Tech-based apprenticeships help businesses meet need

Apprenticeships are changing, and as a result, they are changing the face of the workforce across America.

Traditionally, apprenticeships were associated with the skilled trades and manufacturing. But a new generation of tech-enabled apprenticeships is being utilized by businesses in the IT, finance, insurance and banking sectors. Through the earn-and-learn model, businesses are diversifying their talent pipelines and experiencing higher retention, benefiting both employers and individuals.

Apprenticeships are much more than on-the-job training. They are comprehensive programs that last from one to six years depending upon the position. Most require testing on core competencies, and all lead to industry-recognized credentials.

Many industry leaders are integrating apprenticeship programs into their workforce development. JPMorgan Chase, for example, has become a groundbreaker in financial services apprenticeships. These programs not only help the company source employees, they diversify the talent pool, especially in regard to people of color, women and veterans.

There are many types of apprenticeships, but the most widely recognized are Registered Apprenticeships (RAPs). This Department of Labor program permits industry, workforce and education stakeholders to match career-seekers with jobs across a broad range of occupations. The program includes 1) progressively increasing wages, 2) on-the-job learning, 3) related instruction, 4) mentorship and 5) an industry-recognized credential.

This year, the Department of Labor awarded $171 million to 39 grantees across the country to build RAP hubs. One is in Greater Cleveland, where the focus is on connecting employers, technical training providers and public sector partners to register apprenticeship standards in new occupations, working together with employers to onboard programs; and connecting underrepresented populations with high-wage, high-opportunity pathways.

The hub also intends to innovate the ways employers upskill workers, driving innovation and value into the RAP model.

The benefits to apprentices are clear: They receive training in fields they may not have thought they could enter without an expensive and time-consuming degree.

Apprenticeships address challenges, including labor shortages. According to a DOL study, 94 percent of apprentices stay with the employer that trained them. Apprenticeships also help companies diversify their workforce. Apprenticeships provide flexible training programs tailored to a company’s needs. Companies are building rather than buying talent.

Just as apprentices have barriers to entry, however, companies can face hurdles setting up programs. Many companies still use bachelor’s degrees as gatekeeping devices, instead of skills, yet still have to train new hires for the work expected.

State and local programs can help companies overcome cost barriers for setting up apprenticeships. In Ohio, examples include tax credits, employee tuition benefits, and grants from Apprentice Ohio and Cuyahoga County’s SkillUp program. Finally, third-party organizations such as chambers of commerce can sponsor apprenticeship programs on behalf of small and mid-sized employers to achieve economies of scale.

The biggest barrier, however, may be mindset. Most businesses only think of apprenticeships in the traditional fields. A change in perspective is helping change the faces of the workforce across America, benefiting employers and the community. ●

Baiju R. Shah is President & CEO of Greater Cleveland Partnership

Baiju R. Shah

President and CEO


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