The 3 Problems with a Remote IT Workforce and How Apprenticeships Solve Them

The 3 Problems with a Remote IT Workforce and How Apprenticeships Solve Them

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When 2020 began, you knew you’d have challenges keeping your IT talent pipeline filled, but no one could have imagined the new realities brought on by the pandemic. Suddenly, all those struggles have become even greater, and hiring, training and managing in a remote work environment might seem impossible. Here’s why an IT apprenticeship program might be an even better solution for your organization than before.

The good ones are taken. Anyone hiring IT talent knows this: great talent is hard to find, and when you do, there’s often little loyalty to your organization. The result can be a never-ending game of musical chairs in which your IT clients are the losers.

However, the pandemic has compelled many to reconsider both their career path and the traditional four-year college track, and the result is a hidden pipeline full of smart, skilled applicants for apprenticeships. These men and women are your next Help Desk Level 1 staff, or your next Network Engineers, and they’re loyal to the companies who support them on their journey. How loyal? Organizations employing our apprentices have seen a 95% retention rate lasting for years.

No time to train. Community colleges are closed. Your existing team members are busy getting their work done and quite possibly trying to home-school their kids as well. There’s just no time to acquire additional skills and certifications.

An apprenticeship program is not only for adding new talent, but can upskill your existing team as well. Training time to acquire new certifications is baked into the plan, during work hours, so they don’t need to spend their nights and weekends trying to move ahead.

Remote management is difficult. Managing an IT team is a challenge under the best of circumstances. In a remote environment it approaches impossible. You would spend more time working one-on-one with each team member if you could, but it’s just not feasible.

Every apprentice has a personal success coach who conducts a detailed check-in every week to review progress and challenges. Coaches work to keep candidates on track not only with technical skills and certifications, but with their soft skills and client interaction abilities. In other words, the skills that help you sleep at night knowing your customers are in good hands.

Ready to learn more about IT apprenticeship programs? Contact Franklin Apprenticeships.

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Make a Great First Impression!

Make a Great First Impression!

Automotive (or IT) Interview Tips that Will Make You Shine

You’ve done it! You’ve applied for the job and now you’ve got the interview scheduled. Congratulations!

And, chances are, you’re probably both excited and nervous.  If you are, it’s completely normal.  In fact, if you weren’t a bit of both, we’d say there’s probably something wrong!

What helps to calm those nerves and channel that excitement? Preparation. Being prepared is also the absolute best thing you can do to shine above the rest and nail that job interview.

So, let’s dig right into it!  Let’s talk about all the things — the obvious things and the not so obvious things — that you can do to prepare.

You know the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”  Take the time to make a good first impression.  All the tips and tricks we outline below will make you shine brighter, and get you closer to winning the job!

Practical Things to Help You Prepare for a Successful Interview:

  1. Dress for Success. If you feel good about the way you look, statistics say you’ll perform better.  What should you wear?  It’s simple.  Look professional.  Iron that shirt and try not to wear strong cologne or perfume.  Do you smoke?  Try not to smoke before the interview because the smell can really be offensive to a non-smoker.  Are your nails clean?  Are your shoes presentable?  Looking your best will speak volumes and make you a more confident interviewee.
  2. Take These Things with You.  Take copies of your resume, a notepad & pen (to take notes), and breath mints.  Consider chewing a mint before you walk into your interview.  Fresh breath certainly will make you feel more confident!
  3. Research the Location. Do you know exactly where your interview will take place? If not, do a bit of research to plan out your route and how you’ll get there.  And, if your interview happens in a city center, make sure you know in advance where you’ll park.  This way you don’t have to stress about getting lost, being late, and starting the interview with an embarrassing apology.
  4. Arrive 15 Minutes Early.  Yep.  Do it.  This always makes a great first impression.  If you’re late, you’ll never get a chance to adjust that first impression.  If you are early, you’ll appear conscientious, excited, and well planned.  Be early!!
  5. Turn Off Your Phone.  While waiting for your interview to start, turn off your phone.  Ringing cell phones in an interview are a big no-no.  Besides, you might be nervous, so you don’t need to be distracted by the buzzing or vibrating of a cell phone in your pocket.  How annoying!  Don’t just silence it.  Turn it off!
  6. Give a Firm Handshake.  There’s nothing worse for a first impression than a limp, lazy handshake.  Make your handshake purposeful and powerful.  This conveys the message that you are excited about being there and confident about the opportunity in front of you.  Oh, and don’t forget to use eye contact when you shake hands.
  7. Research the Company.  Go to the company website and try to learn about the team and culture.  Has the company been in the news lately?  Inform yourself as much as possible before the interview.  You’ll show that you are engaged and interested.  This goes a long way!
  8. Prepare Your Pitch.  What sets you apart? Create a list of things that you can bring to the organization in advance.
  9. Be Prepared to Answer.
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • Why do you want to work for our company?
    • Why are you looking for a new job?
  10. Stay Away from the Negative.  When you answer any of the questions above, be careful to prepare answers that aren’t negative.  Things like, “While I enjoyed my time at my last job, I’m looking for a chance to grow and learn in a position that offers career growth,” is an easy way to explain a career change.  And, most important, don’t ever speak negatively about previous managers or positions — this will only create a negative reflection of you.
  11. Don’t Ask About Money.  You want the job and a new career and that’s the impression you need to make.  Asking about money and benefits can make it seem like that’s all that matters to you.  Yes, these things are important, but for now, you’ll want to stay clear from asking about how much the position pays or the benefits offered.  There will be time for that, and your Franklin Career Coach will be able to offer you some of this information in advance.  The objective of the interview is to get a second interview or to get the job offer.
  12. Use the Right Body Language.  When practicing for your interview, practice using eye contact.  Don’t cross your arms, and be sure to lean into the conversation.  All this shows active listening which tells your interviewer that you are engaged.
  13. Slow Down.  It’s not a race.  Take the time to really listen and take the time to prepare thoughtful answers.  If you take the time to prepare thoughtful answers in advance of your interview, chances are you’ll be prepared to give thoughtful answers during your job interview.
  14. Be Prepared to Ask Your Own Questions.  Hiring managers will usually close an interview with, “Do you have any questions for me?”  Consider a question like, “Mr. Jones, please tell me, what is your perfect hire?”  Actively listen for the answer and respond with you are that person.  Something like, “OK. Yes, I understand. I can do all those things. And those I can’t, I can learn. I just know that I am the right person for this position.”
  15. Close the Interview.  Ask about the next steps and let the hiring manager know that you are excited to be considered for the position.  Consider bold statements like this, “Based on everything I’ve heard today, I am confident that I am the right person for the job. When can I start?”  Bottom line: don’t be afraid to ask for the job.
  16. Follow-up. Ever hear the expression, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”?  Send a thank-you email.  Remembering this important step can get you closer to the job offer!  Take the time to create a thoughtful thank you email or letter.  It should be brief, but you want to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration, and to express that you are very excited about the opportunity.  Let them know you are available to answer any additional questions they may have for you.  Squeak-squeak!

And there you have it! All things to help you prepare and nail that interview! So, here’s to you! Good luck —and rest assured, if you take the time to prepare for your interview, we know you’ll shine brightly!

Baltimore Business Journal Highlights New Partnership Between Franklin Apprenticeships and the State of Maryland

Baltimore Business Journal Highlights New Partnership Between Franklin Apprenticeships and the State of Maryland

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This Monday, Franklin Apprenticeships officially announced that is has partnered with the State of Maryland to provide local employers with a solution to their lack of qualified applicants in the IT arena – where the demand for tech workers is projected to be among the fastest growing.

The Baltimore Business Journal covered the news, and highlighted how the shortage of skilled tech workers is a significant problem in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of unfilled cyber positions at firms across the country. It was also noted that Franklin Apprenticeships is initially delivering an IT help desk program in Maryland, and plans to soon offer training for network engineers and cybersecurity specialists as well.

As quoted by Kim Nichols, Franklin Apprenticeships will launch the first apprenticeship cohort in July – with new cohorts being added each month. Groups of 50 apprentices will also be designated a “success coach,” who will monitor each apprentice’s progress as they work through the education and job training sessions.

Nichols said the IT help desk program will act as a pilot for Maryland companies to become more familiar with the concept of apprenticeships, while training employees for an important but relatively low-risk position.

“We see this as a great opportunity to build a skilled pipeline. We hear from lots of employers all the time who are struggling to find talent,” Nichols told the Baltimore Business Journal. “This way, they may have to be open to bringing someone in who may not have all the skills they’re looking for, but though an apprenticeship program can be trained up to meet their needs.”

Click here to read the press release and here for the full article.

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Franklin Apprenticeships CEO Discusses Tomorrow’s Advanced Manufacturing Talent – Gen Z

Franklin Apprenticeships CEO Discusses Tomorrow’s Advanced Manufacturing Talent – Gen Z

In a recent article published in AdvancedManufacturing.org, Kim Nichols, Franklin Apprenticeships Founder and CEO, explains why Gen Z is a “match made by mother nature” for Advanced Manufacturers and apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship programs are becoming increasingly attractive to manufacturers, worldwide.  Yet, despite testimony from progressive US manufacturers who leverage apprenticeships to develop, grow, and retain workers in an effort to solve their skilled labor shortage – US adoption is still years behind other countries.

Gen Zers are not only perfect candidates for a modernization of the US manufacturing industry, but also for a modernization of the US apprenticeship industry.  This younger generation naturally embraces and executes the changes necessary for both of these emerging industries to continue to grow and thrive, a different approach than their millennial predecessors.

Read the article and find out why.

Modern Apprenticeships: A Tip for Modern Manufacturers

Modern Apprenticeships: A Tip for Modern Manufacturers

Area Development Interviews Franklin Apprenticeships CEO about Modern Apprenticeships

In a recent article, Apprenticeships are a Win-Win for Industries and Workers, Area Development’s editor asked our CEO, Kim Nichols, questions regarding today’s perception of manufacturing. They also discussed the status of the adoption of modern apprenticeships for workforce development in the US.

This topic is one that keeps creeping into our conversations with US journalists. Thankfully, they are passionate about getting to the bottom of the “apprenticeship” thing.

The recent interview discusses the blurring lines between the public perception of white-collar and blue-collar professions. It outlines the skilled labor shortages in advanced manufacturing.  It also reviews European apprenticeship program structures and successes, and explores ways businesses, educators, and economic developers can work together to develop modern apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are not new to the US, but there is no question that modern apprenticeships represent a slowly progressing tipping point in the US.

According to Harvard Business Review’s article on tipping point leadership, tipping points “hinge on the insight that in any organization, once the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people are engaged, conversion to a new idea will spread like an epidemic, bringing about fundamental change very quickly.”

So, what will it take for modern manufacturing leaders to make the fundamental shift in their organizational culture? How can they cross into the “new” apprenticeship threshold? A threshold that should tip and spread – such as it has in other countries?  According to Nichols, the first step involves collaboration, communication, and commitment.

We invite you to read the full article, here.

We also tip our hats to our friends in the media. Thank you for continuing to cover our quest for the fundamental change offered through modern apprenticeships.

Kim Nichols Published In Manufacturing.net

Kim Nichols Published In Manufacturing.net

The US’ manufacturing industry is facing a talent crisis. There are key roles in the industry that need to be filled by skilled workers, and the country doesn’t have enough. In an article published in December 2017, Kim Nichols, CEO of Franklin Apprenticeships discusses the need enhance and modernize America’s apprenticeship programs.

According to a recent study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, it is estimated that there will be a significant shortage of skilled American workers between now and the year 2025. This shortage of some two million skilled employees equals a major crises for industry in the US.

Outside of America, other countries have successfully addressed skills gaps by implementing and organizing apprenticeship programs. Benefits of apprenticeships include generating interest in skilled labor jobs, creating a greater talent pool for manufacturing jobs, increased ROI on training and education programs, and more.

In this recent Manufacturing.net article, Kim Nichols details the top benefits of implementing modern apprenticeship programs, and discusses why it’s critical that America overhaul and implement a sustainable apprenticeship industry. Read the full article here.

The Role of Trade Unions in the US Apprenticeship Arena

The Role of Trade Unions in the US Apprenticeship Arena

An Interview with Dr. John Gaal, Director of Training & Workforce Development, STL-KC Carpenters Regional Council

You run apprenticeship programs in the states. What is the role of trade unions in delivering high quality programs?

I have served as the Director of Training & Workforce Development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council since 2003. As such, I superintend nine training schools in three Midwest states: MO, KS, and IL. These locations serve >15 post-secondary registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) mainly covering carpentry, cabinetmaking, millwright, and floor laying occupations.

Trade unions in the US play a vital role in some of the most effective and efficient RAPs overseen by the United States Department of Labor’s (US-DOL) Office of Apprenticeship (OA). To be clear, these RAPs are not union-run programs! Back in 1947, Congress (Taft-Hartley Act) changed national labor laws to ensure that both labor and management had an equal voice at the board table. Although the Fitzgerald Act of 1937 serves as the basis for RAPs today, known as 29CFR29, joint apprenticeship programs (JAPs) are usually set up as trust funds under the aforementioned change in 1947. This is a key factor as to why these JAPs’ committees produce the best results when it comes to graduation rates and total compensation. Why? Because the JAP committee—made up of both labor and management representatives—is obliged to make decisions in the best interest of the industry on behalf of the apprentice!

Unions also play another important role. It is by means of a legal contract that both labor and management agree to terms and conditions of an hourly contribution for training purposes. The contract, in effect, becomes the collection vehicle for the employee/member benefit—known as training—which is administered by the trust fund mentioned above. More often than not, in the US construction industry, apprentices are indentured to the JAP…not a single contractor. This multi-employer model allows apprentices to work for any signatory contractor which, in turn, provides for a wide range of OJT learning opportunities. Therefore, when it comes to JAPs, the notion of “poaching” is virtually non-existent! (In the St. Louis area alone, more than $30m is “privately” invested annually into the +15 JAPs.) While, on the other hand, typically in the non-union arena, poaching remains a big issue as well as the quality of training most likely due to a lack of a trusted intermediary and willing partners (competitors). 

What do you think of the claim made by some that the trade unions can sometimes block progress?  

As with most any organization or issue, there are often good and bad characters impacting outcomes. In the US, nearly 70% of the registered apprentices are in the construction industry—of which, approximately 80% of those are in joint labor-management affiliated JAPs, as noted above. It is unfortunate that when so many people in the US hear the word “apprenticeship”, one of two things comes to mind: unions or construction. Growing RAPs in the US will require the US mindset to move beyond those paradigms…it does not have to be either! Nonetheless, construction-related union-affiliated JAPs are often held up as the model for RAPs in the US. In St. Louis alone, the Carpenters JAP provides nearly 150 career days, etc. annually at regional K-12 schools and other community gatherings. Due to global competition, most unions realize that in order to survive they need to grow their programs and expand their intake processes. This includes becoming more inclusive with regards to recruiting and retaining people of color, women ex-offenders, veterans, and people with disabilities. Nearly all these unions have recognized that their jointly trusted JAPs are their competitive advantage going forward and need to leverage it accordingly!

Interestingly, the JAPs receive very little to no federal funding to operate their JAPs. (In the interest of full disclosure, less than 5% of the Carpenters JAP’s budget in St. Louis is made up by the federal government.) Yet, companies looking to expand into the RAP ranks are being enticed by seed money from federal grants. Eventually, these funds will run out! Hopefully, US-DOL’s OA has a plan in place to ensure sustainability of these new RAPs. As a union representative and a trustee of the St. Louis JAP, I am concerned about this most important issue…some may view this as “blocking” progress. I prefer to consider it as being a good steward of the taxpayers’ funds. 

Do you have any advice for companies thinking of expanding their business in the USA? 

Without a doubt, I am a huge fan of the Apprenticeship 2000 (A2000) model in Charlotte, NC. Other than in the US constructions trades’ JAPs, the European influence of apprenticeship has been around since the mid-1990s. As noted above, intermediaries are integral to the growth of RAPs in the US. The difficult piece will be the time spent developing better relationships within non-traditional and emerging industries. For without trust, the JAP (or intermediary) model will not be sustainable. In my opinion, it is in the best interest of all industry stakeholders (i.e., companies, workers, training & education providers, and communities) to examine the pros and cons of a program like A2000. Upon investigation, they will find that German and Austrian advanced manufacturing firms operating in the US set aside their competitive differences in order to pool their talents and address the skills shortage issues in their area.

With that said, I think the best place to begin these discussions is within the K-12 school system. Far too often, in the US, the growth of RAPs is only viewed from the horizontal approach (i.e., expanding into other sectors like Health Care, etc.). In order to double the number of apprentices by 2019 this myopic approach simply will not work. We must embrace the concept of vertical growth as well! To this end, students in the upper-secondary grades are a ripe and captive audience for firms and industries as evidenced by the A2000 model…especially in light of the college debt crisis that looms in the US economy.

Finally, do you have any goal you’d like to achieve by the end of 2017?                   

I have a few goals I am working on concurrently:

  1. Linking the RAPs with college/university pathways: Parents play a big role in steering their children towards post-secondary options. For the past +35 years too many US parents have embedded the notion that a college degree is the ticket to the middle class. This myth was dispelled after the 2007 Great Recession began. The idea of graduating apprentices four years after high school who earn +$35/hour and hold a college degree will surely connect with parents.
  2. Furthermore, by coupling the US-DOL Journey-worker certificate with a college degree, the system adds value to the graduate’s future by providing options beyond one’s trade/industry.

OneFile Introduces Apprenticeship Software to US Audience

OneFile Introduces Apprenticeship Software to US Audience

An Interview with Co-founder Susanna Lawson, Queen’s Award Winner for Innovation 

In October 2015, Susanna Lawson, One File Ltd Co- founder and Sales Director and Queen’s Award Winner for Innovation presented OneFile to the US market at the Transatlantic Apprenticeship Exchange Forum. OneFile is a UK company, established in 2002, which works on building and managing software applications for the training and education sectors.

We interviewed Susanna to learn more about OneFile, how it’s resonating with apprenticeship providers, and its big plans for expansion in the US.

First of all, how would you describe OneFile as a company?

We are not an apprenticeship company directly – we supply cloud based software to apprenticeship training companies. OneFile’s portfolio can be accessed 24/7 from any device with internet access, which means that our current customers can access apprentice portfolios remotely even if in different countries. The company’s motto is “Turn paperwork into technology”.

Why did you decide to focus on this, and how are you working to achieve this goal? 

Having been an assessor, IQA and centre manager in the apprenticeship sector, I know first-hand how bureaucratic and time consuming the paperwork is. We wanted to build technology to take that frustration away.

We look at the processes within the sector that are often manual and labour intensive, we speak to our customers as to how they perceive it and where their pain points are. Then we build the software to solve the problem or issues they are facing. This means that a huge amount of time is saved; quality improves as there is more time to concentrate on planning and feedback and as a result apprentices are more engaged.

OneFile is having a huge impact – Exeter College is reporting returns of investment of over 1000%, and also another training provider has reported saving 84% on their printing and paper costs. It is estimated that OneFile has saved assessors over 25 million driving miles – which is the equivalent to driving over 1000 times around the world.

When and why did you first think about expanding your business to the US?

Our customers reported that they weren’t able to extend their own geographical reach and train apprentices located further distances from their base. We already had international customers in the US and UAE and we wanted to explore the possibilities of targeting those countries.

The opportunity arose to travel to the States with the Transatlantic Apprenticeship Exchange Forum so we jumped at the chance to be part of that trip. It was a great opportunity to find out more about the apprenticeship model in the States, what their growth plans were and the challenges they were facing. The OneFile platform resonated with the apprenticeship providers out there as they faced the same challenges as providers in the UK. We were able to speak to many providers and learn from each other.

On the back of the initial visit I was asked to speak at the annual workforce development conference for the American Association of Colleges in New Orleans on the International Perspectives of Apprentices. This again provided the opportunity to speak to many community colleges and understand their challenges.

Do you have any advice for companies thinking of expanding their business in the USA? 

Make sure you understand how the federal and state legislation works. It is completely different to how the UK works. Each state can run in a completely different way and you will need to understand each separately. Also, understand the sales process for each sector you are trying to get into. Be clear on your strategy – are you planning on starting in one city, one state, or country wide? The distances to travel are huge, expensive and time consuming.

Finally, what does OneFile have in store for 2017?

 OneFile are committed to supporting our customers with the apprenticeship reforms which are happening. This includes the new Apprenticeship Standards which are being implemented and the new Apprenticeship Levy. We have new standards workshops coming up and over 500 customers have signed up to attend.

We are launching our new Learning Management System which includes a virtual learning environment. We are also launching a cloud based CPD product where individuals can log CPD activity and share it with relevant parties.

Case Study Interview Part 2: Franklin Apprenticeships: Microsoft UK Tackles Its Skilled Labor Shortages with Apprenticeships

Case Study Interview Part 2: Franklin Apprenticeships: Microsoft UK Tackles Its Skilled Labor Shortages with Apprenticeships

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.

Case Study Interview Part 1: Franklin Apprenticeships: Microsoft UK Tackles Its Skilled Labor Shortages with Apprenticeships

Case Study Interview Part 1: Franklin Apprenticeships: Microsoft UK Tackles Its Skilled Labor Shortages with Apprenticeships

Franklin Apprenticeships co-founder Dominic Gill has developed some of the world’s most successful skills management training programs for  the biggest technology companies around the globe. And the main ingredient in his secret sauce: Apprenticeships.

Here, Dominic discusses his work with Microsoft UK as they embarked on a journey to solve skilled labor shortages, specifically in its network of supply-chain partners delivering Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services.

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.

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JA Communications: I have certainly heard about apprenticeship programs. But when I think of apprenticeships, what comes to mind is more along the lines of trade unions, as opposed to IT programs such as this. Wasn’t it rare to see a company like Microsoft take this route?

Dom: I think the first thing that’s worth pointing out is this: Apprenticeships in the UK are more established, especially in more nontraditional routes than they are in the US.  Apprenticeships have been around in their current format since the former Prime Minister Tony Blair era. In the UK, we have a pedigree in looking at nontraditional apprenticeships.

However, I would say in the IT sector, they were not necessarily a recognized route. The reason that Microsoft got involved was primarily to solve a talent acquisition issue in its partner channel.

JA Communications:  What made them decide to begin with the partner network?
Dom: Microsoft has both in the US and the UK – and across the globe – channel partners that work to support, develop on or resell its technology. In the UK, that equates to in the region of 25,000 partners.

In order for these partners to grow and, indeed, for them to grow the Microsoft activity they share, Microsoft understood that it was critical for their partners to have access to talent with the right skill set. But, they were finding that there weren’t sufficient numbers of new talent coming into the sector and, as a result, there was a smaller pond to fish in — especially in new areas such as cloud technology and cyber security. That smaller pond also resulted in salary inflation, which resulted in losing talent to competitive rivals. If Microsoft couldn’t help its partners bring new people into the sector, their competitive advantage would be negatively impacted.

So, first and foremost, we addressed these problems as a business issue in the partner channel. We focused on identifying key common roles that went across the channel that could be, if you like, apprenticeable.  Our objective was to bring new people in at the technician level – potentially straight from school. We would provide them the necessary learning they needed to become competent, and to perform the role that was required of them; but to do that in a structured way. So, that’s essentially the program that we built. And it’s been an incredibly successful program, today.

On the other side of it, of course, this has been a great way to attract new people into the IT sector. It gives young people a fantastic opportunity – young people who might have otherwise been overlooked. Maybe academic learning didn’t suit them at that time in their lives. That’s not to say they weren’t graduate caliber. But, for various reasons, it wasn’t an option for them. What we did was provide them the most fantastic opportunity to get a job from the start, to earn while they learn, and to develop a career. In fact, 93% of the people who start these programs are continuing in employment with the same employer.

JA Communications: Well, I have to tell you, that sounds like an obvious solution. Employers need skilled workers. Young people want a good path to a good job without incurring lots of debt. Tell me a little bit how the program works. Is it pretty similar to setting up and recruiting for internship programs?

Dom: Actually, that’s a really interesting point. I’d say that the mechanics are similar to setting up an internship, but, I think the practicalities are different. And I think there’s one major conceptual difference in that an apprenticeship should be seen as a permanent talent acquisition strategy – so, a permanent talent acquisition solution. That’s not necessarily the case of an internship.

I think when employers are recruiting for apprenticeships, they need to consider whether candidates have the innate strength to go through an apprenticeship program. One important question employers should ask: If they follow the structured training, support, and assessment that is included within the program, will the candidate have a long-term future with our business? And if the answer is yes, then they’re definitely ideal candidates. I would also argue that they shouldn’t expect these individuals to have bags of experience – because they won’t. That’s what the apprenticeship is there for. They need to identify candidates who’ve got that innate strength.

So, I would say that’s a bit different than an internship where you are expecting somebody who’s probably completed a year or so at university, already. Somebody who has some skills, and the internship is a way in which they’re going to build on those skills, and augment them.  And from the company’s perspective, an internship isn’t necessarily a permanent talent acquisition solution, whereas an apprenticeship is.

JA Communications:  Once you finish vetting the candidates, what’s next? You mentioned that most of the new apprenticeships are coming in with little to no formal skills training or experience.  It sounds fairly simple, but how did Microsoft determine the credential pathways for the apprentices, create scalable models, and then ensure the programs were the right ones?

How this program works is pretty simple. Microsoft itself has, to date, only taken on a very small handful. I’m talking only about 20 apprentices per year. We’re currently at a run rate of 4,500 apprentices per year through the partner channel. So, we’ve worked to brand these programs. What would be the common roles that sit across Microsoft’s partners? What roles would be in demand and, consequently, what would then be the common and core Microsoft credential pathways to fit the roles?

We then work with focus groups of relevant Microsoft Partners to align the roles to the certifications.  This not only gives the apprentices globally recognized industry credentials but ensures they acquire a skillset that will enable them to be productive more quickly for the employers who are investing in them – essentially providing an significant ROI for employers!  We then work with a select group of Microsoft Learning Partners to interpret these specs into deliverable programs and support them in rolling the programs out into the Channel.

JA Communications: Wow. You’re giving companies the opportunity to build farm teams – just like in the baseball minor leagues – where they can pull young people trained directly under the tutelage of the organization, so that they really are prepared to step into a job. Have the results so far been positive? Can you expand a little bit on some of the future goals?

Dom: Yeah. Definitely. I’ll just quickly point out that the way that these programs are delivered are through a group of intermediary training providers. We equip these providers to deliver the programs, but you’re absolutely right. This is exactly how companies can build their future workforce. I mentioned that we’ve now hit 4,500 apprentices through programs across the UK partners, per year. Microsoft announced, just a few weeks ago, a further ambition – a continued commitment that between now (the start of 2017) and the end of 2020, they’re looking to add 30,000 more apprentices through this route. That means doubling the year-on-year run rate that we have currently. We feel strongly obliged to honor that ambition, and are excited about the possibilities it represents.

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To learn more about Microsoft UK’s Apprenticeship program, download the Microsoft Case Study FACT sheet, or contact Dom and Kim, directly.

Next up:  In Part 2 of our interview, Franklin Apprenticeship’s CEO, Kim Nichols, discusses the current state of affairs here in the US: What opportunities exist to offer programs like this for American youth and companies?