An apprenticeship is three things:
- It’s a job
- It’s education
- It’s a great opportunity
That’s according to Apprentice Washington, a Division of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. While apprenticeships are common in the trades, apprenticeships are also valuable ways for college students and recent college grads to add and learn new skills in just about any profession, including jobs in the corporate world.
Apprentice Washington says: “There are apprenticeships for nearly any job you can imagine: From high-tech manufacturing to health care.”
And that’s why employers looking to attract, recruit and retain talented workers, should consider the benefits of implementing an apprenticeship program, or hiring apprentices.
Apprenticeships are making a worldwide comeback
Apprenticeships are suddenly popular in the United Kingdom because the government recently implemented a new tax on corporations which requires corporations to pay a “use it or lose it” tax that can be used to train apprentices, therefore incentivizing corporations to hire apprentices, or to turn current employees into apprentices through learning and development contracts.
“I believe this is one of the largest changes to workforce planning in many years in the UK,” says Ilona Jurkiewicz, head of the Early Careers Program at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm. In her role with the Early Careers Program at Thomson Reuters, Jurkiewicz leads internal and external strategy for how Thomson Reuters attracts, assesses, develops, engages, and retains early career talent, including those completing apprenticeships. “And, although this feels like a seismic shift, apprentice strategies are in place in a number of countries already and commonly used, for example, in Germany, France, and Australia.”
In May, Government Canada announced plans to invest $85 million in apprenticeship programs. And now, United States business leaders are starting to take note. On May 16, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $4.2 Million in federal funding was secured to expand New York’s apprenticeship program. Forbes’ recently wrote that it’s time for America to expand the modern Apprenticeship, stating that “calls for the U.S. to expand apprenticeship programs seem to be gaining more traction daily.” This is backed by news that the Trump Administration has plans to adopt a nationwide target to hire five million apprenticeships in five years. Hertz, Sears, CVS Health, WalMart, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car are among five large U.S. employers who already have apprenticeship programs in place.
John Ladd, Administrator at the USDOL/ETA Office of Apprenticeship, is fired up about the role apprenticeships can play in today’s workforce, saying “apprenticeship is big-tent business, and the tent continues to expand. It’s drawing in new champions from the business and philanthropic communities every day, linking their resources to those of state and local workforce agencies, education partners like community colleges and school districts, industry associations, unions and other apprenticeship sponsors.”
The approach is aggressive. And that should be a welcomed approach for employers seeking alternative methods to finding skilled workers in both the trades, and corporate world.
“We need more pathways for job seekers, and as the world realizes that diversity of background and approach is important, I believe apprenticeships will become a more viable and available opportunity for students,” says Jurkiewicz.
How one employer benefits from an apprenticeship program
Growing Leaders is a global nonprofit that encourages and equips young adults to take on real-life opportunities and challenges in the classroom, in their careers, and in the community. The company implemented an apprenticeship program for recent college grads, citing the opportunity to live out the company’s internal values to train up the next generation of leaders.
“Some view this next generation as a problem, we view them as a solution,” says Tim Elmore, President of Growing Leaders, and author of Marching Off The Map, which provides understanding and how to practically apply the latest research on Generation Z.
Apprentices gain a chance to invest further in a set of skills (project management, selling, customer service) or in a function (marketing, operations, sales), said Elmore.
“Depending on the apprenticeship, it can also give the student quantifiable results that he or she contributed to,” added Elmore.
It also gives the employer a chance to train the employee their way, and also, try before they buy – similar to an internship – where they can determine if an apprentice is the right fit for a full-time job.
“An apprenticeship allows more time to train a new graduate before they enter a full time position, and allows a trial period to see if he or she would be a good fit on our team,” says Elmore.
What exactly is an apprenticeship?
In simple terms, an apprentice is someone learning a skill, says Jurkiewicz. An apprentice can be someone just starting their career, or learning a trade, or someone like a recent college grad at the beginning of their career and entering the world of work. An apprentice can even be an experienced professional working towards an advanced degree or certification.
What employers need to know about apprenticeships
- Apprenticeships are often paid
- Apprenticeships vary in length, so it tends to be driven by type of apprenticeship you are implementing and then the way the person is learning.
- Employers often implement one off apprenticeships (hiring an individual for a specific role), as well as more programmatic approaches (a full apprenticeship program, with set criteria, similar to an internship program).
An apprenticeship is unique and different from an internship or internship program. During an apprenticeship, there is a formal or informal contract between the apprentice, an employer, and sometimes a certifying body (a university or education body) through which the apprenticeship is attaining skills, says Jurkiewicz. At Growing Leaders the apprentice commits to an eight to 12 month apprenticeship, versus say a summer internship, which may be three or four months.
“At the end of an apprenticeship, a student will have a more in-depth understanding of a certain function of business and clearer picture of how an organization operates,” says Elmore.
The long-term benefits of apprenticeships for employers
The reality is, not every college graduate is equipped with the right skills needed to succeed in the real world. Whether it’s soft skills, technical skills, communication skills, or the ability work with a diverse workforce that spans across generations. When an employer hires an apprentice, they are dedicated to providing further on-the-job training, while being able to mold the employee to fit their needs. While that seems to benefit the job seeker, it also benefits the employer, because it helps them create a pipeline of talent that could eventually be hired into a full-time role. If hired, these college grads are already familiar with the company, business, products, services, clients, and colleagues. They can move right into a full-time role, saving time on training and reducing time spent recruiting.
“Businesses gain by having an on-boarding pathway to find stellar graduates who can offer up their gifts and talents to help an organization succeed,” says Elmore. “Millennials are the largest generation in the workplace and those organizations who can succeed in leading them well will have the upper hand. Apprenticeships literally give an organization a chance to observe a new, young professional at little cost.”
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