The Role Apprenticeships Can Play in Building the Workforce of Tomorrow

Recruitment and retention continue to be a major challenge for employers, particularly after the ‘Great Resignation’ and ‘Great Reshuffle’ which saw millions of Americans quit their jobs last year. As a result, talent acquisition has become the number one priority for many businesses and public sector agencies. In an effort to find the right candidates, more HR professionals are considering  non-traditional routes to find talent. Last year the US Labor Department awarded $130 million in grants to support registered apprenticeship programs. The influx of funding will lead to more programs across the country and create much-needed talent pipelines. 

Apprenticeships at local, state and federal agencies

Apprenticeship programs are a proven workforce development solution that are helping public sector agencies recruit and develop workers in highly-skilled roles. Many jobs that were lost during the pandemic are not returning which has led to an increased number of people looking for work in new sectors. As a result, retraining programs are proving to play a crucial role in getting people back to work. The Federal government currently has over 150 apprenticeship programs that enroll nearly 1,500 apprentices spanning technology, healthcare, financial services, transportation, and skilled trades occupations. In addition to this, 24 states have coordinated, centralized apprenticeship programs. And these numbers could very well increase following the grant funding awarded during 2021. Public sector apprenticeships are an effective way to attract and expose people to diverse career opportunities in government. Training young people for public sector careers can also improve the quality and quantity of public services. The programs can also create talent pools that are more diverse than traditional recruiting methods and talent pipelines for roles in fast-growing industries that are hard to fill. 

Creating the workforce of tomorrow

Bootcamps and apprenticeship programs are playing a crucial role in building workforces for new or fast-growing industries. Cybersecurity is an example where bootcamps are being heavily relied on to produce talent which is currently scarce. It was recently reported that the future of developing the Federal cybersecurity workforce could rely on apprenticeships to fill the talent pipeline. In addition to this we are continuing to see more programs launch to train for in-demand positions in childcare, software development and manufacturing. Over the last couple of years we’ve also seen bootcamps launch to meet changing business needs during COVID-19. Digital marketing bootcamps for instance were launched after seeing the important role social media played in keeping businesses afloat during the pandemic. Due to their agile nature we will likely see more new apprenticeship programs created in 2022 to help create a “workforce for tomorrow” – for roles we may not even be aware of today. 

A source for diverse candidates

Apprenticeship programs are also a good source for diverse candidates and will continue to play a key role in supporting HR professionals find diverse talent pools, particularly in industries such as technology. The barrier of entry for apprenticeship programs is lower than traditional education paths as they’re more affordable and often part time. This makes them more accessible which attracts more diverse candidates. Many women who put their careers on the back burner during COVID-19 are also utilizing bootcamps to rebound or find career paths they enjoy more than their previous roles. 35 percent of SLO Partners students are currently women and some coding bootcamps have been made up of 50 percent women. We also saw more diversity in terms of age during 2021 – one student was 67 and the median age was around 35. 

Recruiting and training apprentices

Many apprenticeship programs have good relationships with local businesses and government agencies to keep up to date with their hiring needs. They use this knowledge to create fast-track bootcamp programs teaching in-demand skills to candidates who are ambitious and hungry for new opportunities. When it comes to apprentices, we’ve always found the best success by hiring for attitude and training for aptitude. It can be challenging learning new skills, so students who are motivated and have a ‘go-getter’ attitude have the best chance of becoming successful apprentices. We’ve also found that mentorship and support from fellow classmates is an important factor in helping students overcome challenges and stay the course. In terms of the structure of the bootcamps, they are a mix of online, in-person and hybrid but important factors are the camaraderie between students and having effective communication channels open to ensure apprentices are supported throughout. Once candidates with the right attitude learn the right skills, they become attractive recruits. We’ve had several cases where graduates have received multiple job offers, so we also provide support to help them navigate the hiring process. 

While we can’t be certain what new challenges we’ll be presented with, we do know that workforce needs will continue to change and evolve. Apprenticeship programs can play an important role in helping the public sector meet the changing talent needs and build the workforce of tomorrow.  

Paula Mathias-Fryer is Program Director at SLO Partners. She has a passion for connecting organizations with their ideal employees and has a proven track record at forging relationships across business lines and among individuals. Contact Paula at [email protected]