Earn while you learn: Apprentice programs can benefit employers and workers

CompTIA expands apprenticeship programs for entry-level tech jobs including security, network and support roles.

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Whether the challenge is finding new hires to support digital transformation projects or, upskilling current workers,  there's no shortage of workforce needs for tech companies and businesses in general. European businesses have long used apprenticeships to build a workforce and American companies are starting to come around to this approach as well. 

In April, the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggested new policies to support workers and employers such as establishing lifelong learning accounts for workers to fund continuous education and training opportunities. The GAO also suggested encouraging employers to build apprenticeship programs.  

The Department of Labor collected this data about the state of apprenticeships in 2020

  • 221,000 individuals nationwide entered the apprenticeship system
  • 636,000 apprentices earned wages while in a program
  • 82,000 apprentices graduated from the apprenticeship programs

The pandemic slowed momentum for these career development efforts as everything went virtual. However, the U.S. government acted to expand apprenticeships as part of the economic response to job losses during the pandemic. The House of Representatives passed an apprenticeship bill in February and it is now in the Senate. The bill provides billions in funding for apprenticeship programs and gives the Department of Labor authority to support these efforts. 

SEE: Microsoft and IBM use apprenticeships to diversify tech and solve the labor shortage 

Here's a look at tech companies that have new or established apprenticeship programs that are taking applicants now.

CompTIA Apprenticeships for Tech

One of the newest programs launched at the end of August. CompTIA's apprenticeship program just added four new programs to go along with new standards released by the Department of Labor. The new training programs cover these entry-level tech jobs:

  • Cybersecurity support technician
  • Network support specialist
  • Tech project coordinator
  • Tech support specialist

The National Guideline Standards outline workplace training and supplemental coursework for apprentices in each role. For example, people in the tech project coordinator training will receive on-the-job training and instruction in the basics of project management, general IT terminology and concepts, business acumen, employability skills and other areas. The standards also include qualifications and recruitment of prospective apprentices, the duration of training and  recommended wage scale.

SEE: 3 ways the feds can modernize job training to solve the tech workforce shortage 

The Department of Labor selected CompTIA and the talent development company Maher & Maher to participate in the national apprenticeship initiative to increase the number of workers trained and certified to fill high-demand tech positions. The programs are designed to recruit people from groups who are underrepresented in the tech workforce, including women, people of color and individuals with disabilities. Employers can hire CompTIA to design and run an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships at Google

Google has apprenticeship opportunities around the world, including France, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and the US. Applications for the US program are closed for 2021 but applications are open for work in Switzerland. There are five tracks: digital marketing, information technology, project management, software engineering and UX design.  All apprentices at Google participate in on-the-job work experience and receive external training through a partner organization. When they finish the program, apprentices receive a nationally recognized credential certified by the Labor Department. Some of the tracks also include completing the corresponding Google Career Certificate.

IBM's New Collar Program

People without advanced degrees can learn while they earn in IBM's apprenticeship program. The New Collar Program is an intensive, work-based development program with comprehensive learning, focused hands-on training and mentorship. There are open jobs around the U.S. for apprentices. These student workers have to complete specific learning hours and on-the-job training within 12 months. Graduates receive a certificate from the program and are eligible to apply to available full-time roles at IBM.

Amazon Technical Academy

Amazon has its own internal technical boot camp, which the company opened up to two other training centers earlier this year. Amazon Technical Academy is partnering with two online training partners with tech expertise: Kenzie Academy and Lambda School. Amazon launched the academy in 2017 as part of an internal upskilling plan and the company invested more than $12 million into the program in 2020.

Microsoft Leap

This 16-week apprenticeship program started in 2015 for people who have basic technical skills. It combines classroom learning and hands-on engineering projects, working on teams and products within the company, including Azure, Xbox, Bing and Office365. There are eight career pathways with varying entrance requirements. This includes business program manager, customer service engineer, cybersecurity engineer, data analyst, software engineer, technical program manager, user experience designer and software support engineers. The cohorts are based in Redmond, WA, Atlanta, GA, Reston, VA, Sunnyvale, CA, Lagos, Nigeria, Nairobi, Kenya, Vancouver BC, Canada, and Mexico City, Mexico. 

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...