For hundreds of years, employers have used apprenticeships to cultivate the skilled blue-collar workers they need. And for many of the world’s top economies, apprenticeship programs have long been a core part of their workforce development strategy. In Switzerland, for example, approximately 70 percent of Swiss students choose to pursue apprenticeships over a traditional college education. In Germany, approximately 1.32 million people were in apprenticeship in 2017.
In a rapidly shifting technological landscape, traditional qualifications like college degrees are no longer reliable indicators of competency. Nearly 1 million software development jobs go unfilled every year, and according to Los Angeles-based consultancy Korn Ferry, the American technology sector will face a talent shortage of approximately 4.3 million workers by 2030. With the tech skills shortage growing worse every year, more and more companies in need of skilled engineers and web developers are making apprenticeship programs a part of their talent acquisition strategy. Should your organization be turning to this age-old model? Here are five major benefits to employers of apprenticeship programs.
#1 Develop Skilled and Productive Employees
American universities are yet to produce the volume of skilled technical workers needed to meet the demands of the modern economy. Rather than hoping universities deliver the skilled labor they need, apprenticeships allow organizations to shape the professional development of talent. Instead of just purchasing labor, organizations take part in producing it. The competency-based training and education that apprentices receive equip them with the specific skills they need for their industry; skills that correlate directly to the positions employers need to fill. And beyond just general skills, apprentices learn organization-specific practices, and how to apply those skills and practices in a company’s unique context.
Investing in apprenticeships also strengthens an organization’s internal capability to develop talent and cultivate leaders. Serving as mentors and teachers to younger workers helps senior staffers sharpen their own skills and leadership abilities. In the long term, developing this internal capability enhances an organization’s ability to keep its employees’ skills up to date.
#2 Improve Employee Retention and Reduce Turnover
Finding, hiring, and training skilled labor, especially in technical roles in IT and web development, is a time-consuming and expensive process. This makes high employee turnover rates extremely costly for organizations. Apprentices tend to be loyal to organizations that teach them valuable skills and offer positive mentor/mentee relationships. According to one estimate, 89% of employees who complete a registered apprenticeship program are retained for at least three years. Building an organizational culture that values learning and professional growth fosters high morale and makes all your employees — not merely apprentices — more likely to stick around.
#3 Save Money
Apprenticeship programs allow employers to save on the costs of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new employees. Apprentices have much lower wages than employees hired based on other types of credentials or those with relevant professional experience. What’s more, heightened investment in training on the front-end also offsets some of the costs of on-the-job training that would take place later. And because registered apprenticeship programs can be subsidized by state and federal apprenticeship systems, employers don’t have to shoulder the full cost of starting the program.
Intermediary programs like DevPipeline, which design structured training plans and curriculum, also help reduce the costs of apprenticeships to employers, especially for smaller employers with limited human resource capacity.
#4 Make Better Informed Hiring Decisions
When organizations hire from outside, they incur the risks associated with bringing in an unknown quantity. Apprenticeships mitigate a lot of the guesswork of talent evaluation, especially with young and entry-level hires with less professional experience. As apprentices go through their training program, organizations learn what they need to know about their skills, teamwork, work ethic, and how they fit into their company’s culture. What better way to evaluate prospective hires than to observe them in action on real work? Apprenticeships serve as a trial period in this way. Whether the program is six months, a year, or longer, organizations can make more informed decisions about who will make a strong addition to their team.
#5 Build A More Diverse Workforce
African American and Hispanic workers each make up less than 10% of the US technology workforce. A 2020 study by the AnitaB.org Institute found that women make up just 28.8% of the tech workforce, a steady increase from the past few years, but it still leaves significant room for growth. The earn while you learn model opens up a pathway to high-wage jobs for underrepresented groups who may not have the wherewithal to take on significant student debt or can’t afford to stop working to pursue a degree. Still, organizations must be intentional with their program’s hiring processes in order to reach diversity and inclusion goals. For example, in addition to candidates with four-year degrees, firms should recruit from nontraditional sources like workforce development apprenticeships, bootcamps, and community colleges to help produce a more diverse talent pool. For technology companies, however, one thing is clear: a diverse staff begets diversity of thought, which is a catalyst for the type of innovation that drives profits.
Organizations like IBM, Accenture, and T-Mobile are finding that apprenticeships are strong investments, allowing them to cultivate and retain talent, create a culture of ongoing professional development, and build more diverse and innovative workforces. They are finding that heightened investment in training on the front-end creates more long-term value for their organizations. Is your company’s talent acquisition strategy consistently delivering new hires with the competencies you need to grow?
Visit our website to learn more about how DevPipeline is training its apprentices to be full-stack web developers, Salesforce administrators, and Salesforce developers.