondary system employers can leverage to recruit qualified tech professionals from underrepresented groups to highly skilled roles within their organizations. Throughout the podcast, Jennifer highlighted the potential of apprenticeships to help address the tech talent shortage, ultimately contributing to a more diverse, skilled, and competitive workforce of the future.
To learn more about Apprenti, its impact on tech hiring, and how to become a hiring partner, visit https://apprenticareers.org/hire/.