The tech labor shortage will only grow. These companies think apprenticeships are the answer


White-collar industries are just beginning to embrace apprenticeship — and some companies say it’s the future of entry-level employment.

Apprenticeships have long been associated with commercial industries, such as manufacturing and construction. Today, their popularity is especially growing in the tech field, where recruiters struggle to fill vacancies. “Over the past year, there’s been a lot more momentum,” as companies face labor shortages in key tech jobs, and apprenticeships offer a way to cultivate skills. in-house or entry-level talent, says Jennifer Carlson, co-founder and executive director. from Apprenti, a Seattle-based company that helps companies roll out their own apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships have a different structure from internships and they can also reach a different audience. For the duration of an apprentice – usually a year – they receive paid on-the-job training, usually working with a mentor who helps them through the ins and outs of their position. At the end of their term, they are appointed to a full-time entry position. “The business can hire people they already know, and the investment is less than the cost of exiting and finding new people,” Carlson says. The majority of apprentices are at the beginning of their career and may or may not require a university degree; a smaller percentage, according to Apprentice data, are career changers looking to re-skill.

Apprentice was launched in 2015 and its first cohort of apprentices secured full-time positions in 2016. Today, it works with 114 companies, nearly double the number of clients it had 12 months prior. Apprentice’s relationship with his corporate clients varies: sometimes he fully manages apprenticeship programs in a company, while other times he assists with specific components of otherwise corporate-managed learning, such as recruitment and integration.

There is growing competition in space. Multiverse, a London-based startup founded by Euan Blair – the son of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – in 2016, launched in the US in January 2021. Today it works with 15 companies in the States States, including ClassPass and Verizon. , and more than 300 worldwide. Multiverse’s learning model is designed to make it an easy elevator for businesses. The company oversees every element of the learning programs it puts in place for its customers, even providing employees with a coach – a Multiverse employee – who makes sure they stay on track with their training. He has raised $194 million to date.

While Multiverse primarily works with large enterprises, Blair says the learning model can also be successful in small and medium-sized businesses. “One of the reasons we target Fortune 500 companies is because it’s good social proof,” he says. “Where Google and Meta have gone, others will follow.”

OneSignal, the San Mateo, Calif.-based customer communications company, recruited its first apprentices in 2021. “Because we’re a startup, we have a ‘build it ourselves’ attitude,” says Brett Thomas, Head of infrastructure engineering, which oversees the company’s internal learning program and led the program. “It helps that we have a culture of not overworking people to start with, so mentors have been able to take the time they need to train apprentices.” Since launching its apprenticeship program, OneSignal has graduated two apprentices into full-time positions. It is currently training three apprentices and has 115 full-time employees.

To recruit its apprentices, OneSignal turns to bootcamp programs like those offered by the female-focused engineering school Hackbright Academy. These types of programs typically give students from all backgrounds the opportunity to receive training in technical skills such as coding and UX design.

However, to bridge the gap between technology and the workforce, companies may need to look beyond these pools of self-screened candidates, Blair says. Multiverse, for example, has a diverse outreach strategy: the company works with charter schools, colleges, and nonprofits, in addition to posting on social media channels like TikTok.

Once candidates apply to become an apprentice, the company assesses their existing skills to determine which role is best for them. “Most people don’t always know what they want to do,” Blair says. “But we can see that someone who scores reasonably well in numeracy on our assessment may be suited for a career in data, while someone with great interpersonal skills may do well in sales.”

Having a third-party admin like Multiverse or Apprentice perform a skills assessment also helps companies avoid unconscious bias in the onboarding process and, therefore, helps diversify the workforce. Apprentice candidates take an online skills assessment that asks basic math, logic, and critical thinking questions. Through an interview phase, Apprentice recruiters gain a better idea of ​​what they bring in terms of experience.

This, Carlson says, is where bias can traditionally exclude candidates who might be well suited for apprenticeship positions. “If a Burger King manager was applying for a position at a tech company, the company might ask why,” she says. “But then we show all the skills that person has, like supply chain, project and people management. Then the company says, ‘Oh, he’s a great candidate. It’s a huge cultural shift for companies.” Instead of sending out traditional CVs to its clients, Apprenti sends companies the candidates’ initials, their assessment score and a list of their best skills, not their job titles. previous posts.

Blair thinks companies are willing to pay for this kind of service, and not just in the short term, as industries across the board continue to experience tight labor markets. The prices of Multiverse and Apprentice services vary according to the needs of each client; Carlson shared that Apprentice fees are a maximum of $3,500 per apprentice and that companies are responsible for paying each apprentice’s salary. Multiverse declined to share its price range.

“Companies will always be willing to pay for something useful, and we’re solving a problem,” he says. The cost of onboarding talent, apprenticeships aside, is already high, Blair points out, and not only does apprenticeship make employees more loyal to their company – 85% of Multiverse apprentices stay with their company once they graduate at a entry-level position – it also fills a gap in the technology job market.

Since expanding Multiverse into the US, Blair has found a market for his business that is even bigger than what he first saw in the UK. Student debt in the UK is around $185 billion, while in the US the figure is around $1.75. trillion. The return on the college degree in the United States has declined and many young people are looking for alternatives – and employers are increasingly noticing this. “What surprised me the most in the United States was how little pushback there was,” Blair said. “We must have been less convincing than we thought.”

At Apprenti, growth has also been rapid. It is in the early stages of raising $25 million in funding, which the company says will support its goal of placing 5,000 apprentices per year over the next five years.


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