Blog Post

“Know nothing. Learn everything.” How American National Unlocked the Power of Apprenticeships

“Know nothing. Learn everything.” How American National Unlocked the Power of Apprenticeships

Four words of advice helped superstars at through their IBM Z Apprenticeship Program

American National logo

“Know nothing. Learn everything.” This phrase rang true as American National celebrated the graduation of its first cohort of IBM Z Apprentices this month, in collaboration with IBM and Franklin Apprenticeships in League City, Texas. During the ceremony, senior leaders, managers, and mentors celebrated the stories of IBM Z Apprentices who built specialized technical and professional skills on the job. 

Tim Fry, Professional Success Coach from Franklin Apprenticeships, highlighted how Michael Smith, Director of Large Systems at American National, coined a phrase early on that set up the program for success, “We expect that our apprentices know nothing and learn everything.” 

“That has stuck with me ever since,” Tim explained. “I’ve used that on calls with managers and mentors at other companies too, because it’s such a true insight into what this apprenticeship journey is all about. The American National apprentices challenged themselves. They asked, ‘What can we do? What can we learn?’ They did a lot of self-discoveries. They did a lot of research. They helped each other out. And they excelled.”  

Speaking to the graduates, keynote speaker, Shelly Meierarend, IBM zSystems Skills Ecosystem Leader, emphasized the importance of what the apprentice graduates have achieved. “You are now part of a tradition of very skilled workers who honed your craft through this wonderful apprenticeship program,” she said.  

IBM Z Apprentice Graduate Jeremy W. was previously working as a manager at a tire shop before starting his apprenticeship journey in March 2022. After his wife had their first baby, he was ready for a change from working 60-70 hours per week and looking for a long-term, stable career. He admitted he didn’t even own a computer when he first heard about the program. But he took a leap and started the IBM Z Pre-Apprenticeship, working late into the night through the coursework. 

Tech Apprentice Graduates at American National cut cake
Jeremy W. (left) and Sean K. (right) cut cake at their graduation ceremony.

“It was very discouraging in the beginning because I didn’t know any of this stuff,” Jeremy recalled. “But I kept going. I kept going and I really found an interest in it. When I started seeing the badges come in, I felt proud of that. So, I continued.” 

In May 2022, Jeremy was hired as a full-time apprentice by American National and he hit the ground running. 

“He had a passion for the mainframe, and he just picked it up and went with it,” Fry recalled. “It highlights the type of person Jeremy is.”  

“I’m looking back, and it tugs at my heartstrings,” Jeremy reflected to the audience, which included his wife and young daughter. “It’s like, wow. It’s incredible. It’s an incredible opportunity that I get to work for American National and be on this team and go through this program that IBM and Franklin offered. So, I really appreciate everything and I’m super blessed to be here.” 

IBM Z Apprentice graduate Sean K. joined American National’s apprenticeship program after earning his college degree and particularly enjoyed the challenging format of the earn-and-learn program. 

“I got started on the IBM Pre-Apprenticeship and at first, I was super, super confused,” Sean explained. “It was wildly different from anything I was taught in school. And I liked it because it was more challenging in a lot of ways. They sort of just throw you in like, ‘Ohh here’s some JCL’…. like this crazy looking stuff! I eventually figured it out and learned how to solve those problems.” 

Smith shared a memory of Sean’s interview at American National. “I think Sean had the funniest comment in any interview I’ve ever had. When we asked him about the mainframe, he said, ‘It’s like I’m in the secret club now!’ We all thought that was great.” 

The problem solving didn’t stop at JCL or the interview. Sean looked back on his early days on the job and explained to his mentor how far they had come. 

“In the first couple of weeks, you were drawing on the white board… that big BIG diagram of all the different LPARs and stuff… and making that really scary looking picture. But now I’m feeling more confident. We can get work done and be productive, and I wouldn’t be able to do that without you.” 

“Never stop asking questions,” Nick Bastos, AVP IT Infrastructure and Operations at American National said. “That’s really important. If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. I’m thrilled to congratulate you and encourage you to continue to grow your careers with American National and mentor any new apprentices in the future.” 

Smith reinforced the importance of curiosity and asking questions. “It became obvious to me early on that our apprentices have a key attribute that is essential for systems programmers. We call it being a ‘digger.’ It’s not only a responsibility. It’s a relentless curiosity. Saying how does that work? Why is that like that? And you guys are diggers and so is everyone on this team. It’s really great to see.” 

Steve Baugh, Lead Systems Programmer at American National, talked about how the apprentices grabbed every opportunity that was offered as part of the program. “Sean jumped right into the projects and doing things that I would never have imagined a beginning system programmer jumping into that quickly. And Jeremy, what can I say about him? He’s a Subject Matter Expert on a product already and he’s teaching me things about it.” 

Kim Nichols, CEO and Founder of Franklin Apprenticeships wrapped up the celebration well, saying, “I’m super proud of you for making it through the program. It sounds like you’re just killing it there at American National. Well done.” 

Click Here to learn more about the IBM Z Apprenticeship program.

Press Release

Franklin Welcomes Senior Executives to Advisory Board

Franklin Welcomes Senior Executives to Advisory Board

Franklin Apprenticeships, the tech apprenticeship company, today announced the addition of two senior executives to its advisory board: Peter Buchanan and Lisa Patterson. Buchanan and Patterson bring extensive experience building businesses and relationships with enterprise clients in the financial services and tech industries.

As demand for diverse tech talent continues to grow, Franklin Apprenticeships is rising to meet the challenge of recruiting, training, and hiring top tech professionals across the country.

Read here.

Blog Post

FIS Global IBM Z Apprenticeship Graduation

FIS Global IBM Z Apprenticeship Graduation

Computer science college graduates at FIS Global learn IBM Z skills through year-long tech apprenticeship program 

FIS Global recently celebrated the graduation of their IBM zSystems Apprentices with IBM and Franklin Apprenticeships in Cincinnati, Ohio. Through the year-long Registered Apprenticeship Program, graduates earned certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor and industry-recognized credentials while being fully employed by FIS Global.  

Despite IBM zSystems powering 70% of Fortune 500 companies, these skills are not typically taught in higher education. So, FIS Global partnered with IBM and Franklin Apprenticeships to train recent college recruits with computer science degrees on the IBM zSystems platform (also referred to as the mainframe) via an earn-and-learn apprenticeship program designed by IBM. 

“It’s been a fantastic program and we’re very grateful for that,” said Phil Hiett, Systems Manager, Senior Mainframe – Db2 z/OS Database at FIS Global. “The mainframe isn’t going anywhere. So, I’m always thrilled to see young people learning these skills because they are a pathway to a great career.”  

“I studied software engineering in college,” explained Jack M., one of the graduating apprentices. “But the mainframe is completely different from what I learned in school. The IBMz Apprenticeship really was an incredible way to jumpstart my career.” 

“Mainframe workers can be hard to come by, especially at the entry-level,” said Chris Pryor, Systems Manager Senior, Leveraged Infrastructure at FIS Global. “So, I’m grateful for the program IBM and Franklin Apprenticeships have provided.”   

Shelly Meierarend, IBM zSystems Client Skills Leader, encouraged the apprentice graduates to make a positive impact in the IBM zSystems community. She said, “Continue to mentor, grow and invest in learning why you do what you do. You truly can change the world with what you are now capable of doing.” 

Franklin Success Coaches also attended the ceremony to speak about each of the apprentice’s journeys and successes.  

“These apprentices have not only completed 25 units to develop technical competency,” said Franklin Professional Success Coach, Britt Launius. “They also focused on six professional development skills ranging from conflict resolution to effective communications.”  

Every Franklin Apprenticeship program includes professional development exercises and discussions to help apprentices navigate and succeed in the corporate environment.  

For example, Bhuvi B., one of the graduates, had struggled with her confidence prior to beginning the apprenticeship program. The support she received helped her to grow in confidence.  

“My mentors, my manager, my team, and the support from Franklin made me want to stick with it and keep learning as much as possible,” said Bhuvi.  

Franklin Professional Success Coach, Alison Chapman, spoke about Bhuvi’s eagerness to learn and engage in their success coaching sessions.  

“I could always count on Bhuvi to bring the best questions related to coursework and overall discussion related to various projects that she was involved in into our sessions,” said Alison. “Some of her questions even challenged me as a coach, so, thank you for that Bhuvi!” 

FIS Global Managers also spoke at the ceremony, celebrating the apprentices’ accomplishments and the careers that lay ahead of them. 

“It’s going to be fulfilling and it’s going to be rewarding,” said Tom Kesselring, Senior Director, of Leveraged Infrastructure WP in Mainframe Operations at FIS. “You are our future and I wish you the best of luck.”   

Learn more about the IBMz apprenticeship program at: 

Blog Post

Credit Suisse Celebrates IBM zSystems Apprenticeship Graduates

Credit Suisse Celebrates IBM zSystems Apprenticeship Graduates

Pictured: Virtual and in-person attendees from Credit Suisse, IBM, and Franklin Apprenticeships
Pictured: Virtual and in-person attendees from Credit Suisse, IBM, and Franklin Apprenticeships

Credit Suisse Raleigh celebrated the graduation of its first cohort of IBM zSystems Apprentices in September 2022. Senior leaders within Credit Suisse, IBM, and Franklin Apprenticeships came together to celebrate graduates who completed their Registered Apprenticeship Programs and received certificates from the Department of Labor.  

“I am very impressed with our apprenticeship program,” said Kevin Walker, Managing Director and Head of Credit Suisse Raleigh. “These skills are important and can be difficult to find.” 

Credit Suisse turned to the US IBM zSystems Apprenticeship Accelerator to build its talent pool in its IBM Mainframe Infrastructure team.  

“Our talent progression for the IBM Mainframe team had industry challenges,” explained US Mainframe lead Frank Cortell, who has worked on the team at Credit Suisse for 25 years. “This apprenticeship program is a great solution to those challenges.” 

Credit Suisse was an inaugural employer of the apprenticeship program, which launched in January 2021. Meredith Stowell, VP of Ecosystem, IBM zSystems, applauded the bank as a trailblazer for taking a chance on a new way to build its talent pool.  

“When we were developing this program, we wondered if large companies would really hire people without four-year degrees,” Stowell said. “Credit Suisse stepped up, proving that apprenticeships are highly effective at opening the door of opportunity for people without prior experience or education in tech.” 

By offering an apprenticeship program, Credit Suisse added a diverse group of outstanding apprentices to its IBM Mainframe team who developed their skills over the year-long program. 

Pictured (left to right): Meredith Stowell, Kim Nichols and Anu C.
Pictured (left to right): Meredith Stowell, Kim Nichols and Anu C.

For example, Anu C. previously worked in a dental office and always dreamed of working with computers but didn’t have a path into the field. Juggling her day job and family commitments, she worked late into the night to complete her IBM Pre-Apprenticeship Program, which qualified her for an IBM zSystems Apprenticeship with Credit Suisse.  

“Anu is a quick learner and capable of juggling a lot of things at once,” said Britt Launius, Anu’s Professional Success Coach from Franklin who supported the apprentices and managers through the program. “She always has such a positive perspective, and it is truly a joy to work with her. Her ability to get a lot done and excitement to learn has contributed to her success in this program. She will absolutely go far in this career.” 

Anu said, “Thank you to everyone I’m sitting in front of today. Franklin, IBM, my manager, my team… in this one year, they’ve taught me so much. And still, they are teaching me.”  

The value of learning both professional and technical skills was a recurring theme at the ceremony. 

“I learned a lot from the program and the team,” explained Wesley S., a veteran of the United States Army. “I look forward to continuing to expand my knowledge and my career here at Credit Suisse.” 

Pictured (left to right): Wesley S. and Kim Nichols
Pictured (left to right): Wesley S. and Kim Nichols

Former teacher Joseph L. expressed his gratitude to his managers and the company as a whole for offering the apprenticeship program. 

“Thank you, Credit Suisse,” he said. “If you hadn’t taken this risk on us, we wouldn’t have had this life-changing career opportunity.” 

Each manager also spoke about their experience, celebrating the graduates’ perseverance and progress throughout the year-long program and sharing stories about the journey.  

“Congratulations on the hard work you all put in, day in and day out,” Cortell said. “We look forward to you continuing your growth and will support you in your future endeavors at Credit Suisse.” 

Blog Post

Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2022

Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2022

National Apprenticeship Week 2022

The whole team here at Franklin is counting down the days to the 8th Annual National Apprenticeship Week, which runs November 14-20, 2022.  

Sponsored by the Department of Labor, National Apprenticeship Week is the busiest week of the year for apprenticeship news and events. The DOL explains that this nationwide celebration showcases the successes and value of apprenticeships for “re-building our economy, advancing racial and gender equity, and supporting underserved communities.”  

For us, it’s a chance to celebrate the inspiring people, clients and partners that work with us every day to create a new way to build and hire tech talent. We’ll be sharing information about how apprenticeships work, the lives they’ve changed, and business problems they’ve solved. 

This blog is a round-up of all the news and events the Franklin team is supporting as an official Department of Labor Apprenticeship Ambassador, as well as other big National Apprenticeship Week news. It will be updated as the week goes on with links to news articles and events. 


VR Workforce Studio Interviews Franklin Apprenticeship Graduate Chris W., who completed his IBM Z Systems Administrator Apprenticeship with Black Knight Inc. Chris talks about how becoming disabled led him to an apprenticeship, which started a new chapter in his life. “Part of my disability actually affected some of my cognitive and language skills, so I was fighting that battle at that time also…. But now oh man, I love my job, I could tell you that for a fact.” 

Coming soon… our new podcast: Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships
Interested in how tech apprenticeships really work? Frankly Speaking explores the real people and businesses that are charting a new way to develop the technical skills that the American economy desperately needs. Hosted by Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach Cable Rose, Frankly Speaking is packed with real experiences, advice and lessons learned from apprentices, hiring managers, HR professionals and business leaders.


Tuesday, November 15 

120-Day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint Culmination Event at the White House. Kimberly Nichols, Franklin’s CEO and Founder, will be attending The U.S. Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Homeland Security White House event to celebrate our efforts to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to develop and train a skilled and diverse cybersecurity workforce through the 120-Day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint.  

Wednesday, November 16 

Workforce Solutions: Information Technology Apprenticeships Info Session for PA Employers. 1-3pm EST. Andy Smyth, Franklin’s VP Policy, Products and Services joins the panel for this informational session, a representative from the PA Apprenticeship and Training office will provide employers with an overview of Registered Apprenticeship co-sponsored by the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board and the PA Apprenticeship and Training Office 

Thursday, November 17 

Ask Me Anything About Apprenticeships with Andy Smyth on LinkedIn Live. 12-1pm EST. Andy has been building professional apprenticeship programs for more than 30 years and is a true expert in apprenticeships. After a full week of apprenticeship news and announcements, this is your chance to get all of your questions answered. Register now. 

Blog Post: Fans of IBM zSystems Hub

Event: IBM Z ® Apprenticeships for the Military Community

Event: IBM Z ® Apprenticeships for the Military Community

This is an excerpt of blog published on the Fans of IBM zSystems Hub to promote a Franklin event that IBM is sponsoring for the Military Community on June 29, 2022, at 12:30 EST. Register for the event here. 

By: Tim Fry, Success Coach and Military Community Outreach Manager, Franklin Apprenticeships

“As a 17-year combat veteran of the United States Airforce, I speak from firsthand experience when I say that the transition from the military to civilian life is one of the toughest challenges that men and women who serve our country will ever face.

The career paths in the military don’t always neatly translate to civilian life and the idea of starting over and learning a new field or pursuing a college degree can be daunting. For military dependents and spouses, it’s equally challenging. Unfortunately, many employers don’t want to hire someone who is going to be relocated every few years or who has the pressure of family commitments due to military deployments.

Over the past 18-months of being involved in the IBM Z® US Apprenticeship Accelerator program as part of the delivery team at Franklin Apprenticeships, I’ve had the opportunity to coach and support dozens of members of the military community – from veterans, transitioning service members and reservists to military spouses and dependents. In fact, one in five of the students that have been hired into IBM Z Apprenticeships are veterans. They have used the IBM Z Apprenticeship program to translate their military-learned skills and excel in a civilian career, while earning certifications.”

Read more on the Fans of IBM zSystems Hub. 

Register for the event here.

Funding from the State of Pennsylvania

Franklin Awarded $520K To Expand Tech Apprenticeships in PA

Franklin Awarded $520K To Expand Tech Apprenticeships in PA

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently announced awards totaling more than $11 million for 26 apprenticeship programs, including Franklin Apprenticeships which will receive $520,000 to deliver technology pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs to employers and residents of the state.

The grants are part of Governor Wolf’s PA Statewide Movement for Accountability, Readiness and Training (PAsmart) framework, which is “designed to better align education, workforce and economic development initiatives and funding,” according to the Governor’s website.

“We applaud the State of Pennsylvania for making this significant, strategic investment in building its tech workforce by helping people with no formal experience in technology transition to well-paid, high-demand roles in the state,” Kim Nichols, CEO and Founder of Franklin Apprenticeships explains. “Our team at Franklin is thrilled to build on the work we are already doing in the state, and expand access to our apprenticeship programs for employers and tech career seekers.”

Franklin’s Pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship Programs currently include: IBM Z, Software Engineering, Network Engineering, Cybersecurity and Helpdesk. There is an accelerating demand from employers for Franklin’s job ready, pre-apprentice graduates as many companies are increasingly leveraging apprenticeships as a tool for building their own pipeline of tech talent given the high-demand for people with these skills.

“Throughout history, apprenticeships have been a vital and necessary part of career education in certain fields,” Gov. Wolf said in the press announcement. “By expanding these important programs to more occupations and industries, we are offering Pennsylvania workers opportunities to train for family-sustaining jobs while helping businesses develop a workforce that will strengthen our economy and our communities.”

Grant Details: Franklin Apprenticeships | $520,000

Tech Talent for PA

Franklin Apprenticeships will establish and enroll participants into non-traditional, competency-based registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships using a non-traditional service delivery process. The proposed Franklin statewide program will prioritize 240 new pre-apprenticeships and 40 apprenticeships expanding into non-traditional occupations parallel to the growing workforce-need within the IT sector. The program has a special focus on prioritizing the recruitment of diverse populations and historically underserved participants (including minorities, low-income populations and women).

Franklin Apprenticeships will establish and enroll participants into non-traditional, competency-based registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships using a non-traditional service delivery process. 

Interested in Getting Involved?

  • Career Seekers in Pennsylvania: Explore Franklin’s Pre-Apprenticeship Programs which currently include: IBM Z, Software Engineering, Network Engineering, Cybersecurity and Helpdesk.
  • Employers in Pennsylvania: Ready to start a tech apprenticeship program to build your talent pipeline? Franklin will make it easy to get started. Get in touch at

Modernizing the mainframe for the digital era

Franklin Apprenticeships featured in CIO Magazine

Franklin Apprenticeships featured in CIO Magazine

This article explores the long-term future of IBM Z Mainframe and takes a detailed look at how M&T Bank is using the platform. It also mentions the IBM Z Apprenticeship Program, which is delivered by Franklin Apprenticeships.

“Farther north, M&T Bank launched in November 2020 its Z Development Program (ZDP) Mainframe Apprenticeship, a training and internship program that recruits participants from non-traditional backgrounds and underserved communities, particularly Black and Latinx people, as well as women and veterans in the Buffalo area. The goal is to develop entry-level application developers and systems administrators with the skills to work with IBM Z systems. The program is a collaborative effort that draws on the support of IBM, Franklin Apprenticeships, and the Urban Institute.”

Read more online at

Press Release

Franklin adds senior hires to leadership team

Franklin adds senior hires to leadership team

Franklin Apprenticeships expands corporate learning and development expertise with Senior Operations and Marketing hires

“Franklin Apprenticeships, the professional apprenticeship experts, today announced two senior hires that expand the company’s learning and development expertise to support further growth. Franklin has appointed Helen Smyth as Vice President of Operations and Mikki Draggoo as Vice President of Marketing.”

Read here:


Sharing Insight from the U.S. and U.K.

Exploring Age Diversity In Apprenticeships

Exploring Age Diversity In Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships provide an excellent opportunity for individuals of all ages to explore new careers through an alternative path. Individuals who seek a new career path may lack the time and resources to pursue a college degree as a full-time or even part-time student due to familial and financial responsibilities. Apprenticeship programs that offer an “earn while you learn” approach helps apprentices avoid taking on debt but still gain the necessary skills to pursue their dream career.

Franklin Apprenticeships and the City & Guilds Group recently hosted a roundtable with both apprentices and employers from the U. S. and U.K. who are committed to breaking generational barriers.

Apprentices offered excellent insight from their experiences with generational differences in their apprenticeship programs, while employers explained the benefits of an age-diverse apprenticeship program.