What are the Opportunities for the US to Follow Suit?

Company:

Microsoft UK

Challenge:

A shortage of skilled talent for Microsoft’s Partner Channel Network

Solution:

Attract, mentor, and retain aspiring young IT professionals to build critical career skills through real-life, applied knowledge workforce training programs as apprentices.

Impact:

  • Over 7,500 apprentices started their career through this route in over 5,000 employers since the program was rolled out nationally in 2010.
  • Current hits are > 3,500 apprentice starts per year
  • 92% of apprentices stay with the company with which they started their apprenticeship

Goal:

Microsoft UK’s goal is for the program to become the established, alternative route to university for young people entering a career in IT working with Microsoft technologies.

In Part 1 of our interview, we spoke with Dominic Gill, co-founder of Franklin Apprenticeships, about his work with Microsoft UK’s apprenticeship program, which helped solve the skilled labor shortage for their channel partners.

In Part 2 of the interview, we will discuss with Kim Nichols, CEO of Franklin Apprenticeships, the state of affairs in the US What does the success of programs –  such as Microsoft UK’s – represent to the long-standing ambition for increased apprenticeship program adoption in America?

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JA Communications: Kim, can you give us some insight into the current state of affairs here in the US? What opportunities exist to offer programs like this to our young adults?

Kim: Sure. The skills shortage problem is virtually the same in the US as it is in the UK – especially in the tech industry. And delivering apprenticeship programs is a way we can expand that talent pool and begin to fill the open jobs. The US has a significant skills gap when it comes to filling IT jobs. Experts estimate that there will be 1.8 million unfilled positions in 2022. The main reason these positions go unfilled is simply that candidates lack the technical skills, experience, and soft skills that employers are looking for.

So, this means that employers need to get creative about how to attract future professionals and the Millennial generation. To break this down a bit further, there are currently over 600,000 open computing jobs across the country, but only 43,000 computer science students graduated last year. By 2018, 51% of all STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields.

The Federal government alone needs an additional 10,000 IT and cyber security professionals. And the private sector needs many more. In this world of constant tech innovation, there are jobs emerging that didn’t even exist a decade ago – roles such as a data scientist, for example.

JA Communications: Those are significant, almost alarming, numbers.

Yes, and they are growing, rapidly. We have to keep up with our ever-changing, digitally-driven workplace. And apprenticeship programs provide the flexibility to bring the most relevant curriculum to young adults with the right attitude, aptitude, and intelligence to be successful, as Dom mentioned earlier.

And every industry needs IT apprenticeship opportunities. Not only technology companies, but also healthcare, finance, retail, manufacturing, and professional services – to address the IT skills gap and build a pipeline of skilled workers. Here in the US, we need to better prepare our young people for IT careers and provide clear pathways for them to learn the industry specific IT skills they need to be successful.

JA Communications: As you and Dom mentioned, the UK is clearly ahead of the US at this point. How much awareness is there about the benefit of these programs here in the US? And what steps can employers take to start their own registered apprenticeship programs?

Kim: Interest in apprenticeship models is gradually building in the United States, partly because of the recent successes in the UK, but also due to some initiatives here in the US – particularly in South Carolina – in stimulating major expansions of apprenticeship training. A robust apprenticeship system is especially attractive because of its potential to reduce youth unemployment, improve the transition from school to career, upgrade skills, raise wages for young adults, increase the US productivity, and achieve positive returns for both employers and workers.

At Franklin, we’ve been talking with many employers across the country about apprenticeship programs as a solution to their workforce issues. We have repeatedly heard employers express their difficulties finding people with the right skills to meet their needs. The number of days job vacancies are remaining open is increasing, which is costing companies a significant amount of money each day in lost profits.

Many employers also have an aging workforce that will need to be replaced in the next five to ten years. Yet, they don’t have an adequately skilled pipeline of workers ready to take over those jobs. On top of that, the impact of emerging technologies is quickly outpacing expertise.

JA Communications: One would assume that companies are well aware of this issue, and are putting plans in place to address these challenges.  So, why aren’t there more programs such as Microsoft’s here in the US?

Most employers recognize the importance of recruiting and developing talent, but still depend on outdated approaches for finding people, developing existing employees’ skills, and improving their performances. So employers agree that apprenticeships can be a solution to their workforce development issues,

But working to identify the competencies and training paths required to get the desired outcomes usually falls under the domain of HR and corporate training departments –  departments that are often saddled with budget and resource constraints.

Overall, we find that most companies are overwhelmed by the process of developing and implementing a registered apprenticeship program. However, it doesn’t have to be so difficult.  It’s really about solving a business issue, (like the approach Microsoft took) and understanding the skills the employers need for entry-level positions. Once competencies and outcomes are identified by the employer, a training provider intermediary builds out the program, delivers the training, assesses the apprentices, manages the regulatory requirements, and recruits apprentice candidates.

Training provider intermediaries can be either community colleges or private training providers. The majority of employers are looking to training providers who can offer turnkey apprenticeship solutions that take the pain away from delivering and administering the programs, while making sure they meet the desired outcomes. So, employers work very closely with the training providers to deliver a successful apprenticeship program.

JA Communications: That’s very interesting. Obviously, there’s a little bit of a process to put something like this together. Can you talk a little bit about what a typical program looks like?

Kim: Sure. A typical apprenticeship program includes the employer (of course), the training provider, and the apprentices. These are the three prongs. The actual apprenticeship program includes an individual learning plan with milestones for each apprentice. It includes a training plan that is competency-based. It includes an engagement and recruitment plan that’s used to attract and engage apprentices. And it also includes a marketing and communications strategy with a solid social media and public relations focus to help increase the awareness of apprenticeship opportunities. Within the apprenticeship program, training is also provided for the employer staff that works to support the apprentice, the various mentors that are used in the program, as well as the success coaches.

JA Communications: What can we learn from the UK success, and how can it be applied into the US markets?

Franklin Apprenticeships has been leveraging the lessons learned from the UK by accessing program content that has been developed and modified for US companies. We are also utilizing processes and procedures regarding the execution. This helps employers and training providers execute, fast-track, and scale apprenticeship programs throughout US. Using the expertise of these UK professionals streamlines the program development and execution for employers in the US. So, it’s a great way to fast-track these programs, develop further data to benchmark and monitor program standards, and build out more competencies, as needed. It is an exciting time, and the opportunity is tremendous.  We’re right at the tipping point that will rejuvenate the age-old practice of apprenticeships – one that helped to build the American dream.  In simple terms: It is an incredibly practical approach.

JA Communications: Well, the Microsoft model looks to have a lot of promise for us in the US. I want to thank you, Kim, and Dom, for joining us today. It sounds like there are a lot of opportunities for employers and employees on both sides of the pond to benefit as these programs continue to take hold.

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To learn more about the Microsoft partner apprenticeship program in the UK and learn more about Franklin Apprenticeships and current US initiatives,  contact Dom or Kim.