Baristas can now become blockchain experts. Veterans can become software developers. This is the shift to America’s “new collar” jobs – careers in fast-growing fields like software engineering, data analytics and cybersecurity that are in high demand, but remain largely unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers.
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Apprenticeships have traditionally been associated with trade professions such as electricians, plumbers and welders. But today, tech companies are recognizing the value in this type of training, too, in filling jobs that are being created at a record pace. Companies such as Airbnb, Pinterest, Postmates and others are giving apprentice engineers, for example, paid opportunities to learn the ropes.
Today, there are more opportunities than ever in exciting, cutting-edge areas such as IT, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Tech apprenticeships provide workplace experience and help job-seekers develop the necessary skills to qualify for many of these new opportunities — without having to incur crushing student loan debt.
In fact, apprenticeship opportunities have grown 42 percent since 2013, according to the Department of Labor. In 2017 alone, more than 1,000 new apprentices were hired in the information, technical and scientific services.
The Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA)™ Apprenticeship Coalition – comprised of more than two dozen American businesses in partnership with IBM – offers thousands of apprenticeship opportunities nationwide and is working to increase availability and adoption of apprenticeships in growing, in-demand fields.
As a part of this effort, IBM trains coalition members on how to attract and train new hires outside the traditional talent hiring pipeline. IBM has also hired more than 180 apprentices in software engineering, cybersecurity and mainframe system administration over the past 15 months and expects to eventually reach 450 active apprenticeships each year.
In 2017, Amazon partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor to help former military members translate their skills and work ethic to a tech environment. And Re:work is helping people break out of the cycle of poverty by providing apprenticeships to Chicago's underprivileged communities. The company reports that, on average, participants increase their income by 239 percent.
Apprenticeships not only help Americans obtain quality high-paying jobs with benefits – in fact, 91 percent of apprentices retain employment after their program ends – but the programs are also good for businesses. Studies have shown that apprenticeships improve productivity, reduce turnover costs, increase employee retention and create industry-driven and flexible training solutions that meet national and local employment needs.
Eighty-six percent of registered apprenticeship sponsors in the U.S. say they would strongly recommend hiring an apprentice. In the U.K., which has a growing apprenticeship program, 75 percent of small and medium businesses report increased productivity as a result, according to research from the U.K.’s Department for Education.
In fact, many of Europe’s apprenticeship programs can serve as models for the U.S. In Switzerland, 70 percent of young people enter the workforce through an apprenticeship. In Germany, it’s about half a million. It is not uncommon in Germany to find a company where few-to-no upper-managers have a university degree.
A 2018 CTA survey found that 92 percent of tech executives believe they’ll need more employees with technical skills over the next five years, and 74 percent say it will be hard to find candidates with the right skills. Especially as AI and automation transform the way we work – taking over more tasks such as insurance claims, factory work and customer assistance at retail stores – employers increasingly need workers who have technical skills to develop, maintain and work alongside the AI systems that will power our future.
As business leaders, it’s our job to work together and ensure no American worker is left behind in the global race for innovation. As the industry continues to develop new technologies, we must ensure the door of opportunity remains open for all – regardless of background, geography or education. This requires that leaders consider offering additional pathways to successful careers -- such as apprenticeships -- that creatively address the pressing talent pipeline shortage.
Jennifer Taylor is vice president of U.S. jobs at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Kelli Jordan is director of career and skills at IBM.