Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 08 – Planting the Seeds for a Tech Career

Episode 08 – Planting the Seeds for a Tech Career

Melissa shares her experience making the leap into a new career in tech with Franklin’s Network Engineering Pre-Apprenticeship. Around twenty years ago, Melissa started her career with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Horticulture from the University of California Davis. She had several different kinds of jobs over the years – from working with animals to customer service – and also became a mom. Then, a life event prompted her to re-evaluate and discover she wanted to make a switch to tech.  

“I didn’t really feel like I was reaching my full potential,” she explains. “I wasn’t growing every day. It didn’t feel like the future that I wanted to build for my family. And so I started looking at technology and it just kind of checked all those boxes for me, all the things that I was looking for.” 

Melissa considered a degree but decided to pursue an apprenticeship instead as she wanted to start working and learning in the real world. She reflects, “I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue a degree. I didn’t know if I wanted to put in the time. I just wanted to get in there. I wanted to get working. I wanted to get the experience.” 

Through Franklin’s Pre-Apprenticeship program, she fell in love with Network Engineering. “My kids just think I’m the coolest when I can pull up a command line and do something, they think I’m like a hacker!” she joked. 

Melissa also developed a passion for the coding language Python, which prompted her to launch a YouTube channel called “Pea Sized Python”.

At the time of this interview, she was actively pursuing a full-time position and has since been hired in her first Network Engineering role.  

BIOGRAPHY

Melissa S., Network Engineer Pre-Apprenticeship Graduate

Melissa S. holds a Bachelor Degree in Plant Science, has worked in customer service and cared for dogs, but decided to change direction when a personal event caused her to evaluate where she wanted to be in life. Fueled by the desire to always be learning and provide a good future for her family, she realized that technology was the answer.  After overcoming her doubts, she earned a Certificate in Computer Information Systems. Feeling a little lost on where to go next, she then decided to pursue the Network Engineer Pre-Apprenticeship at Franklin Apprenticeships to further pave her way toward working in the field of technology. She continues to learn everyday, with additional coursework and online platforms and was inspired to share her learning with world on her YouTube Channel, Pea-Sized Python.  

FULL TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00]  Melissa: I had a personal event in my life and kind of forced me to reevaluate where I was. I didn’t really feel like I was reaching my full potential. I wasn’t growing every day. It didn’t feel like a future that I wanted to build for my family, and so I started looking at technology, and it just kind of checked all those boxes for me, all the things that I was looking for. 

Presenter: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships really work. [00:00:30] As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs. 

Cable Rose: Welcome to another episode of Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. I am Cable Rose, your host, an uberfan of all things; tech apprenticeships. This week on [00:01:00] our episode we have Melissa.  

Melissa comes to us from the upper West Coast. She has many, many years in her experiences in life. She had a full career in full education and decided at some point in her life she wanted to pivot and start a whole new career in tech. Now she has gone through her Franklin Pre-Apprenticeship. She has some certificates and some schooling. 

She’s right now in some Python as well as some network and firewall and securities.  

[00:01:30] Melissa is on the episode today to give us her experiences to what it was like during her Franklin Pre-Apprenticeship. Welcome to the show today on Frankly Speaking. We’ve got Melissa with us. Melissa, how are you doing today? 

Melissa: I’m doing well, thank you. 

Cable: Well, thank you for being here. I know we’ve had just a few minutes here in the pre-show just talking and kind of getting to– actually just meet each other. If nobody else on the episode understands this, I don’t know Melissa. This would be our first time really having a conversation. The only thing I know [00:02:00] about Melissa is that she went on a little bit of a journey with us here at Franklin Apprenticeships, and I wanted to capture what that was like. One, Melissa, tell us who you are and what brought you to Franklin Apprenticeships. 

Melissa: Well, I started out with a degree in Plant Science long ago. I’ve worked in customer service, I’ve worked with dogs, and I had a personal event in my life and kind of forced me to reevaluate where I was.  

[00:02:30] I didn’t really feel like I was reaching my full potential. I wasn’t growing every day. It didn’t feel like a future that I wanted to build for my family, and so I started looking at technology, and it just checked all those boxes for me, all the things that I was looking for. 

I don’t know if I just hadn’t thought of it before because I didn’t think I could or because there aren’t many women in the profession but suddenly a light went off and I was like, “I need to pursue this.” 

 [00:03:00] That’s when I started looking at how I was going to do that. 

Cable: Well, let’s talk about that. You’ve got a whole life behind you, you said you worked with dogs, you had plants, you were in Education for a while, you’ve done customer service. You’ve kind of done a little bit of everything and then you said, “Well, wait a minute, I want to do more. How do I get to do more.” Right? Technology, said it spoke to you, and then how did you land at Franklin’s doorsteps? What was that like? 

Melissa: Well, initially, I started with– Because I already have a [00:03:30] degree, I started looking at a master’s degree, but I got into it, and I was just overwhelmed, since I’m coming from a non-tech background, so I pursued a certificate, and after that, I started searching for jobs, started getting more present on LinkedIn. Everything that I was seeing, everything that I was hearing, says, “You need to pick a focus.” IT is so broad. There’s so much to [00:04:00] pursue. You can be in one section of it and have no knowledge of what someone else is doing and they’re also in IT. 

I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue a degree, I didn’t know if I wanted to put in the time. I wanted to get in there. I wanted to get working. I wanted to get the experience. A friend of mine said he was doing an apprenticeship, so I started looking into apprenticeships, and Franklin had a few different options. There was a cybersecurity one that [00:04:30] piqued my interest, but when I was earning my certificate, I really enjoyed networking, and they had a network engineer, so I thought, “Well, this is great, I’ll focus in this.” I contacted Franklin. It was really easy to get set up and get the process started and it felt like a good way to just focus my energies into one area. 

Cable: Melissa, it’s a great observation, when people say, “I work in IT,” and they go, “Okay, computers.” You’ve got firewalls, you’ve [00:05:00] got cyber, you’ve got long haul, you’ve got– there are so many different aspects of what IT encompasses, and you’re absolutely right. Do me a favor, Cyber, Software, Helpdesk, IBM Roles, Network, why did Network speak to you? Or you said even in your certificate, you were in a not a focused area maybe, but you said you got into something that you saw. Why network engineer? 

Melissa: I guess networking just made sense to me. I mean, maybe the way my brain works. [00:05:30] I had a teacher who was going over the physical aspects of computing, and they were preparing us for the A+ exam, talking about ports and cables and whatnot. He said, “Oh, I hate networking because you can’t touch it.” I don’t know. That just didn’t deter me. I started learning about it. It’s a lot about numbers, IP addresses, and command line, and it just seemed super cool [00:06:00] to me. It seemed like I was learning a new language and also overseeing the construction of things in a virtual manner. That seems just really neat to me. 

Cable: Well, I’m going to take a wild leap here. Is there any correlation in your brain? Because, Melissa, you said, like, “Well, maybe my brain just– it resonated this way.” Is there any correlation to your, you said you had a Plant degree or you have a– is it a biology background? What was that that you came from? 

Melissa: Yes. I have a degree in Plant Science. 

Cable: [00:06:30] Plant Science. I don’t know what the heck that means. Even I’m already that much more, but is there plant science like you have to know the plants and then you have to know what the plant does and where the plant is and then how it interacts with the other plants around it. Is that something that is in Plant Science or am I completely off base? 

Melissa: I’ve never really thought about it, but I guess that’s kind of a similar thing. You have networks, you have to approach it like a whole living thing [crosstalk] because it has branches. [00:07:00] Yes, just like a plant, I don’t know, like a human body, it’s living and it’s progressing. 

Cable: All right, so that’s where my brain went as soon as you gave me those two bookends, you said your plant and then now how it’s laid out, I wondered if that may have where your brain went to, and it may not have, and I’m just making it up. I have no idea. We’ll have to figure out what that looks like, but I love the fact that that’s where that went because you found something, you got into it, and the instructor gave you that one little, “Oh, you don’t get to touch it.” You’re like, “Wait [00:07:30] a minute. I want to go do that.” 

There’s two parts of networking, you’re right, there’s the ones and zeros, there’s the language, there’s the IP addresses, and then there’s the part where people actually are architects and they go in and get to build and actually connect all that infrastructure and do that. I think that’s a wide spectrum of offerings from the network engineer role. I like that. I love the fact that you said you found us and then what was that like? You said it was easy to get connected to, it was easy to [00:08:00] get in, but tell us about your actual– Was it a class? Was it a self-learning? What was your Network Engineer Pre-Apprenticeship like? 

Melissa: Well, once I got connected with my Success Coach, she set me up for a start date. It felt similar to joining a degree program. I was a little unsure how intense it was going to be because I was also working, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It felt good to be part [00:08:30] of a group, like working towards a common goal. We had reading, we had assignments and quizzes, and then we had hands-on activities with Cisco Packet Tracer. That was really neat. We also had our weekly sessions with the live instructor. I think that was my favorite part. Really knowledgeable, great instructors. 

The first day of the week we did a lecture, and they helped us focus on what was important, what we needed to really understand. [00:09:00] Then the second day I thought it was going to be lecture, and it ended up being question and answer. That was really cool for me because I already had a little bit of background in networking, and this gave me a chance to really dig deep on what I wanted to know more about and what I hadn’t understood. It was just like, “Floor is open, what do you need to know? What do you need to understand?” 

Cable: Wow. Okay, how many people were in this cohort? 

Melissa: Oh, I’m [00:09:30] not exactly sure. The lectures, I think probably around 15 to 20 people, I would say, at a time, but I don’t know about my numbers. 

Cable: Okay. No, that’s great. I appreciate that. We have different cohorts starting right now. One of our most recent ones just topped off at 50 plus for going into networking. I know that you’ve already been graduated and had already gone through our program here recently, right? 

Melissa: Yes. 

Cable: I figured you were probably Cohort 3 or Cohort 4. I don’t know what that looks like, [00:10:00] and they’ve been continuously growing as we’ve gone through, but I understand that process is exactly that. You’ve got 15, 20, 30 people, you’re all going through the same goal. You said resources, what other resources did you have as an offering? 

Melissa: Well, the live instructors were amazing. I always felt like, when I asked them a question, they had all this experience to draw on, give me a thorough answer, very helpful, very nice, but also the Professional Skills Team was really [00:10:30] great. They did weekly webinars usually on résumés, building your résumé, or interview help. I’ve worked in customer service for so long, it’s uncomfortable with people, but when I get into an interview, I choke, and so it was great to get that extra help with what to do if you get really nervous, what to do if you get a question that you don’t know the answer to. 

That was really helpful and just to check in with them every week and feel that support [00:11:00] and be with the other people who are in the same position as you. We’re all working towards this, and we’re all making ourselves better. 

Cable: I love it. Did you guys have Slack communities and did you have groupings where you all could get together as apprentices and still communicate and try to help each other through some of those technical learnings other than the classroom instructor and other than live sessions? Did you guys have a group of communications? 

Melissa: We did have a Slack group, yes. Mostly [00:11:30] it was the Professional Skills meetings, but if you had a question or if you were confused and you didn’t reach out to your Success Coach or it was more appropriate for the Slack forum, that you could ask any questions you wanted to there. 

Cable: That’s pretty awesome. Melissa, you and I have a few days on our tracks here. We’re not fresh out of a high school setting or anything like that, but the idea that somebody can go and just pivot midlife, mid-career, mid-decision [00:12:00] and just say, “I want to try something new,” and then to show up and have no clue what you’re getting yourself into. Right? 

You probably had a little bit because you said you had just recently had a taste, but now what does an apprenticeship look like, what does a Pre-App look like, what does all that mean? I really think it’s interesting that you can just pivot, show up on Day 1 and start that journey. Tell me one thing, good, bad, ugly, doesn’t matter, tell me one thing that really stands out to you during your pre-apprenticeship. 

Melissa: [00:12:30] One thing that I think I realized just with tech in general is, like you said, you’re hopping into something you have no knowledge of, and technology is just constantly changing, which is why I love it, which is why I’m pursuing it, but you frequently get to a point where you have no idea like where to go next, and there’s nothing in the book, [00:13:00] there’s nothing in your instructions that tell you how to do that, and you have to go out there and you have to find that information. 

That was a little bit of a struggle for me at first because I’m used to, “Okay, this is how you do it, and this is the protocol that we follow,” but it’s always changing in tech, so you have to adapt and you have to pursue the information that you need, but after you do though, after you get over that hump of “Oh, okay, this is how it is,” once you [00:13:30] find what you need, it’s so much more satisfying that you ran over those barriers to get there. 

Cable: I love it. Everyone’s journey is a little different and everyone has a different sense of how to get from point A to point B. I was a classroom instructor, and I always drew a line on the board, and I always had this image, and for me, it was just my image that worked for me and then some people found that it resonated, but there’s a thousand different ways to get to that line. The line is the standard, you have to do this, you have [00:14:00] to at least get to this point in your journey, but there’s a thousand different ways to get there. 

Like you said, the joy of being able to go, “Okay, I’ve got to go find this next step, Step C, I’ve got to go find it,” and then to go, “Okay, well, now I have to go and figure out that that is a normal process. Okay, wait a minute, I got that. I’m good. This is a normalcy here, this is comfortable.” Then just continue from that point on. At that point, it’s just rock and roll and kind of just go wherever you go. 

Melissa: Definitely. Yes. 

Cable: The idea of [00:14:30] you coming into an apprenticeship, what your family and your friends say about, like, “Melissa is in a pre-apprenticeship,” what’s that like? 

Melissa: My family has always been supportive of whatever I pursue. My dad is a little bit into computers, and when I started to talk to him and found knowledgeable about what I was talking about, I think he got really excited that we could have conversations, and my kids just think I’m the coolest when I can pull up command line and do something, they think that’s like– like I’m a hacker [00:15:00] if I can do that. 

Cable: [laughs] I love it. Well, it’s always good to have a supportive family, supportive network around you. What’s next? We’ve got you to this point. I understand that there’s some measures in place, we do a pre-apprenticeship here at Franklin because we want to make sure that the men and women who are coming through, that they’re ready for a full career or full support as they go into their next step. 

I know you just recently graduated. What are some other things you’ve been doing in between there? You said you had résumé, you had [00:15:30] interview, you had a lot of support from the Pre-App side of the house to get you prepared for this window. What else are you doing in this window right now? 

Melissa: Well, I’m on the Talent Team’s radar should any apprenticeships arise in my area, but I’m also applying for network-related positions on my own. The Professional Skills Team said that a lot of people in the program end up finding a job on their own, so I’m applying every day. I’m continuing to learn too. When I started the apprenticeship, I enrolled in some classes [00:16:00] at a local college to kind of supplement my learning because I already felt the need to just keep learning, but the Professional Skills Team also encouraged, “Just keep learning, just keep moving forward,” so I’m always working on that. 

Cable: I love it. I’m a lifelong learner. I don’t have any degrees. Most of my audience knows I’m not a degreed person, but I’m a lifelong learner. I’m always trying to be involved in something new that betters myself or betters the people around me, and so I really like that mentality, Hey, I got my Pre-Apprenticeship. [00:16:30] You’re not just sitting waiting for someone to hand you something. 

You’ve gone out, you’ve done some additional learning. You’re going to go towards applying for some of your own roles out there as well, as well as when the apprenticeships are available, if you’re still in that window, then we can slide you into some of those interviews and support you into that next step as you go into a full apprenticeship, if that’s where you choose to go. I also, and we don’t have to, I can edit this, but I also want to talk about other things that you’re doing inside the tech space. [00:17:00] Would you like to share with us how I found you? 

Melissa: Yes. One of the classes that I’m taking at the local college is Python. I started learning that, and I just got really excited about it, kind of like networking. I feel like it’s got a similar very logical method about it, and I always enjoy working with people, helping them, teaching them, so I decided to start a YouTube channel, it’s called Pea-Sized Python, and I am releasing videos every couple weeks, [00:17:30] kind of teaching as I learn because I think that it’s hard as a beginner to learn sometimes from someone who has been doing it for 25 years. 

You don’t really speak the same language all the time, and it helps me reinforce what I’m learning, but I think I can also speak to the beginner and be like, “It’s not really as hard as you think it is. Let’s just take this little by little,” and all of a sudden, you’re coding, which is awesome. 

Cable: Right. [00:18:00] I love it, Melissa. I found you on LinkedIn. I’m scrolling through my LinkedIn usually once or twice a day. A lot of my connections are now through either IBM or languages or securities and tech, and I’ve got all kinds of connections, and I see this Franklin Apprenticeship that had said you’d gone through your pre-apprenticeship, and I saw you, then I started seeing some things you were posting, and I was like, “Okay, what is this, Melissa?” Then I went to your YouTube, and I’m watching Pea-Sized– Do it again. Pea-Sized Python? 

Melissa: Yes. 

Cable: I’m watching Pea-Sized Python, [00:18:30] like what is this? You’re going through step by step, and I’m like, “She is producing, she is recording, she is doing her own stuff.” That right there tells me you’re a lifelong learner. It tells me you’re pay-it-forward kind of mentality, “Hey, I understand this. It helps me reinforce it, and I want to share it to somebody else that they also can learn from these bite-sized nuggets, these bite-sized learning applications.” I love it. The last thing I want to talk about, Melissa, that’s a huge spectrum. 

[00:19:00] You’ve got a background, you pivoted midlife, you decided, you got into something that interests you. You’re having great conversations with your father now because you guys can talk tech and have these additional deep-dive moments between you and your family. Your kids think you’re a hacker. I mean this is great stuff, but I want to tie something at the end of this to something you really said in the very first 10 seconds. If nobody on the episode heard this, if they aren’t paying attention, you had said that you didn’t feel like you were reaching your full [00:19:30] potential. Here at Franklin, our tagline is Potential Unlocked. 

That is how our hashtag, boom, Franklin Apprenticeships’ Potential Unlocked, and I couldn’t have asked for a better episode to line me up to this question because what you’ve shared is your personal journey. You shared with us your learnings, you shared with us your passion for going into this new field, this new space, and you shared with us that you’re sharing it with the world as well, so as you move forward, you’re bringing people [00:20:00] with you. If you have two words, potential unlocked, what do those mean to you and how do you see that coming as something you want to share? What does Potential Unlock mean to you? 

Melissa: For me, I think it’s not letting your doubts get in the way of what you want to accomplish. I mean, we all doubt ourselves. We all think we’re not smart enough or we’re not whatever enough. Whatever you’re trying to pursue, if it’s tech, [00:20:30] you are smart enough. You will get this and you will succeed. Keep pushing. Have faith in what you can accomplish. 

Cable: I love it. It’s a great way to line up and set up the opening and the end of this, Melissa. It’s a wonderful share. It’s wonderful to hear from someone who has gone through the pre-apprenticeship. You’ve got technical support from someone who can help you. You’ve got your Pre-App team with your webinars [00:21:00] of– and you said it earlier, what was the phrase you used? For the Professional Skills webinars? Right? 

Melissa: Professionals skills, yes. 

Cable: You’re going to go to a live session with the classroom instructor. You’ve got a Slack Channel community. You’ve got people who are supporting you in your corner. You’ve got Franklin out here trying to encourage you to move forward. You did it. That is your unlocked potential, was the day that you clicked on Franklin Apprenticeships, and it’s just basically going to rock and roll from this point forward. 

Melissa: Yes, [00:21:30] that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Definitely. 

Cable: I love it. Melissa, thank you for being here. Are there any final thoughts? Anything else you want to share with the world as you gave us your story? Anything else you want to share with the audience? 

Melissa: I think that’s it. I just really appreciate my time with Franklin and my continuing relationship. It’s been awesome to be a part of it and watch myself get stronger and get better. 

Cable: Well, to everybody out there listening, Pea-Sized [00:22:00] Python is out there on YouTube. You can check out Melissa and what she’s sharing with the world. Melissa, you’ve had a hell of an experience coming through here, great time coming through Franklin Pre-Apprenticeship. I told you on Mondays and Fridays we bookend our week with a Success Coach meeting, and we name-dropped this morning. 

I said, “I got Melissa on an episode,” and they all perked up and said, “I know Melissa.” Pre-App team, they remembered you, they knew you, and like you said, you’re in the Talent Team’s purview right now, that you’re one of the available Network Engineers [00:22:30] ready to go into an apprenticeship or roll out there. Sorry, employers, Melissa has already been hired, but we do have hundreds of awesome candidates like her who are ready to get to work, so reach out to Franklin Apprenticeships and see if we can help align someone into your organization. 

That’s awesome, Melissa. Melissa, thank you for being here. Thank you for being on Frankly Speaking, and to everybody else listening out there, I will catch you guys on the flip side. 

Melissa: Thank you so much. 

Presenter: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech [00:23:00] Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show, and don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes. [00:23:30] 

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 07 – The Secret to Finding Hidden Tech Talent

Episode 07 – The Secret to Finding Hidden Tech Talent

Six years ago, an idea was born on the back of a napkin in a New York restaurant. Instead of relying solely on the same talent pool of computer science college graduates, the IBM zSystems Ecosystem team decided to build its own. Meredith Stowell, Vice President of IBM zSystems Ecosystem at IBM, and her colleagues have been developing and growing the IBM Z Apprenticeship program ever since. 

“We had been doing apprenticeships in other areas for years and years and years, but not in IT. We wondered, how does this fit IT? And it does. It’s fantastic,” Meredith tells Cable Rose, host of Frankly Speaking.  

In this episode, Meredith and Cable explore the evolution of the IBM Z Apprenticeship program, where it started and how it has evolved to help hundreds of people develop IBM Z skills and been adopted by more than 30 IBM clients and counting. 

Meredith explains, We hit a challenge with all the administration, everything behind the scenes. We teamed with Franklin because Franklin has the deep skills and the deep knowledge of the best ways of recruiting diverse talent and the best ways of ensuring success for the apprentices… Having that Success Coach help them along the way, that’s what really ensures the overall success of the program.” 

Fast forward to 2023, and as Meredith explains the program is just expanding quickly. “Holy smokes, this thing is taking off. And not only are we doing this within the U.S., but we’ve taken this framework and we’ve leveraged it to go global. And so now we’re starting to see successes in Canada. We’re looking at Australia. We’re looking at Thailand, right? We’re going all over the world with this program.” 

For Meredith and the IBM team, it’s all about creating opportunity. By forging a new career pathway for people from any background with a passion for IBM zSystems, they are not only changing lives, but also future-proofing IBM zSystems for decades to come. 

“For anything to really be successful, you’ve got to have a vibrant, sustainable, diverse community surrounding it,” she observed. 

BIOGRAPHY

Meredith Stowell, Vice President of IBM zSystems Ecosystem, IBM

Meredith is the Vice President of IBM zSystems Ecosystem, helping to build skills and a strong community of partners. Her team works with clients, universities, students, professional developers and partners around the world to build critical IT skills needed in the marketplace by IBM and the broader ecosystem. She leads developer outreach activities including hackathons, meetups, and trial programs to increase awareness of the platform and build a vibrant ecosystem of solutions supported on the IBM zSystems and LinuxONE platforms. She has worked with a broad range of IBM software solutions and much of her background is in the analytics field where she has worked as a business analyst, enterprise implementation consultant, program manager, and leader for Business Analytics technical and sales enablement.

Transcript: Franklin Speaking, Episode 7, The Secret to Finding Hidden Tech Talent – with Meredith Stowell, Vice President of IBM zSystems Ecosystem, IBM 

[00:00:00] Meredith: 85 million jobs could go unfulfilled by 2030. That’s due to a lack of skilled workers. This is at a time when employee loyalty is a true growing challenge as well. What was interesting was the top primary opportunity that was called out was that need to expand your reach in mind for hidden talent and discover untapped skills and talent. I just feel that because we’ve got this program, we’ve got a proven practice, we’ve already had successes, and it’s just continuing that flywheel effect of building and building and building on each other. I think we’re set up for success for the future, particularly given the current environment. 

[00:00:43] Speaker 2: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships will really work. As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional success coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs. 

[00:01:10] Cable: Welcome to another episode of Frankly Speaking. I am Cable Rose. Your host, an Uber fan of all things tech apprenticeships. Today we have on our podcast, Meredith Stowell from IBM. Meredith comes to us. She’s the Vice President of IBM zSystems Ecosystem. She’s helping building skills and building a strong community here in the IBM Z realm. She works with clients, universities, students, professional developers, and partners around the world as she’s helping that critical IT skills that are needed in the marketplace by IBM and her broader ecosystem. Welcome to the episode, Meredith. 

[00:01:50] Meredith: Thank you so much Cable. As you know, I always love your enthusiasm, so I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to join you on this. 

[00:01:58] Cable: Well, let’s talk about enthusiasm because if I’m not mistaken, maybe the world knows, maybe they don’t know. Would you tell us your role at IBM? What is it? What is the IBM Z community and what is it all about? 

[00:02:12] Meredith: Sure. I lead our ecosystem group, our global ecosystem group for IBM zSystems and LinuxONE. What does that mean? That means I get to work with partners all over the world who develop applications to run on our platforms. They’re ISVs, they’re global system integrators, there’s open source community. IBM zSystems and LinuxONE, these are infrastructure. They’re platforms. Think of them as very very large computers, very high performance computers that are really known for their uptime, always up. 

They’re known for their resiliency. They’re known for their scalability, so they can scale up very quickly. They are some of the most secure servers that are out there on the planet. These systems, they’re used for your banking transactions. Whenever you go and you get money out of an ATM, whenever you use your credit card, whenever you are out there making an airline reservation, anything that requires a lot of transactions and I mean billions of transactions and they need to be done in a millisecond, that’s what these systems do. 

These systems then have applications that run on top of them. I work with partners that build the applications that run on top of these systems. The other thing that I really get to do that I love is work on the talent pipeline for this platform. Building that future talent that’s really going to futureproof the platform and ensuring that individuals from all different areas have an opportunity to really work on this platform if this is their passion and what they want to do. 

That’s probably one of my favorite areas. Also, building a community because for any platform to be successful– Actually for anything to really be successful, you’ve got to have a vibrant, sustainable, diverse community surrounding it. It’s all about the ecosystem of ecosystems, it’s about the people that are working on the platform. It’s about people who are talking about the platform, but really it’s about bringing that community together. They have common interests and create that overall sense of belonging and sense of purpose for this community, so that’s what I do. 

[00:04:30] Cable: Meredith, there is no way you could come on a podcast and start with a nugget like that. Tell me this. Okay, that is huge. By the way, we talk about companies and we talk about company sizes and blah blah, blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to get into that, but IBM is the largest tech company on the planet, correct? 

[00:04:49] Meredith: Depends on how you look at it. I don’t know that it’s the largest that’s out there, but we definitely are incredibly significant. What I would say is IBM, it’s one of those companies that’s behind the scenes running companies that you’re more familiar with. If you’re at Walmart, or if you are, like I mentioned, financial services, almost every bank that’s out there that you might know of, and other businesses, we’re the machines and the systems and the applications that make it happen behind the scenes. 

[00:05:26] Cable: That’s huge. That’s no small feat. That’s no small role. I said, tell me about your role at IBM. Your role is the Z ecosystem of all of that. We have three things I really want to point out, the ecosystem you talked about, the applications with the partners in which you are bringing into that, we’ll call community now, and then the community of the people who are bringing the applications in, who are supporting that into the ecosystem for the people of the people, of the people. 

That was the big pictures. That’s huge. How do you start a podcast with those three things and say, that’s just what I do. It is. It’s one of the bigger conversations I’ve had on these episodes. One, I can’t just brush over that, I got to break it down a little bit. Do me a favor, we’re going to talk a little bit more about the ecosystem itself and then the people in the eco. 

We’re going to talk about your community there. Do me a favor. I have heard you speak and I have heard the story, but I would love to share your story with the world. Tell me about how this apprenticeship idea of supporting the people who are bringing the diverse backgrounds into your community to support your ecosystem, how it started on the back of a napkin. Can you share that story with us? 

[00:06:40] Meredith: I will. As with a lot of the technology field, skills and the need for skills for the future, it’s a top priority. Finding that talent and where are we going to get that talent and how are we going to build that talent, up until this point we’ve used a lot of the traditional paths. You go to university– The big companies that are out there, they’re going to go to the universities, they’re going to recruit the talent in those universities, bring them on board, and then get them started. 

Well, what if you need more talent than that? We’re sitting around looking to solve this problem. We were at a restaurant in New York City and there’s actually a veteran there. They’re like, “How can we get more veterans involved in this?” “How can we look at different ways to get more people involved in this?” Because we have to find the hidden talent. How do we find this hidden talent? Veterans are fantastic. What a great pool of resources that may be untapped. That’s where it started. 

It was on the backs like well, if we could do these types of programs and look at different ways of onboarding and different pathways to enable these individuals to work on the platform, what would that look like? What does the training look like? What does the mentoring look like? Where do we even go? How do we partner with communities? How do we fit into the overall workforce development initiatives? That’s what we ended up doing was really looking for those workforce initiatives that maybe the government was looking at. How can we leverage that? How can we go talk to universities or to community colleges or to coding schools? How do we bring that ecosystem together? That’s really where it started was how can we do this? We have an idea– 

[00:08:36] Cable: The what if, the idea, the back of a napkin idea, what does that look like? If I may, what year was that? That had to have been years ago. 

[00:08:43] Meredith: Oh my goodness. Well, it had to have been around maybe 2017, 2018. 

[00:08:49] Cable: Okay. We’re pre-pandemic. We’re pre-COVID. We’re looking at new non-traditional pathways to bring talent. I love the idea, what you said, there’s talent out there. I always talk about, we throw a net. We have this fishing net. We’re throwing this net into a much larger pool, into a much larger opportunity of more people because there are diamonds. I will tell you, we’ll probably share some of these stories. 

You have seen some of these diamonds in the rough that came out of nowhere that were some of the greatest tech talent in the last few years to join these organizations to come on board. You’ve seen them at graduations and you’ve seen the managers go, “Where did this person come from? Where did she come from? Where did he come from?” It was because you had that idea in the back of a napkin to say, “What would it look like?” Do me a favor, what does it look like? Now we’re five years later, what does that look like for– You said a couple things. What would it take, what’s it look like now for IBM, the ZDP, and the Z realm, your ecosystem for apprenticeships? What’s that look like? 

[00:09:54] Meredith: Well, I would say that we definitely iterated. We had a lot of experiments. We experimented a lot. When you experiment, one of the most important things is you need to have your clients, your end users involved. That was one of the biggest things that we did, was we definitely incorporated them and said, “Hey, here’s an idea that we have, what do you think?” “Do you think we should be looking at this?” They were on board 100% but every time we would get into the nitty-gritties of how you actually do it, we would hit a stumbling block of, “Well, we want this to be competency-based.” 

“Well, do we have all of the competencies defined?” “No, we don’t have all those competencies defined.” What we know we have is a whole bunch of education that’s out there. It’s not all necessarily the same. What if we go and talk to all of the clients or a large portion of clients and find out what is it that they need? What do they want? We narrowed it down to two key job roles, the mainframe sysadmin, and the application developer, the mainframe application developer. 

Once we had those, we then pulled the clients together and said, “What does a core competencies [unintelligible 00:11:10] look like?” “What is it that you’re looking for?” We defined what those core competencies were. Then we said, “What about the training?” “What training do you need for those core competencies?” We’ve got all this training that’s out there, does it need it? We put the training pack together. Then how do you actually bring that and register that as an apprenticeship with the Department of Labor? 

We did that but then we came to the stumbling block of how do you actually start an apprenticeship program at a large corporation? Because we do work with Fortune 500, Fortune 100 companies. This is where we came out with that and Ginni Rometty really coined that term of new collar, new collar workers. This is a path where individuals don’t necessarily have four-year degrees but we want to open up technology and open up these opportunities for them. 

This is where apprenticeships come in. We’ve been doing apprenticeships in other areas for years and years and years, but not in IT. Does this fit for IT? It does. It’s fantastic. We had a challenge with all of the administration, everything behind the scenes, how do you get these large corporations to change their recruiting to actually their job requisitions that say require four year degree period, the end? What we did at IBM was we actually implemented ourselves first. 

We tried this out, I actually hired apprentices on my team, some other teams within IBM. I went through all of the training and the competencies, and we had a lot of feedback. We changed things around and then we took it out to our clients and our employers, but once again, it was still not quite the easy button that we needed. We still [crosstalk]– 

[00:13:06] Cable: Some hesitation. Hesitation by the clients. 

[00:13:09] Meredith: Hesitation by the employer, the client’s employers. Some of their hesitation was around like I said, the administrative work. How can we make that administrative work easier? How can we ensure that the apprentices are going to get through this entire process? How do we recruit diverse talent? At IBM, we know technology. We know technology but we wanted to look somewhere else to say, “Well, who really knows apprenticeships?” “Who really can help us with that?” 

That’s where we came to Franklin and teamed with Franklin because Franklin has the deep skills and the deep knowledge of the best ways of recruiting diverse talent, the best ways of ensuring success for the apprentices, for example, especially using success coaches. To me, success coaches are the secret sauce. [chuckles] I describe it as a personal cheerleader. You are the cheerleader for that apprentice. 

You are the cheerleader for the manager because that’s another component is that managers aren’t used to bringing talent in this way. They have to learn it. They have to build that new muscle, and having that success coach help them along the way that’s what really ensures the overall success of the program. It was through a lot of experimenting, identifying where are the blockers, and then removing those blockers to create what I always call the easy button. 

[00:14:41] Cable: The easy button. Well, let’s talk about it because I’ll go a little bit further into some of those things. I remember the day that I saw the post on social medias that IBM had removed, and it was a certain number like X amount of requirements for this amount of percentage of jobs within IBM. We would say, “Hey, we don’t need the four years. If you’ve got the affinity, if you’ve got the passion, and if you have the aptitude, come on, we’ll take you. 

IBM proved that out the gate. Being a large IT company that did send some ripples through the planet to say, “Wait a minute. If IBM can do this, what are they doing?” Or, “What do they know that we don’t know?” I’ll talk about a couple of other things. You mentioned a four-year traditional pathway. Again, I support that as well. Some people do very well in a four-year traditional pathway. You said it, the largest companies out there were all fishing from the same pond, the same applicant pool of graduates every year were being looked at by the same corporations. 

What you’ve strictly– Excuse me. What you’ve done right there is you’ve just taken down that barrier, that wall, and you opened up the front gate, you’ve said, “Hey, this is other opportunities and let’s look,” and you found that talent out there. The other one I want to mention as well is the fact that I didn’t realize you were very humble when you said that IBM has some financial support and has some of the larger companies that you support them. 

IBM runs the planet. If I could be honest if I go pull up something on a document here on my phone for a banking transaction that’s probably going to go through a Z mainframe somewhere. If I need to go do something [unintelligible 00:16:20] guess what, it’s probably going to go through Z mainframe. You very humbly said, I love it, you’re a very large corporation that supports the world. I do think that’s absolutely true. You wanted to find a different path from that same pool, that same pond. I always think of– Oh, men, my brain goes all over, Meredith, I’m so sorry. What was the game when we were kids, and it was like a little plastic toy and it had fish going around. It was chomping and you had a little–[00:16:46] Meredith: Oh, yes. 

[00:16:47] Cable: I don’t even know what it was called. You had fish out of the same pond. When I talked about this and when I envisioned what IBM is doing and how colleges, universities were graduating a pool, that’s what I pictured, was that little game where you were trying to pull those little fish out of that little tiny pond. Now it’s an ocean, you’re out there in the Pacific or Atlantic, or you’re out there, and everybody’s out there now. 

That’s not a bad thing or a good thing. I don’t mean it that way but the talent that was out there that wasn’t in that pool is now having the opportunity to come forward, show their affinity, show their passion and IBM said, “Yes, we want you on our team.” I thought that was a great way of you explaining that to us in your story there as to the back of a napkin, really. Then you did. What worked and what didn’t work. I love the fact that you had iterations, you had iterations. 

The biggest piece I would love to point out is the way that you explain that you got the input and feedback from your employers, your technicians, the men and women who were in the trenches, who said, “Yes, you want to bring us somebody, but what are we going to teach them?” “What are we going to train them?” “What are we going to show?” “What is that?” You narrowed that down to that golden goose egg. We call it a framework, but that golden goose egg thing. 

[00:18:02] Meredith: [crosstalk] It’s the framework. It is a proven formula. It’s that winning formula in my opinion of how do you create a sustainable workforce. I want to add something. 

[00:18:15] Cable: Please. 

[00:18:16] Meredith: Each year, IBM puts out their five trends. This year, IBM has five trends for 2023 report that was embracing chaos and taking charge the number one trend was talent shortages, and salary pressures that are crippling growth. 85 million jobs could go unfulfilled by 2030 and that’s due to a lack of skilled workers. This is at a time when employee loyalty is a true growing challenge as well. 

What was interesting was the top primary opportunity that was called out was that need to expand your reach in mind for hidden talent and discover untapped skills, and talent. I just feel that because we’ve got this program, we’ve got a proven practice, we’ve already had successes. It’s just continuing that flywheel effect and building and building and building on each other. I think we’re set up for success for the future, particularly given the current environment. 

[00:19:24] Cable: I love that. Current environment, that’s a very soft way of saying where we are in both the market, I don’t do politics, and I don’t do finances, and I don’t do all of the big stuff, however, that’s exactly right. We’re talking in a very turbulent time in people’s careers and growth. I will tell you, I have seen some [unintelligible 00:19:47]. My brother is in the collegiate realm. He’s in academia, and I’ve seen him work 30 years to get to this point in the academia realm, and it’s starting to shift on him. It’s starting to look different for him. I don’t plan for anything Meredith. If I just show up I can figure it out from that point. I’m pretty good at this but I don’t plan for anything. Where I am today has nothing to do with where I had thought about yesterday because I just dove with the flow. However, someone like my brother who methodically or someone like the market or someone like the industry for 40 years who did it a certain way, and now things are starting to shift. 

I’m looking at some information. I saw some articles. IBM is committed to $250 million of both monies towards apprenticeship support as well as y’all’s new collar concept of bringing in members from a different background. Why is IBM so committed? I know we just got the big picture stuff but why are y’all really jumping in headfirst into something like that? 

[00:20:48] Meredith: It truly is, in my opinion. This is my opinion is it’s because we recognize that there is this skills challenge and we also recognize that there is this untapped talent and we want to be the leader and show through example. Show through example that there is this hidden talent out there and available if you go after it. There’s another study that was done just recently. It was by IBM and Morning Consult. It was conducted with approximately 5,000 students, 5,000 job seekers and 5,000 career changers. 

They were from 13 different companies because IBM international business machines. We’re focused on the global view. It found that while job seekers they’re interested in STEM they don’t think that they have the right academic degree, they don’t know where to start and they aren’t familiar with the STEM jobs that are out there and available. 

Providing not only the opportunity for these new pathways for this talent that we know is out there it’s also getting awareness and working with the local communities working with and ensuring that there are opportunities and there’s opportunity for training as well, through open training. That’s where we’ve pulled together what we’ll call IBM SkillsBuild. We partner with communities all over the world because it’s about getting into the local communities. IBM once again we know tech. We know tech really well. 

We have got some of the absolute most forward thinking tech that’s out there. Most innovative tech, first of a kind. If you look at our history of all inventions that we’ve brought, all of the first, what I call the first. We have a lot of those but if we really want to reach our communities and really get to this hidden talent, we’ve got to work through other organizations and through those communities and provide them the training, provide them those opportunities. 

We not only are we focused on investing in apprentices and apprenticeships within IBM but also overall upskilling in general around the entire world. Really building out skills. 30 million individuals by 2030 we want a skill. Really doing what needs to be done in the economy, what needs to be done in our communities, what needs to be done to uplift the entire world. IBM has always been very very committed to communities and building out those communities. This is just one component of that. The stronger the community, the stronger we are as individuals and the stronger we are as a business and as a world. 

[00:23:48] Cable: Meredith, I had a guest on and she made a comment one time and it really resonated. Upskill and reskill. I had never really thought of it that way. If you are a DIY person and you upscale or upskilled like something that you’re working on or you– I think that’s the right term for DIY. When they take something and they remake it and repurpose it into something else, I love it. You said IBM’s we’re just going to upskill the world. Let’s get everybody involved and we’ve got IBM SkillsBuild out there. Let’s go. Let’s go [unintelligible 00:24:20] 

[00:24:21] Meredith: We’re in a position to do that and we have a corporate responsibility and we take that corporate responsibility very, very seriously. 

[00:24:31] Cable: I will tell you, I wholeheartedly confirm that that is exactly what you all are doing. I think it’s amazing of how much of an impact you’ve had. You talked about communities, one of the first ones that pops into my head is the Buffalo area. I don’t need to mention anything in Buffalo but Buffalo’s tech is rising in the men and women who are coming to both IBM and Franklin and just the community regardless. If it’s not us, great but there’s more tech coming, there’s more support. I think that some of the companies that are there they are building a culture in their community to do exactly what you’re talking about. 

They’re using the skills. They’re using the opportunities that are there. They’re just building a community of people that want to learn, of people that want to upskill, the people that want to just do something with tech. They’re fully on 100% onboard supporting it. If that’s just one little corner as you said international business, as one little corner of the IBM spectrum, you’re in– I don’t know. India. You’re in Australia. You’re everywhere. You’re on the globe. I imagine you’re in every corner of the planet. That’s exactly what [unintelligible 00:25:35] 

[00:25:34] Meredith: Sometimes I feel like physically [laughs]. 

[00:25:36] Cable: Right. Because we’re all over the [unintelligible 00:25:37] Now, I will mention something and again you’re very humble as you get into this. As you talk about the way that you’re going to start to make those impacts to those men and women and the skilling the upskill and kind of those things you talked about. Again you guys are investing. You’ve got 250 million into apprenticeships and your new collar and you’re going across the board. You did tie it in earlier. 

I want to go back to it because you’re going to tie the same thing into, those employers that weren’t quite on board. How does it look now in five years later, six years later you’ve seen some successes, you’ve had some, there’s a taste out there now that employers are like, “Oh, okay. Buffalo’s on their fifth cohort. They’re coming back for more.” Why is that? And are we using or leveraging that to show other employers this is the success we have? What does that look like in the apprenticeship space out there? 

[00:26:30] Meredith: I think it’s something that’s very important to bring up in the talk about. You’ve got early adopters. You’ve got companies that are willing to go try something new. They’re willing to take the risk. They’re willing to partner with you but it has to be with somebody that they trust. You have to build those trusted relationships. They’ve got to know that you’re in it together. 

I think that that was one of the things that’s most important here is it’s not just IBM. It’s IBM, it’s Franklin and it’s the client employer. We’re all in it together. Not only one client employer, it’s multiple client employers. It’s bringing that community of client employers together. In fact, this was one of the challenges that we had when we first looked at this was when you’re doing apprenticeships, not every company has the need for the scale, the number of apprentices to make a truthful cohort. 

Or maybe they haven’t fully bought in. They’re not sure yet. They just want to dip their toe in the water. That’s why us as a group bringing these employers together it was, you can hire one, you can hire two, you can hire as many as you like. You can hire anywhere in the US, anywhere you want to go. What we’ll do is we’ll bring them all on board as a single cohort so that we can create that sense of community. 

That was one component that I think was very very important was enabling the ability for employers to try it out because they want it to be proven. That’s even an early adopter is like, “Okay. I’m willing to try this out but maybe I’m not going to go all the way in the deep end. I want to go into the shallow end first.” 

[00:28:17] Cable: The baby pool. 

[00:28:18] Meredith: The baby Pool. That’s why it’s so important. You get those first early adopters. You make sure that you’re working together with them. You continue that trusted relationship. You continue continuous learning about the program and pivoting with the program if needed. Then once you have those successes, that’s when you go to that next group of employers that are like, “Oh, wait wait.” “Oh, look at who’s doing that over there.” “You’ve done it and you’ve had success?” 

“Wait a minute, every one of those employers has come back for another cohort? Wow, this thing must be working. I better give it a try.” It’s having that proof point if you will that’s what’s really needed to get the momentum going. That’s where we are right now. Holy smokes this thing has taken off. Not only are we doing this within the US, but what we’ve done is we’ve taken this framework and we’ve leveraged it to go global. 

Now we’re starting to see successes in Canada. We’re looking at Australia. We’re looking at Thailand. We’re going all over the world with this program, Africa to really once again leverage this winning formula to find that hidden talent and enable that hidden talent to, for new opportunities that they thought they may never have. That was one of the things. When we are at the graduations, the theme that we hear over and over again and it’s just so heartwarming. 

That’s the other thing I’m so passionate about this because you’re truly making a difference in somebody’s life and they are so excited and it’s just you’ve helped to enable that which then of course then makes you feel really great too. It’s just great to see that the number one comment I think that we have back over and over again is opportunity. Thank you for this opportunity that I thought I would never have because every time I wanted to go into IT, there was a requirement for experience or there was a requirement for academic degrees. 

There was this, there was that, there were all these blockers and I never had the opportunity and I looked at this and I’m like, this is too good to be true, but then I did it and it was great. Thank you for the opportunity. Every apprentice that I need is so enthusiastic. They are so excited by the technology and the other thing is they’re working on something that matters. These are systems, the systems that they’re running, the systems that they’re administering. As you mentioned, they not only run their companies, they run the global economy. 

[00:31:04] Cable: Yes. 

[00:31:05] Meredith: It’s a little heavy because you know that if that thing goes down for one second, one second, it’s millions of dollars. You’re working on something that truly matters and not only that, it’s the most sustainable green server that’s out there. You’re working on something that’s helping the environment as well. 

[00:31:28] Cable: Meredith, let’s talk about that big picture you just painted for us. You said employers needed a taste. They wanted to see it. They were early adopters. They wanted to come in, “I trust you IBM, we’ve worked together, but now let’s see if it really does.” We’re not talking the six-week boot camp, we’re talking 12 months of our apprenticeship. 

Then that’s commitment between IBM, commitment between Franklin, the success coach, the apprentice, the managers, the mentors, the framework. That’s 12 months. We’re not talking an overnight, “Hey, it looks good. We’ll move on.” We’ve committed to an employer for 12 months and you’re absolutely right. They’re starting to see that that 12-month program, we’re getting rock solid technicians, we’re getting rock solid, professionally adapted members onto their team because we do our professional development skills. 

We’re looking at the new collar and agile concepts that IBM is both ingraining as well as supporting, everything that those all that’s coming together, the employers, IBM. I love sitting on the group calls and we have everybody in the room and we’re doing our quarterly business and we’re talking, employer, you’ve been here for a couple months, how’s it looking? 

What’s great? IBM, what’s your thoughts? Employer, what’s your thought? Everything’s going great. Oh, you want a little tweak here? Great. There’s some feedback for everybody. We tweak it. We move on. The next quarter we come back and we see those improvements. We see that acceleration and we get to it. 

I want to share one story with the world because I haven’t shared it yet. I’ve got the woman on the call that I would love to get her perspective. You asked me, in Virginia, Tysons Corner, we were at Northern Virginia Tech Council and we were coming to showcase IBM Z and IBM apprenticeships that were already in place at one of the council’s employers. They already had apprentices on the team. They were already going into six or eight months into their program and the rest of the council wanted to hear about it. 

In the room we had, of course, the director, John Ladd from the Department of Labor who runs the North American Apprenticeship program for our certifications. We had in the room the Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gary Pan. We had Gary in the room and we had managers, CEOs, we had the apprentices there. You were there sharing with your IBM apprenticeship with the room. 

As John talked about apprenticeships. Gary talked about apprenticeships for the state and everybody was talking and you asked me a question. You said, “Cable, can you tell us what a success coach does because some of the men and women may not know what it is?” My response and I’ll never forget it, because Kim, my boss, looked at me. She was like, why would you answer it that way? I said, “No, Meredith, I cannot tell you about a success coach, but I can show you.” 

Then if you recall, we went through this very quick story of the director, the commissioner, the men and women who put the council together, the directors of the program, all of the CEOs in the room. We had you from the IBM perspective. We had the managers and everybody talked and I said, “If anybody heard anything from anybody else in the room, nobody paid attention to the one person in the room who said the most profound thing.” Meredith, not that what you said wasn’t profound, and not that what John said wasn’t profound. I don’t mean it that way, but the apprentice. He only spoke for just a few moments. He shared his ideas, he shared his perspective, but he said exactly what you just said. He said to a room, there was 60 people in the room and a hundred on the call. 

There was some clout in that room and that young man stood tall and he says, “I appreciate the opportunity and I come to work every day and I work my ass off to make sure that I deliver on that opportunity.” I thought, what? Nobody heard that. Nobody. As soon as I went back and pointed that out, if you remember, I didn’t even tell them what a success coach did. I missed the entire point of the question. I didn’t even tell them what a success coach did, but I showed them that the value in the apprentice, that net that we threw, the talent that we’re finding, the passion that we’re getting in our men and women that are coming under the Z program, that are coming into their apprenticeship. I will tell you what, every person in that room ran over to Gary and ran over to Johnson. 

How do I sign up my company to be a part of an apprenticeship that I can get tech talent like this young man? I’ll tell you what, you did it five, six years ago on the back of a napkin. You raised the question, how do we do this and find the talent that’s out there and I think that whole story is like, if you’re a comedian or you follow George Carlin or Dane Cook or anybody, they start with the punchline of a joke and then they come back and they tie it in. 

Your story of that napkin is that young man standing there at that council sharing the fact that he has the passion to do it. I think you said it, IBM knows how to go global. You’re a big company and y’all going to take the upskill and reseal and you’re going to get the world a better place. 2030, great, but let’s do it every day and every day until then. I love it. That’s not where it’s going to stop. I get that. 

Then you said your employers are finding out that they’ve got those early adopters and now everybody else is peeking around going, what did Walmart do? What did that bank do? What did those other companies do? How do I get to be a part of having the talent come onto my team? Then you said Franklin does it with our success coaching. You said the secret sauce. I love it. That secret sauce. I’ll tell you what, 12 months is a long commitment to be with a apprentice, to be with a manager, to be with an employer. That’s a long commitment, but you’re absolutely right, Meredith, when we stand tall, you and I show up. 

What’d you call us? The dynamic duo that one of our high fives at one of our graduations, you called us the Dynamic duo. You’re Batman and I’m Robin, and I love this. You said, hey, that secret sauce is that success coach supports them, the employer sees the success or the impact that a success coach has and now that apprentice is ready to go. Six, eight months in, they’re ready to– let’s just take the barriers out of the way and let them go. Let’s see where they’re going to take their career. 

I think it’s a huge point. You’re right. There was a question in our little, do you think we’re at a tipping point for apprenticeship? You know what, you’re damn right, Meredith. We are at a tipping point and you’ve seen it and you’re starting to see that– It’s not traction. Now you’re starting to see that snowball just get bigger and bigger and bigger because of the communities you’ve built, because of the men and women who are supporting these programs, and because of the success of those apprentices, managers, employers, and IBM, as you guys stand tall for those graduations, you see it. I got to share with you too, I don’t know if this, but I read a room pretty well. 

[00:38:07] Meridith: Yes, you do. 

[00:38:06] Cable: I can tell you as from feedback, you genuinely, you have this vibe and energy around you when you are in a room full of managers, mentors, and apprentices because on the back of a napkin, you sat and had a conversation and IBM took it to heart, ran with it. You built it, you supported it. You’ve got the right men and women supporting it from IBM, you had the right traction and now you’re seeing what that return on your investment is. Which by the way, please, please, please tell me. Do you have that napkin? 

[00:38:44] Meredith: No, I don’t. [laughs] 

[00:38:49] Cable: We need to find that napkin. If it’s in a folder somewhere, it’s probably at the bottom of a trashcan from whatever restaurant y’all were sitting at and it was maybe two drinks, three drinks in. I’m making that up. I have no idea, but I’m just saying, man, how cool would that be in the hallways of IBM to have that napkin framed? You know when they do timelines on corporate hallways and there’s that napkin of a back of a napkin framed. 

[00:39:18] Meredith: That would be great. 

[00:39:19] Cable: Meredith, I think you’ve done an amazing, amazing impact to the planet to show the importance of apprenticeships, to show what it can take to do it because I’m going to tell you, it’s no easy feed. If we’re talking, I’m going to– 

[00:39:33] Meredith: It takes a village. It takes that ecosystem. 

[00:39:35] Cable: It really does. The ecosystem and your community, you’re absolutely right and to see it come to fruition and to see it come and make an impact. I’ll tell you what, it’s really amazing to share the stage with you. It’s amazing to sit here this afternoon with you. I love hearing you talk about it. I love to hear your stories and I’d just love to see you see those graduations. I think it’s fantastic. I do have one final question. One final thought. We’ve talked about big picture, we’ve talked about the Z ecosystem. We’ve talked about the individuals such as the men and women who are on program for apprenticeships. We’ve talked about what it took and what it’s going to take, and we’ve talked about where it’s going. That net, I think IBM, basically owned the net. Y’all have that net and have figured out that there is talent out there. 

We here at Franklin, our tagline is potential unlocked. The idea that somebody has potential, and they always do, but how do we unlock it? I always ask my guests, what would those two words mean to you? What does the term potential unlock mean to Meredith, and how would you reference that in regard to this episode? 

[00:40:43] Meredith: I think that, in order for you to unlock your potential, you need to follow your passion, and you need to find your passion. You may not know what that is, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that, but get out there and try. Be fearless. Be willing to take the risks. Be willing to learn something new. You may find you don’t like it at all, and that’s all right because that’s a big step forward is knowing what you don’t like. You just might find something that you didn’t realize you loved and that will unlock your potential. 

[00:41:23] Cable: I love that passion. Just get out there and find your passion and run with it. Meredith, I will tell you, I will do this every time. If you ever want to have a conversation, and you want to come on and share your thoughts. Hell, we might have you back in six months and figure out where the Z program’s gone in six more months, and what’s the newest biggest success that we’ve seen out of this. Maybe next time we bring– 

Oh, I’m running with this now. I have no idea. I’m just making stuff up. You and we bring an employer and we bring an apprentice on, and we put all the members in the room and say, “This is what it looks like to be successful.” Maybe we do something like that. I do 100%, Meredith, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your thoughts. I appreciate you sharing with the world. It’s been a great episode. Again, I do. I just want to say thank you for being here. Is there anything, any final thoughts you want to share to the world and tell the world out there for what you’re doing? 

[00:42:19] Meredith: Just thank you and give it a chance. It’s amazing. Give it a chance if you’re an apprentice or give it a chance if you’re a job seeker, or you’re looking for your new passion. Give it a chance if you’re an employer. Give it a chance if you’re a tech company that’s out there and are looking for ways of building talent and new talent. Give it a chance. Because it’s awesome. 

[00:42:43] Cable: I do. I get to see it every day. I’m already preferential because I see it every day. I get to see the men or women who are having the successes, the employers who are having the successes. I get to go to these quarterly conversations when they’re like, “Well, let’s talk about the next cohort. This one’s going to graduate in five months, let’s already look at the next projection.” To everybody else who is out there, give it a chance. I love it. 

[00:43:05] Meredith: Give it a chance. 

[00:43:06] Cable: All right. Meredith, thank you for being here. Thank you for being on the episode. To everybody else out there in podcast land and tv land, we’ll catch you guys on the flip side. 

[00:43:14] Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking, adventures in tech apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. 

Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, Help Desk, IBM Z, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes. 

[music] 

[00:43:48] [END OF AUDIO] 

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 06 – Igniting a Learning and Growth Culture with Apprenticeships

Episode 06 – Igniting a Learning and Growth Culture with Apprenticeships

What is it really like setting up an apprenticeship program? How can skills-based hiring practices set up your workforce for the future? Workforce Futurist and Apprenticeship Guru Christina Arnone talks to Cable Rose about her experiences from the trenches of setting up highly successful apprenticeship programs. She started laying the groundwork for Sprint’s first apprenticeship program back in 2020 – and not only did she have to contend with Covid-19, but also organizational change thanks to the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile.  “When we’re talking about retention in the age of such talent upheaval, with apprenticeship programs you play the long game,” Christina says. “It will pay for itself in dividends three, five, ten years down the road because you’re going to still have that really excited talent in your organization.” 

She talks about what it takes to build an apprenticeship program from the ground up, the reality of starting from scratch, and how to get a leadership team on board. “My argument to leadership is, where can I help you save money in your workforce? How can I help you create more efficiency in your current workforce, and how might apprenticeships enable those two things?” 

After seeing the impact apprenticeships grow over several cohorts at T-Mobile, now Christina is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and helping others shape the future of work for the good of society. She believes apprenticeships are key to unlocking an organization’s potential and can be an integral building block of a learning and growth culture.  

Disclaimer: All views shared in this episode are Christina Arnone’s. They in no way represent her previous employers, T-Mobile, Sprint or any other company she has supported.  

BIOGRAPHY

Christina Arnone, Workforce Futurist and Apprenticeship Guru

Christina Arnone is the former Sr. Program Manager for Apprenticeship Programs and Skills Based Learning at T-Mobile. Christina led a cross-functional team responsible for building, registering, and scaling company-wide apprenticeship programs as well as building a foundation for skills-based talent strategy. Within over 5 years at T-Mobile (and Sprint prior to 2020 merger), Christina implemented and operationalized T-Mobile’s inaugural apprenticeship programs and created a foundation for a skills-based talent strategy and role-based learning. Before her role in L&D, Christina was an HR Business Partner leading workforce planning, organizational effectiveness, and performance management efforts for finance, procurement, and network. Christina also led cross-functional teams supporting employee relations and recruitment for these corporate functions. 

Prior to T-Mobile, Christina led enterprise-wide cross-functional teams, project managed HR programs, mentored junior staff members, and facilitated learning with business leaders to determine their training needs with DST Systems, Inc for over 13 years. An operatic soprano, Christina attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music where she earned a Master of Music degree and has produced live theatrical performances across the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

Christina is a workforce futurist and apprenticeship guru. Since leaving T-Mobile, she is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and skills to benefit her community and society. Christina shares a home in Missouri with her husband, Chris, and their two geriatric cats. 

 

Transcript: Franklin Speaking, Episode 6, Igniting a Learning and Growth Culture with Apprenticeships with Christina Arnone, Workforce Futurist and Apprenticeship Guru

Disclaimer: All views shared in this episode are Christina Arnone’s. They in no way represent her previous employers, T-Mobile, Sprint or any other company she has supported.  

[00:00:00] Christina: In the age of such talent upheaval, Apprenticeship programs, though you’re playing the long game, it will pay for itself in dividends 3, 5, 10 years down the road because you’re going to still have that really excited talent in your organization. 

[00:00:22] Announcer: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships really work. As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs. 

[00:00:48] Cable Rose: Welcome to another episode of Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. I am your host, Cable Rose, the uber fan of all thing tech apprenticeships. Today on the podcast, we have Christina. Christina’s coming to us as a workforce futurist, and we’ll talk about that during the episode, as well as someone who spent the last few years herself as an apprenticeship guru, getting and starting a national apprenticeship program at her last employer. 

Christina, thank you for sitting down with us today, and thank you for being on the podcast. I didn’t know where we really wanted to take this today, so I really appreciate you showing up a little while ago and having a pre-show with me and getting some background. I know I had some details. I looked online. We’ve done a few of these prep calls, but I’m really excited to see Christina and your history of and how you got into beyond Frankly Speaking this afternoon and sit down with us today. 

So do me a favor, Christina, tell us, how did you get to this chair today? What is your background in, and this is a broad question, you’d be like, “Okay, well, how would you start me off with this one?” I apologize, but how did you get to an IT realm that we’re sitting here today talking about apprenticeships in IT? 

[00:02:02] Christina: Thank you so much, Cable. I very much appreciate the invitation, and I am really excited about our conversation today. That is a really broad question. I’m sitting here thinking about that, like, “Where do I begin?” [chuckles] It’s very much a journey. I started my career in human resources, and I was an HR business partner. I did some work in chief of staff work. I did some work in the education realm, as far as being an education and development partner, doing some instructional design, and decided I wanted to go back into the HR business partner realm, specifically because I wanted to really have a one-on-one interaction and be able to help people. 

That’s where my journey started with then Sprint. As HR business partner, I was doing a lot of org design, I was doing a lot of employee relations stuff, which everybody loves to do. Talent management, kind of consulting and all the things that HR business partners do, some workforce planning, all that. I noticed that there was a large appetite for training, upskilling, reskilling. At the time, my client was finance. We built out a path for skills of the future for finance. Then we started having discussions about merging with T-Mobile. Everybody’s like, okay, we’ll merge. They decided to, and then they decided not to. 

We’re like, okay, well, we’re just going to go on. During that time, my boss at Sprint was just like, “Hey, we want you to do this assignment. We want you to understand what it would take and what it would look like for Sprint to have an apprenticeship program.” I just started doing a lot of research. At the time, Sprint was, I think a founding member, but I’m not sure if that’s correct, of the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition. Started attending meetings, started making connections, started building my network. Not really understanding what apprenticeship programs were or are, and how they might help our business. We were working through that. I had gotten buy-in from a business partner, which was in technology. [chuckles] We were on the cusp of creating a program, and we merged. That all stopped. [chuckles] 

[00:04:39] Cable: Yes, bigger picture stuff happened, right? 

[00:04:41] Christina: Right. What I did know, because everyone at Sprint was following very closely the merger and how the commitments we were making across the country to the [unintelligible 00:04:53], because there was the big hullabaloo about the merge. I knew that in Nevada, we had a merger commitment. We’d already committed at that point to build and operate apprenticeship programs in Nevada. I’m like, okay, well, my expertise, whatever I’m built is not going to go to waste. Whoever is taking this on [laughs] will benefit from this knowledge. Looking around, asking all of my contacts at T-Mobile, who’s taking this? Who’s taking this? [laughs] [unintelligible 00:05:24] they have all this knowledge, ready to give it to you. Funny enough, it was me. [laughs] 

[00:05:33] Cable: You jumped from black to yellow, to pink to black. You went from Sprint to T-Mobile and you actually just built, brought the program over? What year was this? 

[00:05:42] Christina: This was 2020. 

[00:05:46] Cable: Okay. 

[00:05:47] Christina: 2020, because the world stopped- 

[00:05:51] Cable: March of 2020. 

[00:05:52] Christina: -2020, and we kept going. We did not stop. When after we merged during a time where we couldn’t all be together, and it was hard. I look back in awe of how we got to where we were at the time at T-Mobile. I will say props to our senior leadership, they did an amazing job working us through that time. We’ll shoot now with the leaders in the industry or they’re the leaders of the industry, I should say. You know what I mean? 

[00:06:27] Cable: Up track. 

[00:06:28] Christina: It was a great thing, and during that time, April, we started building apprenticeship programs in Nevada proper. Our commitment stated that we had 180 days from close to actually stand these up. In that time period, I got us registered as a national sponsor or designated as a national sponsor of apprenticeship programs. I registered four programs with the DOL to begin in the state of Nevada- 

[00:06:58] Cable: Correct. 

[00:06:58] Christina: -but to expand nationally. We launched those programs in September of 2020. 

[00:07:06] Cable: The middle of COVID, yes. 

[00:07:09] Christina: We were off to the races. So of those programs, three of them were brand new registered programs. We had the frontline customer service representative, which wasn’t so much a new, but it was a different take on something that had already been established. The same was true with the training position. The business analyst position was totally new. We had to actually bring together our industry partners to, I guess, influence the DOL to make it an apprenticable occupation, and we were the first ones to do that. 

[00:07:44] Cable: Not only did you do the customer care, you did a trainer. You’ve got certified department of labor apprentice trainers now who are on the team or on the staff from that point forward. Then you invented or created or designed the business analyst position that was the first of its kind. You made a comment early on. You said you wanted to help people, and I heard it right out the gate, Christina. That was one of the first things. I was in HR. I’m going to use one of your terms here too. Workforce futurist. I don’t know what the hell that means. I have no idea what that is. If that’s a normal thing, that’s great. I have no idea what it is. What is your idea of a workforce futurist? Because I want to tie it in to this statement here. 

[00:08:25] Christina: No, no, I completely appreciate that. I made that up. [laughs] 

[00:08:29] Cable: I love it. As soon as I read that, I was like, “What is a workforce futurist?” 

[00:08:33] Christina: In my time at T-Mobile, I was charged with bringing to life programs and concepts that nobody else was doing. I knew there were other companies, other large companies doing apprenticeship programs, like IBM, we partnered very closely with IBM. I knew none of the other telecoms were doing it. So I’m like, okay, now I have to convince my leadership that we need to do this. That was one thing that I was hanging my hat on, apprenticeship program. 

Then we all started doing more research on what’s happening in the industry as far as talent’s concerned, because we had the great resignation, the great reshuffle. I started listening to a lot of Josh Bersin. I started listening to a lot of Accenture, Kenzie, all of these big name consulting firms, researching and understanding what was happening in real time as far as talent and the workforce. 

I was charged with how do we prepare as a business for what’s to come? What I knew based on that research was, okay, the population in the United States is decreasing. The birth rate is decreasing. The cost of college is skyrocketing. At the end of the day, college graduates are not fully prepared for the corporate world. I knew all that as a basis, but what I was trying to understand is how do we connect our business strategy and how we deal with talent? How do those two things connect? To me, from all the research that I’ve been doing, it was skills. Skills are the future of the workforce. 

To me, that’s the baseline and the basis for all apprenticeship programs, you’re skilling people that are not skilled. When I say I’m a workforce futurist, I really take hold of what people are saying, like Josh Bersin and like Accenture and McKenzie. I find ways to operationalize and enable it for companies. That’s what I do. 

For me, being ahead of the game and being in that workforce future helps prepare people now and in the present, so not just for companies, but just for people in general. If I have someone who is not skilled or wants to change their path in a career, so okay, let’s look at what skills you have and let’s look at what skills you need for this, whatever it is. To me, that’s the future of the workforce. 

[00:11:30] Cable: Christina, I wish I could show everybody. I got chill bumps. Okay, so let’s talk about it. I’m going to put this whole thing in my brain here and see if I can grasp what you’re saying. Workforce futurist, I love this. You do the research. You see the data, you see the trends, and you are– it’s not like the market where you’re like future gains and future losses. 

You’re not doing that. You just see what it is for the reality and see what’s coming in the future of what that gap is. Go backwards to your statement earlier where you said you want to help people. An apprenticeship program was one of the ways it sounds like you saw that you could take someone who has the passion, we use the word affinity, for a skill, and then you dive in and give them that skill. You used reskill and upskill, is that what you said earlier? 

[00:12:19] Christina: Yes. Reskilling and upskilling. 

[00:12:20] Cable: I love it. Again, all new terms for me. Reskill and upskill. Then you’re going to take that person who has the desire, has the passion. They’re eager, they’re hungry, they’ve got now a program, a platform. They have a person in their corner that’s going to support them to take on said thing. All of this sounds great. 

I’ve got to go back to [unintelligible 00:12:41] statement. How the hell did you convince senior leadership to go, “Okay, bring in this unfound talent and let’s bring in an apprenticeship.” How is that–? Because that was a huge part of the story. I don’t know if anybody realizes it. You’re absolutely right. How did you get from the state of Nevada as a– it was an apostrophe of a sentence somewhere in some plan of something that you started that then came over to T-Mobile or at the time your new client as this program. How did you convince them? 

[00:13:10] Christina: First of all, there was no convincing. Well, because it was a commitment. We had to do it. It was a merger commitment. I was lucky in that. Now, that was just for the state of Nevada. Now what we have been trying to do, and it’s an ongoing negotiation with leaders. I feel like this is true not just for where I’ve come from, but across the industry, is that negotiation of, “Okay, so I need talent, but I need talent at a certain level.” “Do you? [chuckles] I mean, really do you?” 

I am a big proponent of taking a look at the talent that you currently have and understanding really what the core services and core deliverables that you need for them to deliver. Based on that, where can you fit in or where do you need folks to do more repetitive, more entry-level work versus you have a mid to senior level person doing that work when they should be doing all of the creative and building and all of that good stuff. 

When I go into a conversation with business leaders, it’s more of like, my first question is, what are you charged with doing? You would be surprised at how frequent they’re coming back to me and saying, “That’s a good question.” 

[00:14:42] Cable: I know. 

[00:14:43] Christina: I am also a big proponent of tying those deliverables to the business strategy. This is all like workforce planning. I could do a deep dive into that, but that’s not why we’re here for. So my argument to leadership is, where can I help you save money in your workforce? How can I help you create more efficiency in your current workforce, and how might apprenticeships enable those two things? 

[00:15:15] Cable: I love it. I like how you said sometimes the response when you ask that question, like, what is it you actually need? What is the bottom line that–? They’re like, “I don’t know. That’s a great question.” Then I wonder, now I’ve got a few years under my belt with apprenticeships here. I am a registered certified success coach with the DOL through Franklin. I’ve done my apprenticeship to be a success coach. I’ve gone through putting the hours in, putting the criteria in. 

I’ve met all of those things and gone through it. What does it look like for business leaders that come in and say, “Okay, great, I can bring apprentices in.” What does that look like for them to understand what that really means because just like you said, they don’t even know the bottom line. Now you’re going to try to convince them that you can bring in an outside non-traditional workforce and say, “Hey, these men and women have such talents that we haven’t tapped yet.” Our clients and some of the ones that we’ve had with us, when they hear apprenticeship, the first word they say is intern. 

Then we have to do [unintelligible 00:16:16] verbiage, we have to work that verbiage so they understand it’s not an intern, this is not an unpaid skill. These are men and women coming in paid from day one in apprenticeship and they’re registered, but they don’t know what to expect from a green or a brand new person who is coming into an IT realm. Like you said, are they expected to do mid-level? Are they expected to come in at a certain point or are they going to get that allowance of learning curve to get them up to speed? 

Once our clients see it, once they see what can be done with a support of an apprenticeship, with the support of success coach, with the support of a framework and a roadmap, that they come back for more, they come back. How does that look when you go from this quandary? There’s just a question mark in that room, and then you try to explain what apprenticeship is and then what is the value that they see two, three years down the road. You had a couple years with your company. What does that look like now, two or three years later? 

[00:17:15] Christina: Well, I will tell you, it’s all about starting small. Especially for a large company that is really entrenched in their methodology of how they’re doing things. It’s all about starting small. I think that we’ve successfully done that or we had successfully done that with our Nevada apprenticeship programs at T-Mobile. I feel like that has fed a desire for more. I know for our customer service apprenticeship program, we had two people in it to begin. 

One unfortunately fell out of the program, and one went the distance and now has been promoted twice. She’s a lifelong T-Mobile person. She is– the loyalty there is unmatched. We keep getting more and more like that. That apprenticeship program has grown exponentially. I think when I left, they had 11 or 12 apprentices at that level, which it is already an entry level position, but our customer service partners are so specialized and so skilled that when they’re often hiring for those positions, they’re hiring for people that have customer service background. 

None of our apprentices do. That’s the thing that’s paid dividends for them because as you know, frontline turnover is huge. All apprentices that have graduated the program and converted into full-time positions have stayed. We had a 90% retention rate, and that was one year post-graduation. 

[00:18:58] Cable: Wow 

[00:19:01] Christina: It’s huge. If you’re sitting at the frontline, it’s equally as [unintelligible 00:19:05] but exciting in the technology field. We have a systems administration apprenticeship program. All apprentices that have graduated and converted are currently with T-Mobile, and they have a 100% retention rate 12 months post-graduation. It’s just very exciting. I feel like when we’re talking about retention in the age of such talent upheaval, apprenticeship programs, though you play the long game, it will pay for itself in dividends 3, 5, 10 years down the road because you’re going to still have that really excited talent in your organization. 

[00:19:51] Cable: If I may share with you a story that I had happened last September, I happened to be in Virginia speaking at a conference to a room full of men and women who were looking to maybe get into an apprenticeship program into their organizations. We were also fortunate enough that this group that had the panels of people speaking ,we had, I don’t know if you know John Ladd, the Director of National Apprenticeship Program. We had the Commonwealth of Virginia Gary Pan. He is the director for the State or the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was in the room. 

John spoke about national, Gary spoke about the state. Then myself, the client who was in the room, they were going to speak. Meredith Stowell from IBM. She was there speaking about the connection from apprenticeships to IBM to the client that we were standing with. Everybody in the room listened. Don’t get me wrong, and I understand having a room full of a lot of information can be a bit much. 

On the panel that I was on it was myself, an apprentice and a manager. We were going to hear what it looked like in the trenches in a real organization with the real– and even with the great men and women who had spoken in the room between Meredith and John and Gary and everybody else, the apprentice said one thing that just blew me away and nobody heard it. 

I stopped and Meredith said, Cable, success coach, could you tell everybody what you do in this process? And I said no, but let me show you what I do. What I did is I went through the room, I said you’ve got the commissioner, you’ve got the director, you’ve got the men and women who put this together, you’ve got the CEO who brought this into the program, the manager at the frontline. If nobody else heard anything else, the apprentice, a 25-year-old young man, it’s his first career job. It’s his first IT job. He just said I want to come to work every day and give my best because I was given the opportunity to jump into this type of role. He is in a billion dollar company in banking doing some real [beep] like this is no kidding. 

And this whole room just went and puckered up. They sat up and said, “Wait a minute. What?” I said, “If you’re looking for– y’all are telling me about–” You said it earlier, Christina, “your strategy, how you get your workforce.” All of these things that all these companies tried to do. There are men and women out there who are hungry and can show up and they can do a damn good job and they can get through their apprenticeship. 

Then they are, I love your word, loyal because that company set it in. That CEO sat up a little bit higher, and Meredith stood up. Meredith stood up a little bit prouder and that whole room ran to both the state of and to John and said, “How do I get my company in?” And it wasn’t anything I did because I still didn’t even tell what a success coach did. I missed the whole mark of my entire query. I didn’t even tell them what I did. I just connected the point that nobody paid attention. 

They’re showing up and they’re going to give every bit they’ve gotten as this apprenticeship. That’s exactly what we see here in Franklin. The apprentices that are coming through, they’re doing exactly that. They’re hungry, they’re excited, they’re writing me at 9:30 at night asking for more work. Nobody wants more work, but they’re calling, they’re writing, they’re showing up at additional stuff. They’ve asked their leadership, “Can we get more training on this topic? Because I can see the benefit.” 

These apprenticeships for us from what I’ve seen are fantastic. What has been something that you’ve seen that maybe you didn’t expect two or three years ago when you started this process? What’s a return on your investment that you never saw or never planned for? Is there anything that stands out to you? 

[00:23:22] Christina: Well I think what I didn’t expect– well, I kind of I expected it, but I didn’t expect to it be so fully realized by the time like in the three years that we were doing apprenticeship programs. The absolute growth of not just the apprentices, of the managers and the mentors that we had within T-Mobile. It was so gratifying. I will say that they learned as much if not more by engaging with apprentices and helping to teach apprentices and learn. They’re learning more about their jobs than they ever had thought that they would. 

It’s creating a learning environment in the organization. Which is to me that’s the wave of the future. If you are a business that is results or performance based, right now in today’s environment that’s not optimal for long-term longevity in the talent space. Moving that culture into a learning and growth-based culture is going to create that opportunity for loyalty and longevity of your current workforce. The mentors, the managers, they have grown so much in their roles and in their positions. That’s aside from the life-changing [chuckle]. 

[00:24:53] Cable: Opportunity. 

[00:24:56] Christina: Yes. An apprenticeship program that we had created. That’s a clear second for me. 

[00:25:02] Cable: What a great way to put this because, again, you did it twice now. I got chill bumps. You did it where you’re right, it’s a life-changing experience or opportunity for men and women to come into an apprenticeship out of the blue, no background, and step into whatever that apprenticeship is. Whatever it’s IT, CDL if you– is a CDL, commercial driver’s license. Right? Long haul trucking, they’ve got a lot of things. They’re doing everything now. 

[00:25:26] Christina: Exactly. 

[00:25:26] Cable: It doesn’t matter what you’re coming into, you are coming in clean slate and you’re coming in. There’s the first ripe benefit of the apprenticeship program. They have an opportunity. You’re right, we’ve seen the greatest success in some of our clients when those managers and mentors engage and get involved. Next thing you know– because at first we were always feeling like we were forcing our apprentices to sit in front of their manager or mentor. 

We were hoping to get that [unintelligible 00:25:51] then after a while they ran with it. They started having luncheons, they started having one-on-ones. They started coming to us. It really showed the exponential growth. And rather than eight months before they got to touch the mainframe or go into some IT realm or do something, it was six months, and now it’s four months. Now they’re buddied with the last cohort because we’re seeing our return on investment. When the next cohort comes on, you partner with somebody else. I see you shaking your head. You must have some sort of experience with that. 

[00:26:20] Christina: Oh my gosh. Our systems administrator apprentices are– It is so gratifying when graduated apprentices come in to mentor new apprentices. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of growth and knowledge sharing. Like I said, it engenders and promotes this growth-based culture. This learning culture that is invaluable. Having a growth culture it’s going to be like gold. People that are searching for jobs and top talent are really looking for a place where they can grow their careers. 

From the research that I’ve done what that means is how can I build the skills that I need to get to whatever my purpose is at your company. In that statement you have to find your purpose at whatever company that you’re going to. Right? When I was creating skills based talent strategy, it was all about, okay, so from a company level we got to connect talent to the strategy. You have a build strategy, you have a buy strategy, you have a borrow strategy, blah blah blah, whatever. For everyday partners and everyday employees, it’s about finding your purpose. That all begins with your manager, your leadership helping you find what you are passionate about at the company and then allowing you to do that. 

[00:27:59] Cable: I’m going to go to the next topic you have, you have workforce futurist and apprenticeship guru. I’m going to tie those together because as a workforce futurist you saw it, you saw down the road and you knew what those gaps were, those needs were. You knew that there was something in place that you could then leverage to bring forward and fill those gaps. I believe that is the apprenticeship realm or the apprenticeship that you’re speaking of is that and filling into each whatever that apprenticeship is, whether it’s an IT or services or whatever it’s, it’s going to fill that gap. I like you said blah blah blah, you got to do the strategy and the buy and this, the borrow, all this stuff. You’re right. As a whole that apprenticeship idea and concept is starting to just– when it’s understood, that’s where we’ve seen the greatest return on our clients. 

[00:28:48] Christina: Oh, absolutely. What I was trying to do in my last few months was really connect apprenticeship as a tool to enable workforce strategy. It’s one tool and the myriad of tools to do that. Adopting apprenticeships from a business side of things, from a business leader’s perspective is tough because they have deliverables, whatever. 

I feel like there is an opportunity to take a percentage of your headcount and dedicate it to early-in-careers talent. Whether that is 5% in internships and then 5% in apprenticeships, you’re going to get a better return on investment with, frankly, than you will with internships. Sometimes you have to start there and bring it forward that way. Well, to me, if you are entering into that performance results based culture with apprenticeship programs, and you have to meet the business where it is and then be subversive in trying to change the culture to something that is more supportive of that. 

[00:30:03] Cable: I think, Christina, one, you and I could probably do this for the next three or four hours straight and talk, because I only [unintelligible 00:30:09] [laughter] but I want to be respectful of your time so I do want to make sure, but I really love where you’ve taken us today. You’ve walked us down the path of saying, you know what, we saw this a few years ago, it was a byline, it was a program we were going to start. 

Then it blew into something bigger. We took it to another space, another realm. We saw the value in it, we added to it. We’re going to see the impact it has for the return on your investment from all of the things that are happening. Now, as a, I love this one, workforce futurist, you are now going to go, and again, these conversations you’re having, these ideas you’re sharing, the realities that you’re sharing. These aren’t just ideas, these are realities, these are the actual outcomes, what you’re sharing and how you’re doing it. 

One, I want to thank you because it’s huge. It’s a huge space that is untouched, and I don’t want to say untouched, it’s just scratched upon. It’s just scratched upon, but when you find the leaders and those ones that say okay and they actually see it, I’ll tell you what, we got clients, I can list a myriad of clients right now that are running on their third, fourth cohort. 

They’re asking for more sooner. They’re saying, “Hey, can you come on site now, Franklin, and be here and do something local with us?” They want that because they’ve seen how it works, they’ve seen what the outcomes are and they’re like, let’s, like you said, let’s jump on this and run. 

[00:31:27] Christina: Well, and I think that that’s the importance of intermediaries like Franklin. That is, it’s important because I know from my perspective, building apprenticeship programs, literally all internal, we provided the training, we provided the whole nine yards, it’s not a fast process. When you are in an environment that’s very quick, which all telecom is, it’s all constantly changing, very quick, bringing in an intermediary is really beneficial because you’re not charged with providing software development curriculum. 

You’re not charged with providing mentoring. I will also say, it’s important that you do engage your business and your mentors to provide that on the business side of things. I’ve always said that if we were to ever, or if I were to ever suggest a software development program, a cybersecurity program, bringing in an intermediary is the fastest, most efficient way that you can do that with a quick uptime. 

[00:32:40] Cable: Quick uptime and a quick return on that uptime because it’s a, again, we’re a proven record, we’re a proven process. We have the support when something doesn’t look the same way that you want it to, you come to us and we tweak or we adapt and we deliver. That’s what the intermediaries do. That’s what Franklin does. We deliver. 

[00:32:58] Christina: Absolutely. Having that versus a homegrown internal apprenticeship office is a lot more cost effective. 

[00:33:07] Cable: Well, I could tell you what we’ve put in for the last five years here at Franklin and what it’s taken for us to get to this point. If you’re just a company trying to do that yourself, that’s an entire division of your company, or you bring in someone and we come in and we just plug and play. This is your need, this is in our delivery, this is how we’re going to do it, everybody connects and we go to the end and here we go. I love it. 

One last question I always ask my guests, we have our mantra here, this is our tagline for Franklin. It’s potential unlocked. I’m going to put those two words in your thoughts just for a moment, potential unlocked. Is there anything you would like to tell our audience, which is, again, apprentices, managers, mentors, we talk to HR, we have men and women all over the country listen to this podcast. 

Is there anything you would like to tell them in just the realm of those two words, potential unlocked? It’s a broad question, and I’m sure my marketing’s going to kill me for how broad I get with my questions, but I don’t like to frame things. I don’t want to put a thought in your mind. Those two words, what do they mean to you and what would you like to say in in those two words towards apprenticeships? 

[00:34:15] Christina: If potential unlocked, I think apprenticeship programs are the key to unlocking potential, but I’ll also go one step further. 

[00:34:25] Cable: Oh, please. 

[00:34:26] Christina: Apprenticeship programs are the key to unlocking potential. I will also say that culture, learning and growth culture has the greatest opportunity to unlocking potential. 

[00:34:41] Cable: Love it. That’s exactly where we’re going to leave this last statement, is those words from Christina. Say it again, it’s a learning and growth culture. A learning and growth culture, and how you tie that to unlocking potential. Again, I’m a lifelong learner. I don’t have any degrees, I don’t have any background of anything. I stumbled into a career. 

I stumbled into another career. I stumbled into a classroom. I stumbled into public speaking. I stumbled and stumbled and stumbled, and I only failed forward if that’s the John C. Maxville title is Failing Forward. I only failed forward in my life, but I’m a lifelong learner. I either win or I learn. That’s a real simple approach to life, but my potential has never really been hindered by the fact that I have that mindset. 

I have a growth mindset, I have a learning culture so I’ve always moved forward. Just trying to keep that in the same context. If we can do that for organizations and we can do that for senior leaders and we can do that for individuals and we can do that for the planet, Christina, I’m right there with you. 

[00:35:44] Christina: We’re going to solve world hunger. 

[00:35:46] Cable: I love it. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. That’s what we’re going to do. 

[00:35:51] Christina: No, we’re not going to solve world hunger. We’re going to solve this talent thing. We’re going to solve it. 

[00:35:56] Cable: We’re going to solve, how do I say close-mindedness because that’s not the right term, but we need open-minded people to say, “Hey, let’s look at a different approach. We’ve done it this long for this way, for this many years, we’ve done it this way. Let’s look at an different approach. Let’s get people outside the box.” 

[00:36:11] Christina: I think that I want to be respectful of your time too, because I can talk for about this for days, but I think it’s also not just a partnership with business and intermediaries, but it is higher education. It is public school system. It is the private and the public coming together to create an environment where we’re skilling kids in a way that’s going to provide them the best possible future. 

All that should be based on what is the purpose for these children? What is the purpose for these young adults? What is the purpose for these career switchers? What is the purpose? If you can’t allow people the time and space to discover that or help them discover that, it’s a tragedy. 

[00:37:00] Cable: I was 33 before I realized I was good at anything. Don’t get me wrong, I had a full career at that point. I was in telephony, I was in IT, I was wires, I was mainframes, I was hard– I was into something, but it wasn’t my passion. Then at 33, I stumbled into something that I found out I want to do this for the rest of my days. That’s why I’m sitting here today sharing your story and sharing your experiences with the world just because that’s what I want to do, is get out there and and connect the world to everything that needs to be connected. Christina- 

[00:37:32] Christina: That’s awesome. 

[00:37:33] Cable: -it has been an absolute pleasure. Again, you could be on every week with me if you want because we do this all the time. 

[laughter] 

Maybe I’ll have you back in six months and we’ll see what else you’ve gotten into in the last– 

[00:37:42] Christina: I would love it. Hey, I am always happy to host. I am always happy to do whatever you need me to do, man. 

[00:37:51] Cable: You got me on the hook. Listen, you got me on the hook and what a great idea. We could bring up third party in that then you and I could then talk from intermediary and someone that’s been in with a client that’s been in with and have a– Oh, I can see the, oh my God, all kinds of ideas. I got all kinds of ideas now. I love it. I love it. 

[00:38:08] Christina: I love it. 

[00:38:08] Cable: Christina, always a pleasure. I really am grateful of your time. I know you’ve had a busy few weeks and I appreciate you sitting down with us today here on Frankly Speaking. Is there any final thoughts, any final words that you’d like to share with the audience? 

[00:38:21] Christina: Just have fun. Find your purpose and enjoy the ride. Just enjoy it. 

[00:38:30] Cable: I love it. Thank you for listening to this episode of Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. We always appreciate you stopping by to listen, and as always, like and subscribe to get all of your apprenticeship news right to your inbox. 

[00:38:46] Announcer: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. 

Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBMZ, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes. 

[00:39:25] [END OF AUDIO] 

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 05 – Growing Your Own Tech Talent, Gary Fusco, Technology Director, M&T Bank

Episode 05 – Growing Your Own Tech Talent, Gary Fusco, Technology Director, M&T Bank

What do you do when you can’t find enough talented tech workers? For Gary Fusco from M&T Bank the answer is, grow your own. Based in Buffalo, New York, M&T Bank was struggling to find enough tech workers for their IBM zSystems Platform team. And they were facing impending retirement for some of their most experienced team members.

As Technology Director, z Platform & Middleware Engineering & OPS, M&T Bank, Gary discusses how M&T collaborated with IBM to become one of the first employers to implement the IBM Z Apprenticeship program, delivered by Franklin Apprenticeships, to attract talent from non-traditional sources to the bank. M&T is now supporting its third cohort of tech apprentices and planning to start recruiting for its fourth cohort this summer. Gary reflects on the journey and what M&T Bank has learned along the way.

“What I really love about this program is that it is very targeted to what these individuals need to know for these roles on the Z platform. It’s been a journey and no journey is ever done,” Gary explained. “We are doing everything we can to help them be successful… a lot of the success from the program is due to feedback from the individuals. It’s a continuous improvement loop.”

BIOGRAPHY

Gary Fusco, Technology Director, z Platform & Middleware Engineering & OPS, M&T Bank

Gary J. Fusco is a Senior Vice President / Technology Director responsible for managing the z Mainframe and Middleware Engineering organizations in the Technology Division at M&T Bank.  In this role, Gary is responsible for managing all account transaction processing along with various software products that support Mainframe processing at the bank.  He is also responsible for managing the Corporate Data Centers in the United States as well as technology infrastructure that supports the bank’s European footprint.

Gary is the ambassador of the z Development Program at M&T Bank and has been a speaker at the IBM Executive Panel for Skills of the Future to attract, retain, and grow z Mainframe  Talent. He is also an acting member of the IBM-GDPS & BMC Executive Mainframe Software Councils.

Gary is a 1983 graduate of Canisius College where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in Management and minor in Computer Science.  His experience includes over forty years in various technology functions. Gary is active in the Town of Tonawanda community by volunteering his time on the Technology Board at St. John the Baptist’s Grammar School in Tonawanda.  He is also on the Board of Trustees at St. John the Baptist Church.  He also belongs to Resource Group Charters at M&T Bank, being Intergenerational Resource Group (iGen) and Wellness Resource Group.

Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.

Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Transcript: Franklin Speaking, Episode 5, Growing Your Own Tech Talent with Gary Fusco, Technology Director, M&T Bank

[00:00:00] Gary Fusco: All of these individuals that are part of this program, they’re excited, they’re thankful, and they want us to feel proud. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll go on a one-on-one with these individuals, and they’ll say, “We want to make you proud because you took a chance on us.” It gives you chills in your spine when you hear things like that, and people saying that, because you feel like you’re doing something good, and the bank’s doing something good here. 

[music] 

[00:00:29] Announcer: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships really work. As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs. 

[00:00:54] Cable Rose: Welcome to this episode of Frankly Speaking; Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. My name is Cable Rose, I am your host and uber-fan of all things tech apprenticeships. Here today with us in studio, we’ve got Gary Fusco. Gary’s coming to us from the great state of New York. He is with M&T Bank. Gary is the Senior Vice President z Mainframe Platforms & Middleware Engineering and Operations. Gary’s been in IT for quite a few years. Gary has quite a passion for both IT, IBM, mainframing, and of course, the banking industry there with M&T. Gary, welcome to the show, sir 

[00:01:32] Gary: Thanks for inviting me. Glad to be here. 

[00:01:35] Cable: Well, Gary, let’s do some background. What is your background in the IT realm? How did you end up where you are today? 

[00:01:42] Gary: Wow, it’s been a long journey. I’ve been doing this technology gig for a better part of 30 years. Started up in various operational ranks in my career. I went full-time to school at a local college, and ultimately graduated, and ultimately part of the senior management team here at M&T. 

[00:02:05] Cable: Senior management at M&T. I had to go take a peek at your LinkedIn, you know, I’m going to make sure I know what I’m getting myself into. I saw in the ’90s you were in the operational side of the house. What did that look like on a day to day for you? What were you doing as a manager of the operations at that point? 

[00:02:21] Gary: In the ’90s, a lot of the applications that we would run in our financial institution were mainframe-based. A lot of it was around bad scheduling, monitoring system failures, system availability, a lot of the things that were the heartbeat of actually our business communications to our end clients. Making sure that systems were available, balances were updated with current information. Then ultimately, it was all about making sure system availability was there for our branch network and other channels of our business. 

[00:03:01] Cable: Okay, so in the ’90s, it sounds like you’re in the trenches, right? You’re seeing it from the, literally, point of view of what’s running and what’s operating, and what’s being pushed, and what’s being run. You’re in the trenches, you’re seeing it day to day, what was your manning like? What was staffing like in the– Well, I don’t know if that’s the heydays, that’s the dotcom era. I don’t know if the dotcom was ever a big thing for an IBM Z realm. What would that look like for staffing back then? 

[00:03:26] Gary: Well, the staffing was 24 by 7, 365, holidays, weekends, were all things that we had to support in the core operations. Making sure, ultimately, our applications never went off the air, or we would want to try to maintain that as best we could. 

[00:03:47] Cable: I’m just thinking about it. People, sometimes, today think they know what IT is, they think they know what IBM is, they think they know what it takes to run a mainframe, or run a large corporation. You said it right there, 24/7, 365, weekends, nights, holidays, it didn’t matter, somebody’s there, somebody’s working, somebody’s making sure all those ones and zeros are aligned, right? 

Do me a favor, in the next 30 years, so let’s take that journey. Now you go 30 years down the road. You and I have a little bit of wear on ourselves. We’re a little bit wiser for the wear. Here we are, we’re in 2023. What kind of challenges do you see? What kind of business challenges do you see on a day-to-day right now for trying to solve an IBM Z? Why did you bring the IBM Z apprenticeship into the M&T realm? 

[00:04:34] Gary: Well, it’s twofold. The dependency on the Z platform has continued — back in the ’90s and even today. The ability to have data available at a moment’s notice for any client of the bank that wants to see their balance, wants to see if a check cleared, or I want to see a check image. The digital evolution has really put a big onus on our Z platform here at the bank because that’s where our main deposit application actually resides on. The ability for our digital clients to consume that information at a moment’s notice, at any time of day, doesn’t matter, is really what’s made our Z platform continuing to be one of our cornerstones of our processing environment at the bank. 

[00:05:30] Cable: I love it. I never even thought about that, just at a moment’s notice or a keystroke. I click, and I want to see that information, and I’ve got to have it processed and brought to the screen. I never even thought of it that way, so that’s interesting, Gary. The idea that you’ve got men and women literally just– literally that’s what they do, they’re working for data. They’re pulling data, finding data, processing data, and putting data where it needs to go to make sure we have it when we need it. How does that look though for staffing? 

Okay, so staffing in the ’90s, it was people who were coming into the realm. I do believe, if I’m not mistaken, from other clients, talking with IBM as well, there’s a great population of senior techs that have been with IBM, or they’ve been with the bank for whole careers, and now it looks like there’s a gap in what’s next. How do we get the next generation in there? How did that Z apprenticeship benefit you into trying to bring in more people? 

[00:06:30] Gary: It was one of our large business challenges. It was the fact that we had tenured people, they’d been doing this, and they love doing it. They got a passion for it, and that’s great. We’re really wanting to do that, and advocate that holistically, but we didn’t really have a good feeding ground for talent and a succession planning for some of these people that had been doing this type of technology, or this type of engineering roles on the Z platform. 

We started to have some conversations with IBM a few years back, and others to say, “Hey, how are other IBM large Z customer clients addressing this?” We had a number of sessions, a number of conversations because a lot of this technical information is not being taught in the universities anymore. A lot of the technical curriculum was– To have a program like, and we do have a program that is like technology development program, when we go out to four-year colleges and things like that to attract talent and things like that, but a lot of the talent that were coming in were not mainframe-based. 

We had to identify an opportunity, or a pipeline of talent to bring into the organization, to really start building some succession planning around some of those people that have been doing it for 30 years, like you said, Cable. We had the conversations with IBM and Franklin, and they were awesome conversations, and rolled up our sleeves, and understood, “Hey, how can we, together, work on this business opportunity, and understand a non-traditional pipeline of talent into M&T Bank, working with IBM, and Franklin Apprenticeships?” We’re super-excited, I’m super-excited. I can talk about this forever. 

[00:08:35] Cable: That’s why I got you on the show, Gary. 

[00:08:39] Gary: They usually give me the hook at the bank when I start taking, because they know I’m pretty passionate about what I do. It’s just great for the people. It’s a great opportunity for the people coming through the apprenticeship, and it’s no small task, by any way, shape, or form. 

[00:08:56] Cable: Yes. I do love that, the collaboration that Franklin and IBM has had, as we’ve met with our clients, and find out what does it look like? What needs are we filling? How do we help those strategies at these tech companies? How do we align with that? I’ve got a question though, it always makes me wonder, and I love you said, “Non-traditional.” You’re absolutely right. I don’t have any college degrees. My car broke down in front of an Air Force recruiter’s office, and that’s how I joined the military. It wasn’t a planned event, it just happened. 

When you start looking at these things, and you start looking at all of the options that are out there, like you said, you used to look at, and you still probably look at the four-year colleges. You still have a plan to go into those things, but why does apprenticeship align with things like– or how does it look different, or the same to boot camps, or to some of those recruitment when you go to the colleges, when you look at what those internships are out there, how does the apprenticeship align with some of those other ones? Either the same or different. Does it look any different than some of those? 

[00:09:55] Gary: Some are the same, some of it is different. In fact, we do have boot camps here that we run occasionally. We do have internships here at the bank. I think where I see the greatest value with the apprenticeship is very targeted. It’s targeted on the IBM curriculum, it’s targeted on the different roles on the Z platform, application developer, and CIS admin. It’s really what I will call in-depth immersive training in those specific areas to build your knowledge and expertise of the Z platform where you go to universities and some of it is general studies, some of it’s technical driven. 

What I really love about this program is that it’s very targeted on the things that those individuals are going to need to know for the different roles on the Z platform. I see some great value in that targeted learning. Now again, it’s immersive. They go through a pre-apprenticeship program, over 200 hours. They take a pre-apprenticeship certification test to make sure that they’re knowledgeable enough to come to M&T and Franklin interviews them and prepares them for interviewing, and then ultimately, we go through an interview process here at the bank and bring in candidates in a cohort. 

It’s funny because there was actually an individual who came to M&T in the existing cohort that we’re in right now that actually took a boot camp and during the boot camp, they learned a little bit about the ZDP program, and they said, “Hey, I want to know more about that.” They went out to Franklin, read up on the apprenticeship program, and then they ultimately went through the pre-apprenticeship and the person’s on the ground now and part of cohort three at the bank right now working in the CIS admin space. 

[00:11:53] Cable: Gary, I love that story because you’re telling us right there, obviously, M&T has found something and I want to hear what that is. You found something because you’re on your third, and I believe there is a projection for down the road, but you’re on your third cohort, and we’re talking a good group of men and women coming into this talent pool, and each time it’s gotten better. Do me a favor, again, everything we do, there’s going to be some learning curves and some adaptions and what were some of the things you’ve seen over the last few cohorts that have gotten better each time with all of it, the process the talent, the managers, whatever? 

[00:12:30] Gary: Well, it’s been a journey, but no journey is ever done. We’re always tweaking and changing the program. We started our first cohort in March of ’21. Ultimately, we had a graduation last year, celebrating the success of those group of ZDPs that finished their Franklin and IBM curriculum. The way we have the program built here is, it’s actually a two-year program. The first year is the Franklin study, the Franklin IBM studies, and on-the-job training. It provides them the ability to learn and then apply as they go through on-the-job training. 

We feel that’s a pretty good mix. Then year two is all on-the-job training. All the things that M&T does, all the different roles and responsibilities, guidelines, standards, all of those things that apply to the specific role that you’re going to fill at the bank. Then after year two is done, you ultimately go into what we’re calling your appropriate job architecture family. Could be application developer, it could be system administrator, it could be CICS developer, it could be all of those different things. That’s how we’ve aligned the program. 

Year two, our second cohort started in December of the same year, and we learned a little bit from that. We got other areas that have Z roles and responsibilities like our operational teams that are working where I started. Actually working on the floor and monitoring the system and operating the system. Definitely another couple areas, other areas are requiring Z talent and the same refresh succession planning that a lot of the other roles have. Cohort two, we actually took advantage of that, brought in additional candidates for that program, and then we created a buddy system. 

We said, “You know what? Why don’t we take the people that are in cohort one and let’s use them as buddies in cohort two, they’ve walked a mile in their shoes, so they can help and guide?” Again, along the way, a big thing that we felt very passionate about, and I still do, is we’ve created mentors and managers for every single ZDP. There’s a one-for-one relationship of a mentor and a manager, two ZDP individuals. Everybody learns different, Cable, everybody learns at a different pace. The outcome from diverse varying backgrounds, which is awesome, and what we’re really trying to promote here at the bank as well. 

We really wanted to create an ecosystem for these individuals. We’re doing everything we can to allow them to be successful. I would also meet with them when they started for the first three months on a bi-weekly basis. Again, not circumventing what the mentors or managers were doing, but how can I help? How can I help? Is it something about the bank that you want to know more about? Is it something about the program? 

I just wanted to offer my services to be an available resource for these individuals because we’re throwing acronyms at them, we’re throwing technical information at them, and honestly, they’re treading in water. They’re heads above water and there’s only so much you can consume at one point. That’s what we did with cohort two and the buddy system I thought was something that really worked well. Of course, cohort one continues to remind me that they didn’t have a buddy when they went through the system. 

[00:16:20] Cable: Of course they do. 

[00:16:22] Gary: I apologize for that. 

[00:16:23] Cable: Well, you got to start somewhere, Gary. You got to have a baseline and you got to have a start. We call that return on your investment. That’s a standard acronym ROI for any businesses, but if you look at those men and women that came in in cohort one, if I can give you some feedback, Gary, let me give you some feedback. Your men and women from M&T are making an impact all throughout Franklin and to all our other clients. You probably don’t know this. 

We have a subject matter expert from IBM on Fridays, and all of our apprentices are given the opportunity to come in and sit at this session. The session is going over the learning and over the framework that all apprentices have and it’s a mix of everybody with the subject matter expert. I can tell you, your cohort one and your cohort two apprentices, as they’re in those groups, those are the men and women who are engaged. They’re the ones that are actively participating and giving feedback to Paul or giving feedback to the group. 

They’re the ones going in and they’re making that a much more enriched learning experience. I believe it’s because of, again, the learning that they have at M&T, the support that they have at M&T. You said they’ve got managers and mentors assigned to their cohort. Gary is on, “Hey, I’ve got my first three months. Tell me what’s on your plate. How can I make this better?” If you have an ecosystem, and I’m going to use a different word, and I’m going to use one of the words that your guys are using there and trying to do and are doing at M&T, you’re building a culture. 

That’s exactly what your leadership and all of you at M&T are doing is you’re building a culture of support, growth, career progression, learning, everything. I’m going to tell you, it’s making an impact across the board, Gary. I don’t know if you know that, but your cohorts, as you guys have taken some of those best practices and grown, we’re taking those to other clients and saying, “Hey, this has worked at other places. Maybe you can try some of these steps because we’ve seen the success that y’all have had there at M&T.” 

[00:18:28] Gary: They’re not a shy bunch. 

[00:18:29] Cable: They’re [laughs] 

[00:18:29] Gary: You know what I mean? Honestly, some of the success of the program or a lot of the success of the program is really the individuals providing feedback to me and the program team. What’s working, what’s not working? Cohort two, we realigned and shuffled some of the curriculum and moved things up and moved things back to allow them the right learning based on the role and responsibility that they were going to be doing at M&T. 

Again, it’s a feedback loop, that continuous improvement loop that in our first cohort, I told everybody we’re learning just like all of you. We don’t know what we don’t know. Franklin provided a lot of great feedback. They reinforced some of the things that we were doing and said, “That’s a really good practice.” There are some things that they offered to say, “Hey, you may want to think about this.” Then ultimately, one of those was a byproduct of our career day that we just ran before our third cohort. 

It was our first career day. IBM came on-site. Franklin came on-site. A lot of the people that were in the previous cohort, cohort two, actually spoke at that career fair. I spoke a little bit at the career fair before I got the hook, but ultimately, it allowed people in the audience. We had a good group. We had probably 40 people come, which was, for our first career fair, I was pretty excited about that. I thought it was really great because people could then talk about their experience, not only in the program, but at the bank. 

What the bank is all about. The culture at the bank, how we invest in the community, how we’re looking at our approach towards helping with community service and the bank offers 40 hours of community service every year. To go and help certain organizations. That could be Meals on Wheels, that could be the Food Bank of Western New York. It’s just cleaning up some parks and things like that. It’s just a great opportunity for M&T to continue to give back to the community that we’re so much ingrained with and excited to be part of. 

[00:20:48] Cable: Well, I will tell you, Gary, it is showing not only from the success of your– You’ve got men and women moving clear across the country. You’ve got people coming from sunny California to move to Buffalo, New York. That’s quite a commitment to come up there, but they come because they believe in what you’re doing and they can see it from 3,000 miles away. They can see what y’all are delivering. I don’t know if you’ve heard the podcast with Oscar, one of yours from Oscar. Oscar talks about that first day when he walks in and what it’s like. The experience is just– again, he wasn’t really just talking about Mario Cart and the fact that you guys got a game room. 

He wasn’t talking about that. He was talking about the experience of coming in and feeling welcomed and feeling excited for his job and feeling excited for his career and where that was going. Then 12 months later, as he’s getting ready to graduate, just the way that they hold their head up a little bit higher, the way that they’re excited about where they’re going in the future. Gary, you all are doing exactly that, not only for M&T but for, like you said, your community and especially for the men and women that are a part of your program. I will tell you, I know why I saw your badge. Were you an IBM Z16 day speaker? 

[00:21:58] Gary: Yes, I was. 

[00:21:58] Cable: I know why you’re a speaker because you’re a very good speaker, Gary, and you’re very thoughtful in what it is you’re trying to portray and what you’re trying to actually get across. I appreciate you being with us here and doing exactly that, giving us your insight and showing us exactly what it is that M&T and what Gary and what the bank does, and filling into what you all are bringing to the world. I love it. 

[00:22:23] Gary: Yes. The opportunity for these young men and women just doesn’t stop at Z either. I mean, there’s opportunity. The tech organization is very much focused on continued learning. All of these individuals that are part of this program, they’re excited, they’re thankful and they want us to feel proud. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll go in a one-on-one with these people and these individuals and they’ll say we want to make you proud because you took a chance on us. 

It gives you chills in your spine when you hear things like that and people saying that because you feel like you’re doing something good and the bank’s doing something good here. We just want to continue to evolve and we want to continue to make it better each and every cohort. We’re learning from these young men and women, what’s really important? How do we need to focus these things? Are there different things that we should do in a different cadence? 

Some of the feedback that we had ultimately was with our last cohort. They mentioned that it was great to start in November, but December came around and vacations had. It was like, we are here and then all of a sudden some of our mentors or managers weren’t. We took that feedback and you mentioned, yes, we’re starting to talk about cohort four. We originally would do them on an annual basis, more towards the winter months or in fourth quarter but we’re actually talking about accelerating that and I think we’re going to probably look at August. 

[00:24:02] Cable: I love it. 

[00:24:03] Gary: Again, it’s really a byproduct not of me or the program team. It’s of those young men and women that you’re referring to. Their excitement, they’re willing to just dive right in, learn as much as they possibly can. In fact, I was talking to one individual on a one-on-one the other day and again, the individual just had started in November and he’s almost 70% complete in the curriculum already. It’s like, wow, that’s a pretty nice achievement. 

Then it’s a true testament to Marlon and what he’s doing as a success coach from Franklin. I view the success coach at Franklin an extension of my team or our team here at M&T. It’s so critical for that success coach to build the right mentoring, the right relationship with all the ZDPs, and again, from varying degrees of backgrounds, diversity, all kinds of different things that it’s not one size fits all. Being able to navigate that and learn and still allow those people to learn in the rate that they can and they feel good about it, is so important to us. It’s so important to them. 

I hear it all the time. I say I meet with them every other week for three months, and then we go to monthly. It gets sad when they say, “Gary, I don’t really need to talk to you anymore. I’m okay.” I’m like, “Really, you don’t want to talk to me anymore?” No, but I’m just tongue and cheeking it. Yes, there’s so much ingrained in the program and wanting to make a difference. That’s the big thing that I’ll tell you about these young men and women that are coming in, is that they want to make a difference. 

What we’re trying to do, and we’re trying to stress to them, is that they own their career, they own their growth. This is an opportunity that we’re going to present you with, but it’s really up to you on where you want to take it. It’s an exciting journey, right? Like I said, our first cohort are going to graduate out of the two-year apprenticeship program later in March. We’re excited about it. 

Like you said, we have another graduation coming up for cohort two that are going to be graduating because they’ve completed the IBM and Franklin training. Hopefully, we’ll get the CIO and the Chief Diversity Officer there to be a guest speaker again like they were at our first graduation. We’re really excited about the journey, but the journey never ends. 

[00:26:34] Cable: I agree. 

[00:26:34] Gary: We’re going to continue to add additional cohorts along the way as long as these young men and women continue to show the enthusiasm. We see the benefits of the apprenticeship program working with Franklin and IBM. 

[00:26:50] Cable: Gary, I appreciate that. It’s a huge statement of both efforts and success and everybody involved and everybody being a part of this. I agree. I think that’s a great collaboration. I agree. Based on the men and women, and you said it, each one learns at a different rate. They learn it a different way, a different background, but they all want to put their spin on what it is that they’re doing. Yes, everyone is in control of their own career. I always think of it like this, it’s a vector. It’s just an opening scaled vector. It just goes anywhere. You guys, you got the hat on and off you go. I think that’s a great one. 

Gary, thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today. We appreciate your time, we appreciate your insights, we appreciate your efforts you’re making there, right there in the Buffalo community. To everybody out there listening, we appreciate y’all listening to another episode of Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. I am Cable Rose. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. Get all of your podcasts right directly to you as each new episode drops. We’ll see you on the flip side. 

[00:27:51] Announcer: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leading a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes. 

[00:28:29] [END OF AUDIO] 

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 04 – Creating the Tech Workforce of Tomorrow, Today

Episode 04 – Creating the Tech Workforce of Tomorrow, Today

Kim Nichols, Founder and CEO of Franklin Apprenticeships, is on a mission to change the way American companies discover and develop talent. In this episode of Frankly Speaking, Kim talks to host Cable Rose about how Franklin has cracked the code for tech apprenticeships.

She shares the highs and lows of building a company that is forging a new path to develop tech talent. She discusses how Franklin landed on its nationally renowned tech apprenticeship model, and her view on what the future holds for apprenticeships as an alternative source for passionate, diverse tech workers.

“The reality is you just can’t take people without professional experience and drop them into the biggest companies in the country with no support, and expect them to be successful,” Nichols explains. “We are setting these individuals up for lifelong careers at these companies. Actually, 90% of our learners come from communities that are underrepresented in tech. And how do we help make them successful? It’s by coaching them and helping them to become excellent employees.”

BIOGRAPHY
Kimberly Nichols, Founder and CEO, Franklin Apprenticeships

As Founder and CEO of Franklin Apprenticeships, Kim is creating a new route to tech careers via apprenticeships and work-based education. Through her leadership of Franklin, she is helping some of the nation’s largest companies to fill mission-critical tech vacancies with diverse, motivated candidates while providing thousands of individuals with life-changing career opportunities.

Kim is a nationally recognized apprenticeship advocate, serving on the Advisory Committee of Apprenticeships for America as well as the United States Department of Labor Apprenticeship Ambassador Network, the Greater Washington and the Northern California Apprenticeship Networks, the Consumer Technology Association’s Apprenticeship Coalition and the 21st Century Workforce Council. She’s also a member of the Forbes Business Council and makes frequent appearances as a speaker at national events and in the media.

Before founding Franklin, she spent more than two decades in business development as a CPA and finance leader serving the Fortune 1000. Kim’s passion for changing the world doesn’t stop at work. She’s also served as a Board Member of The Children’s Guild and as a volunteer at both the Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Maryland Food Bank.

Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.

Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Transcript

Kim Nichols: We also get amazing feedback from the employers. Like we said, they’re coming back for more. Every single employer has told us this is now part of their permanent talent strategy. These are big companies that now get it. It’s why I started this company and why we’re committing to scaling it.

Presenter: Welcome to, Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships really work. As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.

Cable Rose: Welcome to another episode of Frankly Speaking. Today we have us on episode, we have our very own CEO, Kim Nichols. Kim, welcome to the show.

Kim: Thanks, Cable.

Cable: Kim, thank you for being here. Let’s start at the beginning. You’re a certified public accountant. You moved into a high-level business development role. You’ve had a fantastic career in some of the country’s largest accounting firms. You were the first-ever female executive committee member at the SC&H Group. What happened? Where did you go from all of this that you decided, “I’m going to make the jump,” and found Franklin Apprenticeships? How did you get to that point?

Kim: I do think it’s an interesting story. I started this business after participating in a trade mission to the UK and learning about professional apprenticeships. It was fascinating to me. I talked with several apprentices, several employers. It got me thinking about people in my life that had struggled because college wasn’t an option for them. Also, thinking about the challenges the country was facing with this massive skills gap and the fact that there was no way to meet demand for tech jobs specifically.

I was convinced that the US needed this in a big way. I took that first big step and started the company and was really working to help build a market in the US for professional apprenticeships. I set a big vision to serve a million apprentices by 2030, and we are well on our way. Today Franklin is delivering tech apprenticeships to 30 of the Fortune 500 and some enterprise clients. We’re filling those mission-critical tech roles and building more diverse tech teams for employers. We really are changing family trees and corporate cultures.

Cable: I agree. I really like that, Your journey across the pond, and you went over to the UK and you saw this, what year was this? This has got to be a couple of years ago, right?

Kim: 2016 is when it all started.

Cable: Well, you’re in 2016, you’re across the pond. You step off the plane. What’s your aha moment? When did you come up with and say, “You know what, I see what’s happening over here”? I heard the story, but what was the aha moment? What said, “I want to go take it back, and let’s do this”?

Kim: This was a no-brainer for me on day one. It made perfect sense as a solution to this massive problem that our country was facing. We’ve got millions of people without jobs. We’ve got millions of jobs without people. So many people want to get into these in-demand careers, but they’ve been shut out by these traditional recruiting and placement models, which is really interesting because those models can actually meet the demand. Every company today needs tech and this is a new/old solution, we’re bringing outstanding talent into these organizations through a different pathway. Like I said, this was a no-brainer for me.

Cable: Okay. It’s a no-brainer. You see the vision. I get that. You’re standing there and you see it. You can put it all together. Walk me through, how did you come up with– Franklin has this proven model. We’ve got this start to finish if I will. How did you come up with that? What was your thought process there to put together the things that were needed to make this a reality?

Kim: It really is an end-to-end process, Cable, and we certainly didn’t start where we are today. We did a lot of research. I’m looking at different models, what had been successful in other countries. We looked at German, Swiss, Australia, UK. Landed on the UK employer-led model as the best match for the US. We did make some important changes to make it fit for purpose for American employers. Like I said, we didn’t start where we are today. We made some mistakes over the years. We learned a lot.

Good news is we are quick learners. We’re nimble. We adjust as we need to and really focus on what works best for both the individual and for employers. What we have today and what we’ve been delivering for the last two years is what we consider to be a best practice model. I’d say after several meetings with the Department of Labor, they agree that we’re on the right track and we’ve cracked the code here.

Cable: I like that. The proven model was not proven on day one. You had some great ideas. The way I always picture it, Kim, is you have that big picture. You can sit down and see it from above. You see all of the end goals and the end products and then when you get down from high up on the cloud setting, that 30,000– in the military, it’s called the 30,000 sky view, and you come down into the weeds and you went, “Oh, okay, let’s do this and let’s add that. Let’s track this on here and let’s see if this works.” Then, “Nope, that didn’t work. Okay, maybe we don’t go from that section. Okay, let’s go over here and do this.”

I will tell you in the two years that I’ve been here, to see what’s come and what’s been put together, and what’s been delivered, that’s a whole nother question there. What’s been delivered is something I’m really proud of. I’m excited to see where that all comes from. Do me a favor, part of that equation, and it’s been there since day one, I think, part of that equation is coaching. Tell me about coaching. Why coaching and why is that part of your best practice?

Kim: Again, we picked the UK as the model that would fit the best for the US, and we mirrored a British concept of the assessor. The assessor basically makes sure people are gaining competence according to plan from a technical perspective. We enhanced that concept by adding in professional skills.

Working really closely with employers to implement apprenticeships in their organizations, we realized that our coaches were perfectly placed to support individuals developing those professional skills, which goes way beyond what the British assessors do, just focusing on technical competence. The reality is you just can’t take people without professional experience, drop them into some of the biggest companies in the country with no support and expect them to be successful. You know, this is your job, Cable.

Cable: I do. You’re absolutely right. Kim, I want to share with you the reason I think that this is such a powerful portion of the model is that the success coach is the conduit where a third-party twice removed piece of the equation, I’m not there to do his or her work and I’m not there to do the manager’s job, I’m there to ensure that those rapport and that bond and that communication is built and trusted within the organization between this new person and defined team that’s already put together, how do we add him or her into that equation and do it smoothly?

I really think that my role is more of an in-between, but I’m there to build both of them, give the manager some feedback, maybe give the apprentice some feedback. I’m not there to fix. I’m there to encourage them to advocate for themselves. I really like that. When I came on, Scott told me that, “Hey, we don’t do that. I don’t go in there and fix it. I should be getting them to advocate for themselves.” By doing the professional development, by building those skills, Kim, you’re absolutely right. What a huge part of this model.

You said it yourself. You want to bring in somebody and drop them into one of the biggest companies on the planet and think– one, they have no technical skill because they’re not coming from a background. We’re taking people in a non-traditional pathway into a technical role, and we’re providing them the resources, we’re doing those things. You’re right, Kim, there’s no way you could do that unless you also build their professional development. I really think that’s a huge part of what you saw and what you implemented here in this model. You’re absolutely right, it’s spot on, Kim. That is exactly what we get out of this.

Kim: What you’re doing is really setting these individuals up for success, for lifelong careers at these companies. Like you said, actually, it’s 90% of our learners come from communities that are underrepresented in tech. How do we make these people successful? It’s by coaching them and helping them to become excellent employees. That is the difference maker for us and what has resulted in a 94% retention rate after graduation.

Cable, you and the coaches at Franklin do an incredible job. I know it’s not easy, but I’m super proud of the quality of the work you guys do. The caliber of our coaching team. I love that you guys all took your own registered apprenticeship program, so you know intimately what these guys are going through. It’s just an excellent model, and it’s working really well.

Cable: Kim, I appreciate that. You’re right. Having gone through my own apprenticeship as a success coach. You’re right, I do know all of the steps, the evidence, and the working through the hours of putting that work in and actually ensuring that we’re accomplishing all of those things. As a success coach, it does, it helps us be better coaches to our apprentices, and I really appreciate that actual aspect of it as well. We’re sitting here and we’re talking all the good stuff. What’s some of the hardest stuff? Let’s look at that too. Good comes with the bad. What’s some of the hardest things that we’ve had gone through maybe as you set up Franklin?

Kim: Yes, there’s definitely been some challenges over the years. I’d say one that stands out that’s not unique to Franklin was really during COVID, that was a tough time. At the time, we were serving small to medium-sized companies. They had stopped hiring, many were laying off staff, sometimes shuttering their operations completely. My goal during that time was not to lose a single person at our company.

We have an incredible team, very passionate, and we wanted to keep everybody intact, so we had to think differently. We put a work share plan in place, cut back people’s time to about 75%, and were able to leverage some state unemployment insurance to keep them employed. This also gave us an opportunity to look at new models. We were able to restructure some partner contracts. We had to support pre-apprentices, which is something that we hadn’t done before, but you think about COVID and all the people that were laid off that also wanted to build some in-demand skills, so they could get new jobs.

Putting that new plan in place and being able to keep the team in place was really motivating. It was also at the same time that we began a collaboration with IBM, which has been a tremendous success for both of our organizations. It’s when we realized that our career fit assessment paired with that pre-apprenticeship was an incredibly effective way to find people with the right aptitude, affinity, and desire for these occupations.

That has resulted in Franklin being able to deliver to employers excellent apprentices who are committed to learning and want to be in the career path that we’ve matched them up to. It is part of our best practice model. It is a key differentiator for Franklin. Although COVID was a difficult time across the board, it really set us up for the next level. It forced us to innovate, and that has been proven to be incredibly valuable. I’m not going to say I love COVID, but a lot of good came out of COVID for Franklin.

Cable: Well, Kim, let’s take a pessimist and an optimist view of the exact same scenario. You’re right. You’ve never said that COVID was good, but if you think about it, I liked how you put it, it forced us to be innovative. It was also a pause. Even though we didn’t go anywhere, we weren’t stopped. It made us pause in our tracks because if I’m not mistaken, we had traction at that point. Things were rolling, things were going, things were lined up, and then the whole world just got thrown askew, and we said, “Okay, now what?”

You’re absolutely right, Kim. We did. I love the word “innovative” because you’re absolutely right. How do we come up with a solution from a problem that we don’t know we have a problem, but we need a solution from? One of the ridiculous statements you have to make. Then what comes out of it is a huge part of, now our entire model is the understanding of what the pre-apprenticeship now does.

We’re not vetting, I don’t like the word “vetting”, but we’re going through and ensuring that we are delivering to our employers someone that already has proven that they’ve got the aptitude, I like that, the affinity and the desire. That’s a big one for me. I always use the word “grit”. They’ve got that grit. They’re going to go through a pre-apprenticeship on their own. They’re going to go through that.

They’ve got a little bit of resources and they’ve got the success coach. They’ve got a little bit of it on their own, but it’s not like a paid pre-apprenticeship. They’re just going to go through that and prove to us that they have what it takes to be in a tech role. Then when we deliver it to somebody, Kim, they don’t turn them back. If we deliver them 12 people, they just take 12 people because they’ve already proven that they’re ready for that role.

Out of COVID, like you said, we were able to stop, pause, reassess, and come up with a new idea. Kim, that is huge for you as the CEO of Franklin and you as the leader of this company to say, “Okay, what are the things that are happening that are going to be detrimental, and how do we improve upon the realities?” Look at what you’ve done in the last three years.

Kim: The things we’ve talked about here so far, Cable, using our pre-qualification process upfront, really focusing in on getting the right person in the right seat and then using success coaches to coach both the employer and the apprentice to success, that’s working really well. Those are our key differentiators.

Cable: I like that, Kim. As the CEO, it’s a very humble statement that’s working really well. I really do believe that is the difference. It’s that entire process from the start when they click that button and they show up into our first queue and our pre-apprentice coaches walk them through and get them into that process, and then they back off a little bit. They give them a little bit of the leash or the rope and a little bit of the line, the fishing line. They put them out there and they say, “Okay, go see what you can do,” and the ones that are finishing it show up.

You’re right. We then sit in front of the employers and they’re taking those pre-apps into full apprentices and then we’re along the journey. Most people don’t know it’s a 12-month journey on average that a success coach is with both the employer and the apprentice. This isn’t a boot camp. This isn’t six weeks and cut them loose and send them off into the world. We’re there for 12 months, and you said it yourself, the stick rate afterwards, after we’re done and accomplished an apprenticeship, after he or she, they’ve proven themselves and they’ve got their certificate after that moment, they’re still there a year, two, three years later.

Kim: Our strategy has always been to make this as easy as possible for employers to participate in apprenticeship and this is one of the ways we do it. We hold their hand throughout the 12-month period. They haven’t done this before either. They don’t know how to take a person who’s super green, maybe doesn’t have corporate experience or background, and help them to be competent in role. Some of the feedback that we’ve gotten from employers is by six months, the apprentices are 80% competent in role. It really is fantastic.

Cable: It is, Kim. I like the fact that at this point, like you said, they’re coming in, they’re getting that journey. They’re going through 12 months, and you said employers don’t know, this is quite possibly their first apprenticeship program in this type of platform. I will tell you, the ones, the employers that do see it, what are they doing? They’re coming back, “Hey, let’s do it again, let’s do it again.” Then best practices, they’re taking their own measures.

We’ve got a couple of employers out there that are just fantastic at this model. Great. Take the last group and have them mentor the next group. The managers now understand what the process is. They’re a part of the hiring process. Some of our employers see it and they really get it. After that, they’re like, “Let’s run with this.” We’re on the fourth cohort for some of our employers. That’s a huge funnel. You want to talk about bringing people into your tech strategy. That’s huge.

Kim: Think what it means is we’ve proven the model at this point. It’s new, but we’ve proven that it works with employers coming back for more in the same occupation and adding apprentices in new occupations. We’ve proven that this is a successful model.

Cable: I do like that. They come back and they say, “Hey, this worked over here. What if we tried it over here in this? Sure. Let’s try it over there. We have those same– we offer multiple tech roles. Hey, let’s try it over there. If it worked for this one, of course, we can make it work for that one.” You’re right, Kim, they’re coming back and they’re hungry for more. I always like that one. They’re hungry for more. I like that.

Do me a favor. This is all great news. We’ve proven it. We went through the ups and downs. You had the COVID realities. You kept us not only– not that we were ever not afloat, but you kept us motivated during COVID. You kept us growing during COVID and you kept us innovating during COVID which is how we now function as a company. Hey, if you see something that needs to be done, just create it, and let’s build it, and we’ll make a new department and we’ll just go from there, Kim.

We really appreciate that type of innovation from the top and allowing us to do that. What are some of your greatest things? What’s some of the greatest things that you’ve seen in the last couple of years with Franklin?

Kim: Well, there’s been a lot of great moments. Some of the best, I think, are centered around the graduations. You and I have attended a number of them together recently. It really is inspiring to see the transformation of these individuals. One that always stands out to me is a guy who was super shy right before his apprenticeship. He couldn’t even order off a menu at a restaurant, but at the graduation, he actually volunteered and got up on stage and wanted to say a few words. He was navigating the room with a big smile on his face. We had about 50 people in the room.

His grandmother attended the graduation and she purposefully sought me out and said, “This apprenticeship has changed his life.” At all of these graduations, we get tremendous feedback from the individuals and how meaningful it is to have a coach there to support them. Many have said they wouldn’t have made it through without the coach. Life gets in the way. Other things get in the way. This is new. This is hard. It’s a lot of work. Coach is there to prop them up or, in your case, be the hype man.

Cable: I love it. I love it. [chuckles]

Kim: We also get amazing feedback from the employers. Like we said, they’re coming back for more. Every single employer has told us this is now part of their permanent talent strategy. These are big companies that now get it. It’s why I started this company and why we’re committing to scaling it. It’s working and it’s not easy, but it’s coming.

Cable: I love it, Kim. You’re absolutely right. We have had the pleasure of attending some of these celebrations and seeing it from coast to coast. We’ve been on the East Coast, we’ve been on the West Coast. We’ve done them from coast to coast. Like you said, to see some of the employer’s responses– The last employer in California, they wrote me back a week later, “Hey, we’re going to do an article and we want to get everybody’s information correct.” They wanted to put something together and talk about how they’re going to start using that strategy. This is now part of their tech talent strategy of bringing us in through apprenticeships. It’s huge.

One of my favorite, Kim, was when we were in Dallas at one of our clients and it was a smaller event. There was only 15, 20 people in the room, but they also went live with the stream and were allowing other portions of their company who were part of their tech team because they’re remotely all over. They were allowing them to come on. Guess who was on the call? Do you remember?

He had his mom and dad on the call. They were FaceTimed in or they were Zoomed in or Teams-ed in into the graduation. He was a 25-year-old young man. It was his first corporate job. He had never been able to share some of his successes with his family, and they had their family at the graduation to see their son and to hear his success and to hear his journey, I thought that was a huge, huge, huge way to be able to share in that celebration. Then the client then had a personal relationship.

It was an interesting dynamic, Kim. It was. I wanted to tie that in because you made a comment. We’re changing family trees, and that was huge. This young man was 25 years old. I say young man and I apologize. He’s a grown adult, but I’m 45, so he’s 25, so there’s a couple of years difference there. It’s his first time. It’s his first career and they were so proud to see that and so proud to be a part of that. That’s such a huge moment in someone’s life to complete this apprenticeship and run into their career full steam, and now it’s just off they go.

Kim: It is. Like I said, we’re providing these life-changing opportunities, and they’re so proud of what they accomplished. They’re inviting their families to the business graduation. It is very meaningful.

Cable: It is. It is. You’re right. The joy of being a success coach, there are daily moments like that. The gentleman you talked about that was very shy to begin with, that success coach shared every milestone of that gentleman getting to graduation and every week she came on as a success coach to the group call, she was ear-to-ear grinning about the next baby step that he took, the next growth that he took, like you said, to get to graduation and stand up in front of 50 people and share his story was huge.

I love what I get to do. I love what you’ve put in there for us, Kim, as the success coach role and how we partner with and give them those opportunities. You’re absolutely right. Those successes you have, those great moments you’ve had, and I’m appreciative that those graduations and those employers making that part of their strategy. You’ve done fantastic with that, Kim.

Here we are. We’ve had great moments, we’ve gone through COVID, we’ve done some things. Franklin’s entire mission revolves around helping us grow that talent pool for tech roles. It feels like almost every day, if you look at the news, there are some type of right now tech talent layoff where major corporations are having all of these layoffs and they’re looking to that. Why do you think that this is still part of tech talent skills gap that apprenticeships is going to be here despite all of these layoffs?

Kim: The thing to remember here is that the drivers that created the tech skills gap are long-term, and they’re here to stay. This widely reported cause of the rebalancing in the tech sector is the result of the hiring spree that big tech underwent during that COVID. Again, here we’re back at COVID, during the internet shopping boom where everybody was online.

Now we’re looking at a softer market with a potential recession. It’s understandable that these companies have to rebalance. They hired way too many people and now they’re pulling back. Amazon’s an example. They created 800,000 new jobs in 2020 and ’21. In 2022, and even this month, they’ve shed 18,000 jobs. The reality is that’s about 2% of what they hired, doesn’t feel great especially if you’re one of those 18,000 people.

Cable: Yes, absolutely.

Kim: With a tight labor market, those guys are getting jobs pretty quickly. I think it’s also important to remember that a tech company doesn’t mean a tech job. On average, these big tech companies, their workforce is about 41% tech workers. Many of those that were affected by these layoffs aren’t even in tech. They’re marketing, sales, finance.

We’ve got this talk of recession looming, probabilities range from– I’ve seen everything from 35% to 65%. Meanwhile, unemployment in December was reported at a 50-year low coming in at 3.5% and tech unemployment is like half the national average at 1.8%. What does all that mean? I’m not surprised that people are confused. It is confusing.

I think this uncertainty has created some paralysis by hiring managers and HR departments. Many are instituting hiring freezes while the market waits and sees what the year ahead holds. The truth is that at the end of the day, there’s a couple of things going on. We’ve got a lack of trained tech workers coming out of universities. We don’t have enough to meet demand.

We’ve got a very high rate of experienced tech workers retiring and we still have growth, a need for growth in tech workers. All of those things point to a continued demand for tech skills and a tech gap that isn’t going anywhere. Smart companies have recognized us. They’re investing in their tech talent pipelines by using maybe grad programs, boot camps, and of course apprenticeships.

Cable: Of course.

Kim: I think the big takeaway with what’s going on in the news and how to rationalize all of that is like these tech company layoffs, they’re not solving the longer term problem. We still need more skilled tech workers and we need them now.

Cable: Yes. Kim, you made two great points that really stuck with me. You talked about when you see a company such as Amazon or Google, a tech company have layoffs. I was in the Air Force for 21 years, and to make a connection to your point, if somebody was like, “Oh, what are you doing?” I’m like, “Oh, I’m in the Air Force.” The first thing they ask me is, “Oh, do you fly planes,” because if you’re in the Air Force, you fly planes. If you work at Google, you must be a tech person, but that’s not true.

I was in telephones in the Air Force. I had nothing to do with the airplanes. However, it was my support role that was part of the mission, and like you said, banks or some of these other places, again, tech or mortgage, marketing, HR, those are the types of members that were unfortunately let go but because the word Google is the first word you see, you think of tech.

The other one you made was the long term there. What happens when you’ve got members that are working for 30, 40, 50 years in a tech role and then they don’t hire anybody because they don’t need anybody? They have the right men and women doing the job. Well, guess what? Now, those right men and women are getting ready to retire and getting ready to move on into whatever they want to do next, and there’s a gap. That gap is exponentially there.

What we’ve seen here at Franklin, Kim, is you’re right, the companies, the employers that have seen that gap have started to hire fresh, new, innovative faces to bring them in and partner– every one of mine that I get with, “Who’s your mentor? Oh, they gave me this person, so-and-so,” or Sal, or, “I got Valentino,” or, “I got Mary,” and they partner with them and they just say, “Glue yourself to that person and take away every note and every bit of 40 years of information you can get for him, her, and see if we can fill the gap.”

It’s still not the best of models. It’s still not a great gap to have. As we get to that third or fourth cohort, that third or fourth, okay, now we can start to see the gap is getting smaller. You’re absolutely right, Kim. Those two points you made were huge in that example.

Kim: It is about transferring that institutional knowledge and apprenticeship is a great way to do that, where these more experienced individuals are serving as the mentors and managers and are able to transfer that knowledge.

Cable: Yes. One of my employers calls it KT, knowledge transfer. “Hey, go get some KT with Mark before he’s gone. Hey, go get with Stacy and sit with her and see if you can get her–” She’s in CICS or she’s in whatever role she’s in. “Go get everything you can from her and take every note you can.” That knowledge transfer and that institutional transfer of information is how we’re going to keep that gap minimized.

Kim, in this crystal ball you speak of and we talk about what’s coming in the future, we talk about traditional apprenticeships here in America, that 0.3% is only traditionally– if I asked somebody about apprenticeships, they would say, “Oh, it’s electrical or plumbing or HVAC, masonry, carpentry,” some of the trades, that an apprentice to be a concierge in the UK, you could be an apprentice to be a judge in the UK, you can be an apprentice to be an airline pilot in the UK, right?

Kim: Even a greenskeeper. The greenskeeper for a golf course.

Cable: I love it. In other countries, traditionally you can be in a larger group or a more diverse background of apprenticeship. In America, that hasn’t been the case. However, Kim, you and I had an opportunity. We were traveling and we were in Virginia, and we were speaking at a group and speaking for an event, and we had the opportunity, we had in the room if you remember because I really was grateful that this moment happened in my career here with Franklin, we had the director of the Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program. We had John Ladd in the room.

We had the Commonwealth of Virginia. We had Commissioner Gary Pan. Then we had a room full of men and women that we were interested in. We were able to tie all of that process together. One of the things John Ladd spoke about was they just did a push for truck drivers. We needed truck drivers in America. They did a push for an apprenticeship for truck drivers. Then all of a sudden, those topics started coming out. There are many, many more opportunities now for diverse career fields for apprenticeships. Kim, you happen to just focus on tech because tech was a huge one. In that crystal ball, why was tech the one that you saw that you wanted to stick with?

Kim: Primarily because of the massive skills gap. Like I said earlier, there just aren’t enough people coming out of college to fill demand. Again, the traditional recruiting and placement methods are not working.

Cable: I agree.

Kim: I’m not saying we replace them, I’m saying we need to add to– this is in addition to the normal channels. We need to do something different to help close that gap. I think in 5 to 10 years from now, Cable, every Fortune 1000 is going to have some type of apprentice. I think they’re all going to have tech apprentices too. They’ll probably have other– maybe robotics or some advanced manufacturing, healthcare, et cetera.

Cable: Kim, we’ve sat in a few of our meetings, and I know we have our quarterlies, we have our annual here at Franklin, and one of the ones that you spoke on was the fact that when you sat and decided upon tech, it was the fact that these– and again, this is a huge one. I don’t have any degreed background. I don’t have any– I have life skills and I have grit and aptitude. I want to be a part of this.

One of the ones that I really liked when you talked about in one of our quarterlies was the fact that a tech apprentice– if you went to a four-year college to go through a computer science degree, by the time you graduated, some of your learning was already outdated. It was already– and now tech companies are starting to see that. One of the ones that we collaborate with, they dropped 80% of their four-year requirements.

They just said, “You know what? It’s not a need to have a computer science background. If you have the aptitude,” which we’re now proving they have aptitude, “If you have the desire and the affinity and you are hungry for that role, we’ll bring you on and we’ll train you.” Now, a lot of our tech roles are seeing that.

If you’ve been watching the news, yes, there’s been layoffs, but there’s also been a lot of good news out there where they’re talking about, “Let’s find non-traditional pathways of bringing people into tech. Let’s drop the requirement.” Another one of those major companies just dropped their four-year requirement. Why? Because there are some roles that are still going to need some of that degreed program in there. I get that, but for most of us that want to just get into tech, and actually just get into the weeds and make it happen, if you’ve got the grit and you’ve got the aptitude, we’ll teach you how to do it.

I think your crystal ball, and I’m going to make an assumption, Kim, and you correct me if I’m wrong, when you saw that crystal ball, you said, “Wait a minute. If they don’t need all of that, why are we going to have that again?” There is a traditional role out there of that pathway. Let’s find that non-traditional. Let’s find apprenticeships, let’s bring them in, and train them. I don’t know anything about masonry. I couldn’t build you a mailbox or put up a fireplace, but if you teach me, then I can do it. That’s what we found in our tech roles is that we can teach people how to do that. They’re in from day one, right in it.

They’re not waiting a year to start touching. You said it. At six months, most of them are 80% technically qualified, trained, but within six months, they have six months of experience already. They’re already working. I think that crystal ball you saw really put you into that. What does it look like and how does it become a reality?

Kim: We’re even training college grads in apprenticeships, Cable. Even though you got a degree doesn’t mean how to do the work in the employer’s environment. We’re able to give them the technical skills they need and help them to learn how to apply those skills in a unique environment that works for the employer. By the way, we’re still giving them those professional skills because just because you went to college doesn’t mean you have those either.

Cable: That’s correct. I will tell you the technical training and the onsite with those apprentices, how they’re getting their training, I’ve heard from employers, managers, some of the men and women that are leading these apprentices, they actually appreciate that they don’t have to unlearn them from any habits. They’re a clean slate. Like you said, the employer gets to train them how they want to be worked and how they want to be fit into the team at that exact location. It’s a really good fit to have a clean slate and don’t have to unlearn anybody.

Kim, the last part here, we always end our episodes with this question. We are a branded company. We do have a particular purpose behind what we do. Our brand tagline, as you know, is “Potential unlocked”. You helped us come up with and design that idea. What words of advice do you have to anyone listening to help them unlock their potential?

Kim: One of my favorite Ben Franklin quotes is an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. This is about being a lifelong learner. Apprenticeship is a great way to be a lifelong learner. It doesn’t end once you graduate from the apprenticeship. Many times there’s progression. You can take the next level of an apprenticeship and continue to advance through your career. It’s so important. I look at the team at Franklin, it’s a passionate group of lifelong learners and I think everybody here is a great role model for those wanting to unlock their potential.

Cable: Kim, it’s a perfect end to a perfect episode. I really appreciate to be able to have the opportunity to share your story, to give what it was that you saw your vision, and put it into a box. I know that it’s not possible to put it into a box, but to take that vision you’ve got and put it on this episode for everyone to understand the roadmap and the journey. You’ve said it from the very beginning, you just want to help people become the best versions of themselves and end up where we change that family tree, and employers are finding the talent that’s out there. That net that you have thrown, Kim, has been huge.

Some of the traditional pathways are very straight down the line and just very– I think about it, 230,000 graduates every year, and there’s, I don’t know, X amount of millions of tech jobs. Everybody’s fishing from the same pool, and what you’ve done is just completely turned a 180 and thrown the net. Your net’s even bigger than that. We’re finding the talent that’s out there.

I could rattle off about 17 names right now of some amazing talent that we found just from my apprentices, let alone all of our other success coaches and all of the names that they could rattle off as well. Kim, you’ve done a hell of a job bringing this to reality and bringing this through the challenges such as COVID, the challenges such as getting your foot into the tech market, and what you’ve done, it’s just pretty kick-ass, Kim. What you’ve done is pretty badass.

What we’ve got now is that we’ve got a proven model. We’ve got a leader who is 100% focused on the growth of this company and the growth of apprenticeships in America. Kim, I want to thank you for being here today, for sharing your story. Is there any final thoughts, anything else you want to say to our listeners or viewers out there?

Kim: I would say thank you for producing Frankly Speaking podcasts to help educate the market. This is a big part of what we need to do in order to grow apprenticeships, and having you, Cable, talk to employers and apprentices and really get the word out there so people can understand how valuable this talent pathway is critical. I just want to say thanks for Frankly Speaking.

Cable: Thank you, Kim, and thank you for allowing Frankly Speaking as well. It’s a twofer right there. When I came on board a couple of years ago, it was the first thing I told you, right? We need social, social, social. Let’s get out there and let’s get the word out there because I was so excited for the world, and Kim, I’ve said it on additional episodes. If apprenticeships were presented to me 25 years ago when my car broke down in front of the Air Force recruiter’s office, if apprenticeships existed then, I would’ve done it, and if this had been a part of the world back then, I would’ve done it.

Now that I’m a part of this, I’m not doing the other apprenticeships, I’ve done my apprenticeship now, but now that I’m a part of this, I want the whole world to know what’s out there with the opportunities and apprenticeships. Kim, thank you for bringing this to the world. Thank you for bringing this to North America, and thank you for being you, Kim.

Kim: Thanks, Cable.

Cable: Always a good time. Everybody out there, enjoy this episode of Frankly Speaking, and we will catch you on the next episode. Thanks, everybody.

Presenter: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBMC, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show and don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 03 – The Truth Behind “Potential Unlocked”

Episode 03 – The Truth Behind “Potential Unlocked”

The Truth Behind “Potential Unlocked” with Tim Fry, U.S. Air Force Veteran, Professional Success Coach

Tim Fry is a veteran of the United States Air Force who holds the distinction of being the first graduate in the country of the Professional Success Coach Registered Apprenticeship.

Tim talks about his transition from the military and why apprenticeships are a great path for transitioning service members. He also discusses his role in helping apprentices reach their potential as a Professional Success Coach and Veteran Outreach Manager for Franklin Apprenticeships.

“Unlocking your potential is easy to say,” says Fry. “But in reality, you have to challenge yourself and become vulnerable.”

About Tim

Tim Fry is a 17-year combat wounded veteran who served proudly in the United States Air Force. His time was served as a Weapons Loader on the F-15, F-16 and A-10 aircraft. He is now a Professional Success Coach for Franklin Apprenticeships and leads engagement activities with the military community. He also serves as the State of Tennessee Leader for Mission22.

Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.

Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Transcript

Tim Fry: I was the first Success Coach apprentice graduate in the United States.

Moderator: Welcome to, Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships will really work. As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.

Cable Rose: Welcome everybody to another episode of, Frankly Speaking, we’re here talking about apprenticeships in early tech career starts. We have with us today one of our very own, we have Tim Fry. Tim Fry is one of our Success Coaches here at Franklin. He is an OG. He’s been here forever. He’s been here the longest as one of our Success Coaches, and so we thought it was very fitting to bring him on and have a conversation with Tim and just see what brought Tim to us and how he brings you to the end of your journey. Tim, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming.

Tim Fry: Thank you, Cable. Thanks for having me.

Cable Rose: Yes, man, always. You and I go way back, Tim. Tim and I are old military veterans. We’re old Air Force buddies, so we’ve got quite a history of being in front of each other. This should be a good conversation just the same so always a good time. Tim, tell us, man, what was it that you were doing and how did you end up being a Success Coach at Franklin?

Tim Fry: Yes, so I did 17 years in the Air Force. We taught at the NCO Academy together. I grew a passion on teaching and developing there. Not a passion that I thought I would find. Transitioned out of the military, and some people struggle, some people don’t. I came out with a master’s degree certifications for days, and I couldn’t find my footing. In my background, I was a weapons loader, so not a huge civilian transfer there.

In East Tennessee here, tried my gig at like the Y12, everybody wants to land their good money, and didn’t happen, and that’s fine. It was hard for me to relate my skills and mentally see that transition and things that I could actually do. I dabbled in retail sales. I was a regional sales manager for a company for a year, and I felt I was doing good and they dissolved my position and then I found myself searching. I have my own entrepreneurial phase. I do some things outside of Franklin, but this Franklin opportunity presented itself and I tell people I mess around. I got a job.

I have a couple businesses that I’m involved with, but it was something that has been a deep desire of helping people. When I did the interview, it was probably the best interview I did in my life, honestly, because I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t need per se, but everything that was for the Success Coach position was something that I wanted to do. It was a very good feeling. The environment at Franklin, the idea of an apprenticeship, which I didn’t know at the time. I think it relates to an apprenticeship journey of whether you’re coming out of high school, your college transition, whether it’s a military transition.

My story is military, I’m a veteran. All the stories that get into apprenticeship is, I don’t know what I want to do, but there’s an opportunity. I don’t want to go into an extreme debt going through. Whether it’s a mother transitioning from being a mother back to the workforce or overcoming a medical pause whatever. My story is veteran-related, and today, if we can talk about that veteran transition and how an apprenticeship can tie into that, that’s my experience.

Cable Rose: I love it. Let’s inform our viewers or our audience, because they may not know this. You made the connection to Success Coach. You said you identified what the Success Coach does, all of those areas that we are delivering as Success Coach, you were like, those are the things I want to do. What our viewers or what our audience may not know is that not only are you a Success Coach, but like you said, you went through an apprenticeship as well.

You’ve understood what it looks like to be an apprentice and to do those things, so try to make that connection. You just said, Tim, you want to go that route, make a connection to veterans transitioning out and what an apprenticeship look like, and then make that correlation to how it was for you as a veteran going into your own success cost apprenticeship. Make that big picture for us.

Tim Fry: Yes, so through my military career I jumped into the Air Force for– everybody has a reason why go in the Air Force. Mine was totally different than most people’s, but I didn’t go in the Air force for myself I went in for my brother that wasn’t able to. It was more of an honor thing, and my whole intention was to do four years and get out. Because my brother passed away before he could even serve, and that’s what he wanted to do. I jumped, and I did that for him.

Through the process, I had a passion. I gained a passion for it is, hey, I was created something bigger than myself and I got to do something I enjoyed, and I got trained to do it. Going in, I didn’t know anything about explosives. I didn’t know anything about doing the same thing every day, building the routine. I think one of the hardest things for a veteran is you get trained on all these aspects. You get trained very well, at least the government spends a lot of money training you and developing you through the years, whether you’re in for four years or 20-plus years. An apprenticeship is exactly that.

If you served and you were a vehicle operator, or– I was a weapons loader. If you’re a security force or mp, a lot of people think, well, you can take those skills and transition and go into the next part of your life. Well, what if you don’t want to do that? What if you’re basically– and our capacity in the military was we were at war pretty much our whole entire careers. Whether you’re overseas or not, it still is a battle rhythm that will wear you out. We were in the generation to do more with less.

Cable Rose: Not only that, Tim, you’re absolutely right. Do more with less is one thing. Also, some of us who served, were proud to serve, but we might have filled a capacity that we didn’t want to be in, but the military needed us in. You may have been a weapons loader, and your desire was maybe a [unintelligible 00:06:40] and you weren’t in that realm, but your need for the country was to go fill a weapons loader. You’re absolutely right. Coming out of that, I don’t want to be a weapons loader on the outside world, which, whatever that would look like, so you’re right.

[cross talk]

Tim Fry: Sure, yes.

Cable Rose: You don’t want to transition those skills. Where do I get new skill sets and how do I jump into that, so great.

Tim Fry: Yes, and a lot of that is we were doing what we were asked of and what we were told and what we were ordered to do. We got very good at it. People that serve, they get really good at doing what they do and it’s almost autopilot for most parts. Then when you get out of that position and that focus, it’s not autopilot anymore until you get into that situation. That’s why an apprenticeship model, whether it’s IT or electrician or whatever apprentice, and the amount of apprenticeships out there is just mind-blowing.

Something on the transition part and the career development or coming out of high school, the guidance counselors, they’re not talking apprenticeships, they’re talking college, they’re talking trade schools, which are great. If that’s your path, my son just started college this year. He is enjoying it. It’s exactly what he needed. Well, not everybody is built for the model of trade school or college or just going out into the workforce. Then apprenticeship pathway is you get paid while you train, you get paid to learn a skill that can develop a career for you for a long time.

The same as military. Now I know what an apprenticeship is. I view the military as a full-blown apprenticeship. I mean, honestly, because you got your skill levels. You got your skill levels, you got your training, you got your skill levels. You can’t do anything until you get to the next one. It depends on which branch that you’re in. I think really there needs to be an avenue where an apprenticeships are talked about more, especially the transition from high school into that next choice into whatever that kid’s career is.

It’s not that everybody needs to jump into an apprenticeship. Some people need to go on the journey and figure it out and learning all this stuff– doing what we do as Success Coaches for apprenticeships. A lot of people we see are in their 30s, in their 40s, maybe their late 20s. Looking back at an 18-year-old or 19-year-old making a decision what they want to do the rest of life it’s difficult to see now.

Cable Rose: I always tell the story, Tim, and you’ve probably heard me say it, but if my car broke down in front of the Air Force recruiter’s office in 1995, which is exactly what happened. my car broke down, it was in front of the recruiters and that’s how I joined the military. It wasn’t like I had a calling, you did it for a higher purpose.

I just did it because my car broke down, but 25 years ago, if my car had broke down and I had both the military and an apprenticeship program next to it, I would’ve gone into an apprenticeship. Had we had more talk about it, more understanding of it and where we were in the world. If it was the need, I could have done it.

I think an apprenticeship would’ve been great for me. Now, like you said, I got a 25-year apprenticeship in the military. I get that, but if it was the other option in my day, I would’ve done an apprenticeship back then. I’m grateful that we do have apprentices and apprenticeships today. I think it’s a huge part of the equation, and like you said, you want to do more of that talk. You talked about veteran connection here. You talked about getting in front of maybe someone in that conversation at 18, but you’re right, we’ve got late 20s, 30s, 40s. The oldest apprentice I have I think is 57 on my program right now. I absolutely know at any point in your career if it’s a pivot, pivot, we have options for you. I love that. Do me a favor. I think we might have missed one key point. Our audience may not know what a Success Coach does or what you do Tim Fry..

Tim Fry: Oh, yes.

Cable Rose: Yes. We probably missed that one. Let’s go back, let’s Tarantino, we’re going to Tarantino this and we’re going to go back and we’re going to plug in. What does a Success Coach do? What do you do, Tim Fry.

Tim Fry: I’m Leo with the flamethrower. With Success Coach, so I work for Franklin Apprenticeships, which provides apprenticeship pathways for primarily IT right now, and looking at some different areas. My role as a Success Coach is I get assigned to an apprentice when they start day one, and I’m their battle buddy, I’m their big brother. I’m their person that is going to guide them through that 12-month apprenticeship and make sure they’re successful.

They understand the material they have to do the training. They’re showing up day one on work, whether it’s remotely or a hybrid, or in-person. They know who to report to. They know all the HR stuff. Interact with us on a weekly basis. We’ll do a weekly check-in call with the apprentice, making sure they’re adjusting to the new environments and to that workload. Maybe they were — historically have had someone that worked in a Panera and then transition into a banking institution. This is a first big-person job to graduate a college into a big-person job.

Those transitions can be difficult, especially going from one arena to another professional environment. Success Coach, we also talk to the mentors or managers to coordinate and schedule training to make sure that their view on their transition is good. Basically, just make sure that apprentice is successful, and they have an outlet to address concerns or frustrations, or doubts. This workload isn’t a walk in the park, it’s not a participation trophy. They have to do the work.

Sometimes any kind of career change when you first get at it, it’s, “Am I doing the right thing? I’m nervous, am I cut out for this?” Especially in some of the career fields we get involved with is– a lot of these require two to seven years of work experience, and you’re coming into these with no experience, and you’re getting paid to play.

Cable Rose: I like it, man. [unintelligible 00:12:47] you learn, but it’s a big step.

Tim Fry: Yes. A lot of responsibility so that it can create some doubt inside of that apprentice’s mind. I always relate, a lot of people understand apprenticeships being like electricians or masons or masonry.

Cable Rose: Sure.

Tim Fry: Not always related to going in and doing bricklaying. You don’t get to build the fancy mailbox for first month or two. You have to learn and do the work, and you have to clean the tools up and learn how to mix mortar and all that stuff. Then your first time at it, you’re going to have someone hold your hand, you’re going to have someone showing you to do it. Then the second time, little less help, and then the third and fourth, you’re building those fancy mailboxes outside of houses, and then one day you could build the house.

It’s a progress. Going through that is the first time they get their hands on their bricks, and they’re stacking them, and it starts on leaning, the Success Coaches help pushing that wall back up, and encouraging and a realistic approach to this. It’s not all unicorns and butterflies. It’s, “Hey, what have you done to better yourself? What have you done to better the situation?” Like I said, kind of that big brother, big sister role into their journey in that transition to a new career.

Cable Rose: I love the connection there you made because I want to try to connect it to if our listeners happen to be veterans because we’re going to probably package this as both a Success Coach and veteran discussion as we put it out on socials. The way I always saw this now, Tim, is I’ve been here about a year and a half. I always saw this as I’m an Air Force training manager, right?

Tim Fry: Yes.

Cable Rose: I’m a trading manager. I have a training plan, I have a training roadmap, I know where the resources are, I know how to get you what you need to be in the learning journey. You also got your mentors, your managers, they’re at your company, they’re the ones who are going to be on over your shoulder. They’re the ones who are going to show you through that. We’re going to support you in that connection to all of that.

The other part that we do as Success Coaches, this is what I like to say, and I’m sure making, everybody’s going to give me a hard time about this, but I’m a hype man. I am in your corner. I’m the one that’s cheering for you.

I’m psyching you up. Like you just said, if there happened to be doubt in your mind, I’m there to try to paint a picture of what it looks like for the realities of what you are. You’re absolutely right. You’re green, you’re coming in, you don’t know what’s going on. This is a new role for you. Let’s make those day those weekly talks. Let’s make those weekly connections.

Let’s get ahead of things that might be in your roadmap that you aren’t prepared for that we can prepare you for. At the very same time, imagine hiring somebody, even someone with a four-year degree. Let’s say you go to computer science, you do a four-year degree, and you show up on day one. It’s just you, you got to show up and do the work and be ready to perform. Guess what, when you come on, you might be green, but you’re going to get the 10 fries of the world, or the cables, or the Brits, or the errands, and you’re going to get that support that know you’ve got someone in your corner cheering you on and showing you the way.

Tim Fry: I think that’s why an apprenticeship is so great because this is real-world experience into your daily job. College degree is great, I got one, I got many of them, but relating it to military experiences, all the training that you do, training suck. Training was not fun. We train and train and train, and you have the sergeants and the commanders and everybody, training for the real world. Then it all makes sense when you’re in it. I’ve deployed a couple of times and then when you’re getting attacked, or you’re facing the enemy, or you have to make those split decisions, you rely on your training and it just kicks in. It’s no different than our role as Success Coaches, we do a lot of IT stuff.

I’m not relating war to sitting behind a computer, I’m not doing that, but the decision, when you’re practicing and training in the real-world simulation, when it actually happens, you’re ready. If you’re a computer programmer or if you have to fix some problem because in the IT world, someone’s network crashing, to them, that customer that their network going down could cost them millions of dollars. However, sometimes billions in some of our clients. Their ability to train and practice real-world hands-on is going to trump any kind of college degree and no practical experience.

That’s where you take that transition into an apprenticeship and you get out to that training, and then you go through and you just hit the battle drum, hit the beat. We’ve all done it. We’ve both been there of, “Well, we got to do that again.” It’s a skill that you may never use, but when it happens you’re ready. I think that’s when an apprenticeship pathway provides is your ability to get the training you need to get that repetition once real world actually happens.

Cable Rose: Tim, you’ve led and are leading the way of a Success Coach role here at Franklin. You’ve been here forever, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. You’ve been here forever, you’ve been here and you are, when somebody on boards, we say, “Hey, go get with Tim. Tim, he’s our resident experience.” You’ve got stories and you’ve got roles and you’ve got moments in time. What’s the greatest thing as a Success Coach? Why do you keep coming back?

Tim Fry: It’s not necessarily when they complete, I’ve had some rockstars just get through the program they complete and it’s a good feeling that they completed. It’s the times when the people that struggle, whatever arena that they’re struggling in, they question themselves or they almost give up. This isn’t for me, or whatever it is, whatever struggle they’re going through, and then they do the work, and they buckle down and they’re doing things that they don’t necessarily prefer to do, but they know they have to do to get through it. You’re helping them along the way, but you’re not doing the work for them.

In my views, I’m not motivating them, I’m getting them to the point where they want to be in. We talk about self-sabotage or your inner voice and all that stuff, but outside of those concepts, when those people overcome that struggle, and then they shine, it’s just like they had to go through the struggle to become better and come out on top. Then those are the people that keep driving me back.

Cable Rose: I like it.

Tim Fry: It’s the struggle. It’s the work, you got to put in the reps. I’m super proud of all the apprentices that get through that I have the honor to interact with. There’s just some that just go through a struggle, and then when you see happen on the other side, it makes everything worth it.

Cable Rose: I like it. There’s two words, there overcome. I see one of those words is overcome, and then two a phrase is on the other side. Man, what a powerful perspective to sit back as a Success Coach and know that you’ve helped or laid a foundation or you’ve supported, and we talked about silences. Comfortable silences where maybe you don’t need to give them the answer. Maybe you need to just let them figure out on their own and what does that look like? When they do and they come back the next day and they stand a little bit taller. They’re a little bit taller. That’s huge, man. That’s a great feeling. You’re right as a Success Coach to know that you’ve been a part of that journey. I think that’s fantastic, man.

Tim Fry: Yes, and especially in our culture today we’re an opportunity where we have all this information at our fingertips. To gain information is one thing these days, but then to apply it and understand it and able to reproduce it, that’s when it is golden. That’s when the golden. Everyone is as smart as the next person with the smartphone in their hand or has the ability to look it up online. Taking that information okay, I’m going to look up a recipe to make chocolate chip cookies, if I don’t understand the makeup of all of that ingredients coming together and producing it at what temperature and how long and that little special extra that your grandma taught you back in the day. Your mom or whoever or a mentor manager throughout the process. It’s putting in the reps.

How many times did you have to make those cookies to perfect them? It’s not about, oh, I know how to make them. Well, have you made them? Well, no, but I got the recipe online. Everyone has the same information available to them today. That’s now about how many times are we going to do it. How many times are we’re going to challenge ourselves to make a better product or deliver a better message or hone in the skills that we gain through that information? I think that’s what separates people today. I think that’s what an apprenticeship challenges you to do because you have to be able to prove what you learned.

Cable Rose: Let’s do it. You obviously know this, our tagline here at Franklin Apprenticeships is potential unlocked. What does potential unlocked mean to you in the realm of being a Success Coach and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

Tim Fry: I think this relates back into my military career of– so I’ve always been an achiever. I’ve always challenged myself into a world that I never thought I would get into. I always like to be the best person, and that’s cliché, but if I’m going to go to work, I learned a long time ago from my dad is, if you’re going to do something, do it. Do it good. I’ve always taken that motto and do it good. There’s times that I didn’t want to do it, but I had to do it good.

I got to a point in my career where I’d already done everything that everybody around me had done or my max capacity. My next step was to do a special duty, and I could do the recruiting. Everyone was, “Oh, you could be a great recruiter, you could be a great TI.” One thing that always scared me was being a teacher. Being an instructor, especially professional military education. I applied to be a PME instructor, and I wasn’t the model citizen.

I didn’t get hired the first time and everybody was, “Oh, you’re too big. You’re overweight. You’re not a good public speaker, you’re et cetera. You’re not what they need.” I kept at it and I finally got hired in [unintelligible 00:23:09] because I was the only one applied or whatever, but I got selected. Ever since the first day in the classroom that I was teaching, I felt at home in a position where I never felt before. It was a motivation and internal drive that was unlocked at that point.

I’m not the best public speaker, I’m not the best motivator, but I was able to teach people in a perspective where they got it, and they already knew the information. They had to unlock their potential of understanding it. I think challenging yourself into this is something that in leadership is, I think when you become an effective leader, is when you realize your potential to become vulnerable. When you put yourself into a vulnerable position, is when you’re going to unlock your potential.

Cable Rose: One, I don’t even want to touch that story because it’s literally gold. I’m just going to leave it right there. I’m going to give you some feedback as to a moment in time that you may or may not know. You’ve been here for the longest. They used to call it the Tim Show because you were the front end of the house. You are a pre-apprenticeship. You helped mold and build and designed that. Now there’s an entire department running pre-apprenticeship, and you’ve transitioned into the veteran role and into back into the heart of Success Coaching.

What you may not know is a story that I just learned yesterday on a podcast episode where I asked this question about potential unlocked. She said that her journey started when she came to one of those early webinars where Tim was on, and Tim did exactly what you just said. You just said it, you just learned how to get people to say, I’m ready for the journey and give them that perspective. She literally clicked the button, committed, did her pre-apprenticeship. She’s now working at a Fortune One Company and the largest IT company on the planet.

She’s in that company and she’s working for IBM and she’s literally thriving because of a moment in time that you help somebody unlock their potential. Tim Fry, as a Success Coach, Tim Fry as our OG for you being here, this with this timeframe, you are literally unlocking the potential of that American workforce. If you don’t know that, you know that now.

Tim Fry: That’s good to know. That’s a great story. I know exactly who you’re talking about.

Cable Rose: Good.

Tim Fry: Yes, that’s good. That’s good to hear. Stuff like that. It’s good to hear. Yes, it’s been a great talk with you today, Cable. Hopefully, if anybody’s hearing this listening, it’s unlock your potential. It is easy to say, but you have to challenge yourself. Become vulnerable. That’s what I have to say.

Cable Rose: Man. Good words from Tim Fry as one of our professional Success Coaches here. He’s done it. He went through the apprenticeship journey himself.

Tim Fry: Oh yes.

Cable Rose: You’re a Department of Labor. No, you’re good, man. You’re right on point. You’re a Department of Labor certified Success Coach and you absolutely-

Tim Fry: I was the first Success Coach, apprentice, and graduate in the United States.

Cable Rose: That’s it, man. I told you, you’re the OG. This is it, Tim, this is you. Think about it. You are literally paving the way for us we come on as Success Coaches, to know what it’s like ourselves. I’ve gone through it. I’m a Certified Department of Labor Success Coach because I’ve gone through the same process. I had a mentor, I went through it, I submitted my evidence, I put in my hours. I’ve done it just like you, Tim so that when we sit down with those apprentices, we know what it means to go through their process.

Tim Fry: Let me touch on this real quick and then highlight the wrap-up. Especially when we talk adults and we got trained on adult learning styles versus chilling wing styles. An apprenticeship is great for an adult learning style because adults have to learn based off their past experiences. The most difficult part is learning new concepts.

If at an adult you can take them and you can relate them to things they’ve already done in their professional career, whether you used to be X, Y, and Z and now you’re going into A, B, and C. There’s always things you can relate and you’re going to learn your technical foundation, but if you can relate it to your past experiences, you can just grow and be better and be able to grasp those concepts and move on.

For those that are in the transition period, whether you’re a veteran or a stay-at-home mom, going back to a workforce or military spouse or whatever, challenge yourself. It’s not a difficult transition in the sense of everything’s going to be paid for you, everything’s going to be laid out and planned for you. The only thing you have to do is show up and have the capability of learning and unlocking a new potential like we’ve been saying.

Cable Rose: Tim, it was great having you on the show today. I just wanted to thank you for your time and thank you for your input as a professional Success Coach here at Franklin Apprenticeships. As always, man, thanks for joining the Speaking podcast.

Moderator: Thank you for listening to, Franklin Speaking, adventures in tech apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBMZ, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

[00:28:36] [END OF AUDIO]

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 02 – The Turning Table

Episode 02 – The Turning Table

Oscar H., a former youth worker for a detention center in Buffalo, New York, describes how his IBM Z Apprenticeship at M&T Bank changed his life.

“My apprenticeship was literally the turning table for my life and never in a million years would I have thought that I would be here,” Oscar says.

Oscar has nearly completed his apprenticeship, and in this episode, he reflects on his journey over the past year, and what comes next.

In 2020, M&T Bank launched its ZDP tech apprenticeship program in collaboration with IBM, Franklin Apprenticeships, and The Urban Institute to expand access to tech careers for people with little to no technology experience. With a special focus on recruiting candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities in technology, M&T has recently welcomed its third cohort of IBM Z apprentices.

Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.

Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Transcript

Oscar: On day one, I walked in, and of course, I’m a kid in the candy store.

Voiceover: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships will really work.

[music]

As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.

Cable Rose: Welcome to this episode of Frankly Speaking. On this episode, we’ve got Oscar. He is joining us from M&T Bank in Buffalo, New York. Oscar is an almost finished apprentice in his IBM Z apprenticeship. His pathway there is an IBM Mainframe System Administrator. Oscar, welcome to the show. This is it, man. This is welcome to your apprenticeship episode. Tell us how’d you get here, man? You just told me in the pre-show– Just a minute ago, you said you just got notified. You’ve been with your company for a year?

Oscar: Yes, a year. I’ve been with M&T Bank for a year now.

Cable: Man, that’s awesome.

Oscar: Time is flying.

Cable: How so? What’s going on? Why is it flying?

Oscar: I think just staying busy, being consistent. [chuckles] A lot of meetings we call M&T meet and talk because we do a lot of meetings and a lot of talking.

[laughter]

Cable: A meet and talk. I like that. M&T stands for Meet and Talk. I love it, man. Then tell me, how did you get from point A to point B? Where were you 15 months ago or 16, 17 months ago? Where were you?

Oscar: I was actually working for a non-profit organization. It’s a youth detention center. I have been there for six years and I had got to my sixth year and was like, “Okay, you know what? It is time for a change.” [chuckles] I’m in the work office and I’m on Indeed. [laughs] I’m taking away, trying to see what I can find and I came across the apprenticeship program. I applied for it. I waited a bit and ended up receiving an e-mail. That’s pretty much how it all began. That was the beginning of my story.

Cable: It’s real, you literally click a button, you get an e-mail notification, and then all of a sudden,-

Oscar: Exactly.

Cable: -guess what? You’re on your journey. Tell me something. What was your desire or passion? Why IT? Why are you in this space that you’re in? What was it about it?

Oscar: I knew that IT, it wasn’t going anywhere. With something that’ll be around forever, for me that was stability. Me upgrading my life as in getting engaged and getting married and then the kids come along and house and everything. I’m really big on focusing on the things that I really need. For me, that was where it all began. I just looked on Indeed. When I found the apprenticeship program, I just felt like it would be a good opportunity for a better and new beginning.

Cable: I love it, man. New beginning, new opportunities. What was that journey like? You get this e-mail and then what? All of a sudden you just get a job or what, what’d you have to do?

Oscar: [laughs] Exactly. That was the perfect way to put it because for me it was, I get this e-mail. It’s like, “Now what?” I get this e-mail and they’re like, “Okay, go on. Go to this link, click this link, and download this.” For me, I’m like, “Okay, wait.” Now flags are up. I’m like, “Is this real?” I still begin with of course positive hopes of it being real. Of course, I download the link, I download everything that they ask me to download. I log into the Khan Academy. It’s like, “Okay, begin this work and get this work done.”

Now you’re in this process of getting this work done and the process of that, you’re like, “Okay, what’s next?” Right? Then, of course, you get this other e-mail. Now this is IBM. Register for IBM and do that. I did that. After a while, it just really began to set in like, “Wow, this is real.” This is actually a thing. This is actually happening.

Cable: Do me a favor, at the time that you came through, did we have a Slack community? Were you a part of a conversation on the side where Slack and you had other pre-apprentices going through that? What was that like?

Oscar: For the Slack, it was pretty cool. It was different because at first, I didn’t really know what I was listening to because there were some things that were being talked about that of course I had no idea. I would always be attentive and it was cool to be on with– It was a lot of people on the Slack channel. I remember it being a lot of people on there and just being able to– It make you feel important like you’re a part of something not everybody can actually be a part of. I thought was pretty cool.

Cable: You did all the work, you got through all of the badges and all of the trainings. You went to Khan and IBM and probably a taste of Master the Mainframe or something, I don’t know. You did all of that. Then all of a sudden, what’s next?

Oscar: You do all of this. Then all of a sudden you get a phone call and it’s just like, “Hey, I’m such and such from Franklin Apprenticeship.” I’m just like, “Oh, hey.” That’s the first direct phone call that I actually received. I was just like, “Okay, hey how are you?” I get the talking.

Cable: Me and you both. Hey, that’s what we’re here for, right? That’s why we’re here. [laughs]

Oscar: Exactly. We were doing a lot of chatting up and then she just was like, “Okay, now that you have everything complete, there’s a couple job openings in Buffalo.” She said once when she figures everything out, I’ll receive another call. I ended up receiving another call. I can’t remember who it was from. I got a phone call and they were just like, “Hey, M&T Bank has job openings.” My heart is beating fast. I’m like, “Wait, wait. I don’t know if I did that well on a pre-apprenticeship. I don’t know if I know this stuff. [laughs]

Before you know it maybe about two weeks later, I was getting a call from M&T Bank to set up interviews and I was receiving e-mails and contracts to sign. I’m just like, “Wow.”

Cable: This is real. It happened. You clicked that button

Oscar: This is real.

Cable: You did Indeed.

Oscar: Right?

Cable: Did your pre-app, you got your contacts. You got set in front of an employer, you did the interview. Obviously, you must have nailed the interview because they brought you on board. Tell me, Oscar, you came out of six years of Juvenile Detention center. You came in engagement, you’ve got a family now. You’ve got this desire to want to go a different path. You’re pivoting your career, you’re going into a– Tell me about walking in the door on day one.

Oscar: On day one I walked in and of course I’m like a kid in the candy store [laughter] I’m like someone that’s touring New York City and I’m taking pictures of everything. [laughter] First of all, the biggest thing I noticed was that we had a game room. I was just like, “Wow. I’m here to play games. [laughter] This is cool. I just remember Mario Kart playing as I was walking down the stairs. [laughter] Instead of the [onomatopoeia], you hear [onomatopoeia]. I’m just like, “Wow. This is great.” From there I just knew– I’m just like, “Wow, this is it for me.”

Walking in the door, they make you feel so at home. Everybody was so welcoming and they all reached their arms out per se and just made me feel comfortable. I just got right to work. It felt so good.

Cable: Now one, what a great story to talk about the pivot in your focus and then to go from click to click to training to wholy to, “Oh, hey, there’s a community. I’m part of something.” Then walk in on that first day. I love it, a kid at Christmas [uinintelligible00:08:22] or a kid at a candy store. That’s what you said. You’re absolutely right. I’ve heard of clients like this. I’ve heard of the Google buildings or the big sexy buildings with all the fun stuff to do. You walked in and you’re like, “Damn, this is for real. This is legit. I’m actually here.”

What you said next is what caught my ear. You said, “I got to work.” Tell me about it. What’s it like to go from– I appreciate your– You were candid with me. You said, “Hey, I don’t know if I’ve done enough in this realm. I don’t know if I should be going to a M&T bank with a large client. I don’t know what that looks like.” What does get to work look like? What’s an apprenticeship look like when you walk in? Day one’s great, don’t get me wrong, Mario Kart and a nice kitchen is always a good thing. You said it I got to work. What was that like, man?

What to work look like in an apprenticeship?

Oscar: For me, it was at that point figuring out what was needed from me from the company and from Franklin side. What did I have to do in order to achieve 100% with Franklin and what can I do to continue to progress at M&T Bank? I ended up getting a daily task from M&T Bank. Then we had the– I call it a syllabus. We had the syllabus for Franklin. Now with that being said, that was always my forefront was just like, “Okay, this is my objective. This is what needs to be completed.” Then from there what’s next?

Now I’m in the phase of now what’s next because I’m 100% complete with my Franklin work. For me, so that I don’t get overwhelmed, I only pretty much focus on what needs to be focused on until further notice. I can say that right now I’m at my further notice.

Cable: I got you. Well, let’s talk about it. You got your syllabus, your framework and all the tasks that both IBM, the Department of Labor, Franklin, and M&T all agreed upon, “These are the tasks that we’re going to focus on for your learning,” and you went right into that and got into it. You also got something onsite. You got probably and I’m guessing a mentor or maybe a manager, that was both part of your learning locally, right?

Oscar: Yes.

Cable: I understand M&T does it up, they’ve got a pretty good built-in system of both that we call it battle buddies, or your wingman, somebody who rides along and gives you those steps. Do me another favor, you got one more piece of the puzzle. Tell me about what your success coach does for you for the year that you’re apprenticing.

Oscar: I really appreciate my mentor because he was always very consistent, always very open and honest as to what he needed from me, and he pretty much just made me feel comfortable. Whenever I had questions, I was able to go to him about them. His response was very precise. He pretty much just stuck his neck out for me just to make sure I was comfortable in understanding what I was learning because you figured– like you said I came from a detentions– working in detention area.

I had no idea whatsoever what I was getting myself into, and he was the person who was really there for me to make me feel like okay, you’re doing an amazing job, just keep doing what you’re doing, and if anything comes up then I’ll let you know.

Cable: M&T does really good job with their mentors in this program when they bring on, because again, you guys are in your 3rd, 4th, 5th cohort whatever it is. They’re bringing on groups so they’ve identified that. Also, tell me about that success coach. Tell me about what that looks like from Franklin because now you got a Franklin success coach.

Oscar: Yes Erin. Erin she was amazing. Erin was really thorough in a good way. She pretty much forced us to push ourself a little bit more, to learn a little bit more to just gain that the extra evidence that you need in order to get a section approved. That was I think that she did an amazing job, she also sets up weekly meetings. I had a weekly check-in with Erin which was pretty good because we were able to go over everything as far as how long I was for the apprenticeship or even as long as like just a checkup.

Like how are you doing? How are you feeling? It’s not all peaches and cream, There is also, it gets tough completing some of those topics because you’re learning and you’re gathering information at the same time. Everybody learn differently and I’m just grateful for Erin for sure.

Cable: Well, if you don’t know this Erin came on the same day I did, her and I started with Franklin on the exact same day. Erin teaches the coaches how to get evidence. That’s how awesome Erin is. Erin took on a couple of different roles here at Franklin. One, she is an amazing success coach but I like the word you use because I always give her a hard time. She’s thorough. That is very true about Erin. There is never going to be a gap with Erin. When we need something here at Franklin, we go to Erin. “Hey Erin, what are your thoughts?” because she’ll give us not too much.

Erin’s going to watch this and listen to this. She’ll be like, “What’s Cable talking about?” Erin doesn’t give us too much but she gives us so much that we have 100% everything covered, and then we can streamline it to be a deliverable or streamline it to be the correct measures in which we got to go. We really enjoy Erin, and so now that you’ve got Erin as a one-on-one that’s fantastic, man. Now I’m going to tell you this, I’m going to ask this question of you and you don’t have to answer this, but I do a lot of listening when I communicate with people and I like communications.

There’s four areas of communications. There’s analytics, there’s feelers, there’s structure, and there’s chaos. I don’t know this, I’m going to guess that you’re a structure kind of person.

Oscar: Yes, for sure.

Cable: You talked in our pre and you talked here in this episode and the first thing you said all episodes that people are consistent, M&T is consistent. You liked that. You know what to expect. You knew what that syllabus framework was. It was a warm fuzzy for you to get that syllabus, wasn’t it? Then when Erin sat down and said, “Yes, this is how we’re going to do it, and here’s how we’re going to go over it. Here’s what’s to expect, and here’s how we’re going to gather your evidence. Here’s what a green check mark looks like,” then you were like, “I got this.”

It sounds like that was a good for you. Not for everybody, because I’m chaos. Just so you know I’m chaos, I don’t do structure. Erin is very good for us because she keeps all of us in that realm. Man, as a one-on-one coach with Erin, I bet you had had a great year with Erin. I know that for sure. Excellent. To my audience, you can’t see this Oscar just clapped and said yes, that Erin is fantastic so thank you, Oscar. Man, it’s cool to see somebody’s journey. See where they pivot, see what their passions are, see what their drive is, and see how they get to having an interview on a podcast about apprenticeships in North America.

What does that look like tech apprenticeships? If I may I’m going to guess you hit one year just now at M&T right?

Oscar: Yes. As of today.

Cable: What?

Oscar: Yes, today is my year.

Cable: Dude, congrats.

Oscar: Thank you.

Cable: Oh man, that’s a huge– Well, well first off go downstairs, go get Mario Kart. Go get you– I think you’re working remote today, am I guessing that?

Oscar: Yes.

Cable: All right. [crosstalk]

Oscar: I’ll take that.

Cable: That’s a good one too man. Let’s talk about this though. Have you already graduated or are you about to graduate?

Oscar: No, so I am about to graduate. I’ll graduate January, February-ish is what they’re thinking. Getting real close.

Cable: I saw that on the calendar. We were talking internally here. We’ve got some travels coming up. I’m going to be in Dallas next week. I’m going to go into graduation in Dallas, and then the first week of December I’m in Virginia for an event. Then the same week of December I fly to California for a graduation for another client. In my planning, this is just off-topic, but in my planning for my three or four six weeks coming up the conversation of M&T because I don’t have any clients at M&T, I don’t have any apprentices.

Oscar: Oh wow.

Cable: You are my first contact with an M&T here in the podcast realm, but I knew that was coming because it’s already being talked about here. The celebration that’s coming up for you guys for y’all’s graduation. Man, I’m excited, I’m stoked, I’m ready for you to get up there and see what it looks like to finish that apprenticeship. Take that title off of your e-mail address. I don’t know if you have it on your e-mail.

Oscar: Yes, I do.

Cable: Do you? When it becomes assistance level I or it becomes analyst, whatever they put on there for your client man, I can’t wait for that moment for you, Oscar. It’s going to be fantastic.

Oscar: Thank you. I appreciate it. I know for me,– I don’t know if I can say this but it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing because never in a million years would I have thought that I would be here. Just to go from even to take it personally, even having to work where I was working previously and trying to figure out okay, how am I going to get this paid, and I have this paid and I’m getting behind. Then you have a program who you don’t even know believe in you as much as they do, and they bring you on with a compatible rate.

Even when I signed my contract I was like, “Wow, did I really just sign for that much?” Even then it was just like, “Wow, this is really happening.” It was eye-opening, it really was. It was really eye-opening.

Cable: Man, I wish they could see it, I got chill bumps just from hearing that journey from focus to reality of coming on board to this new career, this new program, and this new journey that you’re on. Not only an apprenticeship journey but being able to start your– you used the word I’m going to use your word career. I love the fact that people come into this and they realize, “Wait a minute, I’ve got 40 years I can do this. I can do this for 40 years starting today,” as they walk in that first door. It may not hit them that first day.

I had an apprentice she jumped on and six, seven months in and I didn’t even get one word in. She just jumped on, she goes, “Cable, I can do anything.” I was like, “What?” She goes, “I can do anything.” She just saw this now, she just saw a vector where it just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and the opportunities are there to grow. You’re going to spend your time. I heard you say it you’re consistent, you’re learning your job. If you don’t know it you’re going to ask those questions, but guess what, this is the start of an amazing career. Oscar, I’m so stoked for you man.

Oscar: Thank you. I really appreciate it, I really do. Franklin will always be close to my heart. It was the turning table. It was literally the turning table for my life. Like said I never would’ve expected it. I have a degree in business administration, and I went to school to be a dental assistant. To think that I went for that, and then like I said now I’m at M&T and I am in technology it’s just like who knew? Who knew? Who knew?

Cable: I don’t even want to ask anything else because that is such a profound share that you just gave us is that it was that pivot point. It was that starting point. Like you said, man, you’re blessed. Who knew that one day you’re picking plaque off somebody’s teeth as an assistant and six years later after a detention stint now you’re sitting in an IT job looking how to write the future of everything? Man, that’s awesome. Hey, Oscar, this has been one amazing episode. I love the fact that we’re bringing your story to the world.

Validates not only what apprenticeships are here in America because not a lot of people know, but validate the fact that it doesn’t matter where you are in your life, your job, your career, your journey. If you have a desire to get into IT this is one of the paths that are available for you. If you got the grit, that is a word I want to start using now on these calls is grit and you showed grit from the second you clicked on it. You were like, “I don’t know if I should click this. What the hell, I’m going to click it.” Then you’re like, “I don’t know.”

You know what? Next thing you knew you were two months into an apprenticeship and done and getting ready to put in front of an employer man. That is huge.

Oscar: Exactly. Thank you.

Cable: To everybody on the planet this was Oscar Heard III, he’s coming to us from the east coast from Buffalo, New York. By the way Go Buffs I heard-

Oscar: Go Bills.

Cable: Go Bills. Is the Bills Mafia. Ain’t that [unintelligible 00:21:48] you guys crazy [unintelligible 00:21:48]

Oscar: Yes.

Cable: You guys got some crazy fans up there. I love me some Bills Mafia.

Oscar: Bills Mafia.

Cable: Yes, that’s it. Man, that’s it.

Oscar: We jump through tables and everything. Set stuff on fire.

Cable: I will tell you watching some, is it Stefon Diggs?

Oscar: Yes.

Cable: Watching Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen and that whole team really come together the last two years has been great. I can only imagine– I’ve never been to an NFL game, but imagine you get to go to NFL game. I bet it’s a great crowd up there.

Oscar: Yes and the best part is the tailgate.

Cable: The tailgate. Oscar knows. He knows what’s up.

Oscar: Yes.

Cable: Listen, I’m going to wrap this up before we get in trouble, Oscar. Hey, I’m going to tell the planet, everybody, out there listening, thanks for listening to another episode of Frankly Speaking. I just wanted to thank you, Oscar, for your participation today, coming on to the show, sharing your story, sharing your adventures. We really appreciate you coming on to us and to all the listeners out there who get to hear your story, hear your adventures, and then share that with the world. Oscar, we appreciate you for being on Frankly Speaking, the early adventures in tech apprenticeships. Thanks for being here.

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, helpdesk IBMC, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

[00:23:32] [END OF AUDIO]

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 01 – Building Tech Talent for the Long Term

Episode 01 – Building Tech Talent for the Long Term

Angie Voght, HR Manager, Black Knight Inc., discusses the strategic imperative of the company’s IBM Z Apprenticeship program with our host, Cable Rose, Franklin Apprenticeships Success Coach. Angie shares her experiences supporting apprentices and managers throughout their apprenticeship journey, the challenges of recruiting and retaining tech talent, and the importance of professional skills.

About Angie

Angie Voght holds over a decade of experience in the HR field in both private and public sectors. In her current role as an HR Manager at Black Knight Inc (BKI), she focuses on talent and leadership coaching and development, transforming workplace culture, and workforce and career planning. Combing key guiding principles from her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and dual master’s degree in Administration and Human Resources Management, Angie has found a unique perspective to guide organizations through change, conflict management, and executing business strategies that result in employee-centric outcomes.

Angie serves as a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion roundtable, partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida as a Big Sister mentor and serves as a board member of the St. Johns Council School District IT Career Academy Advisory Council. Angie facilitates Black Knight’s partnership with Franklin, connects with all BKI apprentices to ensure a positive employee experience, and coordinates an ongoing apprentice group check-in meeting to foster an environment of learning and connection.

Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.
Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Transcript

Angie: You just wouldn’t think that somebody who’s been a daycare worker most of her life is going to make the pivot and transition to just take a leap of faith, join an apprenticeship program and love her career in tech.

Speaker: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships really work.

[music]

As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.

Cable: I’m pleased to introduce our first guest, Angie Voght, HR Manager for Black Knight Incorporated. Black Knight is a part of the inaugural group of IBM Enterprise Computing clients to participate in the US IBM Z Apprenticeship Accelerator Program. Franklin is proud to deliver this program with IBM for their clients. Angie comes to us from a background of HR management and consulting, has been a wonderful partner, helping to change the lives and launch careers of several IBM Z apprentices. Angie, please tell us a bit about your background and what you do at Black Knight.

Angie: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Angie Voght. I’m a HR manager, like you said, with Black Knight Financial Services. I’ve been with the organization for about three years. We’re the premier provider of innovative high-performance software data and analytics for mortgage and home equity lending and servicing. We’re known for client focus and product home equity and lending servicing. We deliver innovative, seamlessly integrated solutions with urgency. I support the technology, infrastructure, and operations in a segment of our servicing technology product and innovation teams.

Cable: Okay. One, I didn’t realize when I got myself into a tech realm that there were so many different tech realms because when I think of computers, I’m very simplistic. Yours is both tech as well as financial as well as home lending, is that what I heard, right? Home lending.

Angie: Yes, and data and analytics. When we go to realtor.com, all of these estimates that you see and all of that data, we’re supplying that data as well. Even if you are a realtor, for example, we’re also supplying data for realtors. We’re helping innovate their business as well and helping it make them easier to do their job. We really have our hands in the entire mortgage industry.

Cable: Wow. Okay. Then let’s connect all those dots, Angie, because what I heard there was finances, real estate, data, tech, but this is not as if you were just trying to get a job working for a computer company or working for– How does it look? You’re an HR manager. You’re bringing people into this realm. How do you find tech talent to encompass someone that can take on all of that challenge?

Angie: Sure. That’s a great question. We’re probably not going to find somebody who has experience in everything. We’re really looking for subject matter experts or people who have an interest in one of those areas. Maybe you have somebody who is interested in finance and so you’re going to find somebody for the corporate divisions or somebody who has an interest or has experience in the technology field. They’re pretty siloed. We probably wouldn’t have somebody who has experience in every one of our divisions perhaps, and they would be a unicorn and we’d try very hard to recruit them but most likely, we won’t have somebody who has these ones and everything.

Cable: Then let’s talk about that. Now, what are your pain points? What are your business challenges? How do you find tech talent to come into one of those realms? You talked about subject matter experts and you’re absolutely right. We’d love to find those unicorns out there. What challenges have you seen in the tech realm trying to bring talent into it?

Angie: That’s been a challenge. I’ll say specifically in our mainframe space. The mainframe is a core to our company’s tech stack, but unfortunately, we found Gen Y and Gen Z have not been over overly eager to learn this technology. They’re not understanding the mainframe’s not going to be going anywhere, and that’s causing a significant impact to our ability to backfill when employees are retiring or leaving the organization. It creates incredible competition for our mainframe talent that when we’re going out to market, individuals can pretty much have their pick up these mainframe roles. We have to be creative. We have to be creative in the way that we’re marketing where we’re marketing our benefit packages and just the way that we’re going out to market because it is really competitive out there. That’s really for all positions, but specifically in those initial roles.

Cable: Those initial roles such as mainframe. Mainframe is right– Again, PC, Google, Apple, everybody talks about like the new sexy. These are the new things nobody talks about. IBM mainframe is the new sexy, but really it’s not. It’s literally the greatest one because it’s been there forever and it’s never going anywhere. I like the fact, you’re absolutely right, Gen Y, Gen Z. You talked about some generations weren’t where their focus were. They were going to newer tech. How did you come across something like an apprenticeship with Franklin Apprenticeships or anything out there? How did you make that alignment that there is a struggle, there is a real-world desire for those mainframe roles to be filled? How did you find apprenticeships as one of your options for bringing tech on?

Angie: Sure. Actually, to step back a little bit. Before we partnered with Franklin, we had a COBOL Cadet program. Just doing the same thing where we typically had between 11 to 12 cadets every session focused on mainframe COBOL programming, but just from an internal structural program, we just weren’t able to maintain it. When the partnership with Franklin came all along, it really met that need. We were able to outsource it and have the same results. It was really a win-win for us. It’s been a great partnership because we were able to get the training and the talent that we needed, but we didn’t have to use internal resources. We’re often very lean in the technology industry, so to be able to still fill those gaps has been fantastic.

Cable: That’s awesome. I do know of a few of the apprentices who both came on board with us who then were partnered with you, who then are now full-time graduates of us, and now obviously full-time employees with you. What was that like to then outsource? Again, you had a cadet program, you had that pipeline, but it was, again, taxing, there was resources. What was it like when you saw what Franklin does and went, I think we want to try that now? Where did that thought come from?

Angie: Sure. It was really a seamless process. The first step is really having the buy-in from your senior leadership. We did have a gap of a few years where we didn’t have our COBOL Cadet program. Then that pipeline dries up. When you’re not able to recruit externally, or at least not fast enough for the need that we had internally, and then you’re not training internally with those COBOL cadets, then all of a sudden you don’t have the talent you need. It was a lot easier to get that buy-in from a senior leadership perspective. We had several meetings with the Franklin leadership group and our senior leaders. Then from there it really took off working with your recruiting team, nailing down what positions, how many positions, and then your recruiting team did a fantastic job sourcing candidates and really took off from there.

Cable: I don’t want to spend too much specific time on any particular candidates, but I do love, of course, Anthony and Yasmin, their story. Their timeline as military veterans coming out and wanting to be able to place the timeline where she came on board first as the military spouse, if I’m correct, make sure I get this right. Then Anthony, as he finished up and completed his contract with the military, he came right out and he started behind her. Both of them going through the program, what a unique experience to make the alignment, to make the needs filled, to have both of them successfully obviously operate into this new realm, and then become valid member or valued members into the realm of the IBM support that they’re working on with that mainframe. It’s fantastic to see those individual stories specifically with you guys.

I love the Black Knight story. It was always a fun one for us as we saw what they were doing and how you guys were utilizing their strengths along that program. As an HR manager, this is what you do, right? You look for the diamonds out there, you look for the– You said unicorn earlier. I love it. You look for those talented people that are out there that are coming from a different pathway. Whatever that looks like. Do you have any advice for other HR managers who are looking to also try to understand how to bring tech talent into their roles? What other comments or thoughts do you have about apprenticeships for them?

Angie: Yes, absolutely. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways that I have from the Franklin Apprentice program. I can only speak from my experience but what I found that sets the apprentices apart from other employees early in their tech career is they’re coming in very eager to learn and they’re truly excited to be part of our organization. For me as a HR professional, it’s important to level set with potential hiring managers upfront. about apprentices’ capacities, especially in the first few months since about half their time is spent training. I want to be really thoughtful about who’s going to be a good fit from a manager perspective and supporting their growth and their development. I think it’s also important for HR professionals to know that Franklin apprentices receive soft skill training that I believe really sets them apart from other similar skilled candidates, and it sets them up for success. When you’re combining those technical skills with refined soft skills and the professionalism, it’s really a HR manager’s dream. We’ve had apprentices recognized for their contributions from executives, and I hear all the time from our first-level managers how much they enjoy having apprentices as part of their team. They work so hard and it’s so good to see.

Cable: That’s awesome and very good feedback for anyone else who’s listening to see that. Okay. They have that aptitude, they have that eagerness. I like the word, tenacity. I’m a big tenacity guy. They come in, they’re hungry, and they want to do this, and they want to learn and they want to work, and they’re like, “Hey, let’s rock and roll. Give me more, more, more, more. Give me more.” That’s awesome, Angie. I think what a great perspective to see it. Again, we talked earlier before the show, you’re like, “Human resources isn’t necessarily everybody’s warm, fuzzy word.” Right?

Angie: A cup of tea. [chuckles]

Cable: Yes, a cup of tea. It’s that desire that an HR manager has that you’ve got. You said it, partner with a online manager who’s looking for the talent to support their role and their career and it’s a good fit when it does align, and that’s what your role is in that. You listen to the manager, you listen to the apprentice, that’s a good fit, let’s bring them on. Then I really appreciate the shout-out for how Franklin does that. We have both technical programs we’re delivering through their apprenticeship, but we also come on with their soft skills, their personal development.

As a success coach here myself, to deliver the best version of that apprentice at the end of their apprenticeship is my goal. Whatever that looks like. If it’s technical, if it’s professional, if it’s both, if it’s the whole package, whatever their growth is, is how we do that, and that’s what success coaches do. What has your experience been with Franklin success coaches in the process of, like you said, bringing them on, but what’s your experience been with those success coaches?

Angie: In my role, I didn’t work overly close with success coaches, but I’ll say as a HR professional, I hope every employee has the opportunity to be coached at every stage in their career, and I really believe that coaching is a critical component of the apprentice experience. I believe that being newer to the industry, having a success coach to encourage you, to motivate you, to keep you on track, and having that space to ask questions that they may not feel comfortable asking a colleague or manager is, again, setting the course for success. I believe that coaching can be leveraged for feedback for soft skills. Again, the unspoken rules regarding company culture, it can be less threatening I think, than having that feedback from a manager sometimes, despite the manager’s best efforts. It’s just a different power dynamic. I think it’s really important. From my understanding too, success coaches work really closely with the apprentices’ managers so that feedback loop is really consistent. From my perspective, it’s working great.

Cable: Good. Angie, I appreciate that because you’re absolutely right. The success coach not only works closely with the apprentice, they work with the managers as well. I do this thing where I have to take my hat off sometimes like, “Am I talking to the manager as a success coach? Am I just talking to him as a colleague? Am I giving feedback that was– Apprentice, do I give your feedback or should I–?” What we’ve done here as the success coach, we really try to understand those dynamics on their team, and then we work again with those soft skills. We work with that apprentice. The way we like to say it is we get them to advocate for themselves. If they have an issue or a concern, or they have an idea and they want to share it, maybe they don’t know if this is the right place to share it. They can bounce it off of us, and then we can help guide them in what is the strongest way to do this, what’s the best way to approach this? We don’t do it for them. We get them to advocate for themselves, building on their confidence, their communications, building on that relationship, and setting that whole dynamic up, like you just said, it’s a win-win from each of those points along the line and then we’re looking for the best results out of that. I think that’s awesome, Angie. You’re in HR.

Angie: Sure.

Cable: You are always looking for– Again, for many, many years in tech and for many, many years of a requirement, there were requirements for such as a four-year degree or maybe some of that background, and with apprenticeships, we’re allowing people to come on that have no background. They’re not from a particular realm or any kind of background like that and they’re coming on. Maybe they were a single mother who’d been out of the workforce for a few years, or a single father who’d been out of the workforce for a few years and they’re coming on to say, “Hey, I want to get back into this realm,” and they’ve got this aptitude, they’ve got this tenacity, this eagerness, and they come on. What have you seen as diversity, inclusion, equity as part of that realm that we’re looking for to make a workforce as strong as it can? What have you seen apprenticeships have allowed for to bring other backgrounds into this type of tech world?

Angie: Yes, I think that’s a great question. I want to say at Black Knight, we have a dedicated diversity, equity, and inclusion team, but it really takes all of us to create the culture that we are striving for. Partnering with Franklin is one of the ways that we achieve our diversity and inclusion goals. Franklin does a fantastic job finding individuals who are looking for new careers, or they’re providing skilled candidates that are being diverse. We have a lot of female apprentices and a lot of them have already graduated the program, which is so great to see. We are featuring four of them on the 14th when it’s Women in Apprenticeship Day. They’re going to be featured on our social media page, which we’re so excited about. You guys have [unintelligible 00:16:27] so many people of color who have been fantastic candidates, veterans, people who are reporting, having disabilities, and so on. We’re helping just build that pool, and it’s really important for us to have a culture and organization that is an employer of choice for people of all demographics. We’re really excited about that partnership.

Cable: I love that because, as myself, I was a military dependent. My father was in the service. Thank you for your service. You said your father was in?

Angie: My father as well.

Cable: Yes. Oh, I appreciate that as well. You and I both know you probably grew up moving around, right?

Angie: Yes, a little bit. [chuckles]

Cable: We moved around. We were always in a new place. We always were around new people. We were always around new cultures, new backgrounds, new everything. When I go into the workforce, I love the fact that we have the abilities to just bring everybody on board. I’m really excited to see apprenticeships do that. My car broke down in front of the Air Force Recruiter’s office, which is how I joined the Air Force. It wasn’t like I knew that I was going into that path, but 25 years ago, if this had existed in my time, I would’ve been an apprentice from day one. I think this is an amazing program–

Angie: Absolutely.

Cable: –that I wouldn’t have had to have gone into another pathway or something that I thought I had to do. This was like, “Hey, I want to do tech.” I want to do whatever that apprenticeship is, and just go in and learn it. I think this is such an opportunity that in today’s day, in today’s market and today’s shift of how the world is, is being perceived and the perspective of everything this is going to be it, Angie. I love the fact that we’ve got partners such as Black Knight, and we’ve got partners that are out there who see not only that there’s tech talent out there, but they know how to then identify, let’s get everybody into this and let’s bring it all forward. I really enjoy the fact that we’ve got this partnership with you and with the companies who see the value in this. Obviously, you’ve got your own perspectives from your client side of the house, your employer side of the house, but you like, “Apprenticeships work. Let’s get them, let’s break– Oh, those were great. Well, let’s come back in. Let’s do more.” Let’s get more of that type of, and I always say, bring me more Anthony’s or bring me more Yasmin’s or bring me more whatever. I think that’s always a good way to do it. Go ahead.

Angie: I’ll share with you too. This individual is typically more private, so I’m not going to share her name, but she was a healthcare worker. She had no tech background, and she is knocking it out of the park. She’s a COBOL programmer now. She loves her team. She’s graduated from the program. You just wouldn’t think that somebody who’s been a daycare worker most of her life is going to make the pivot and transition to just take a leap of faith, join an apprentice program, and love her career in tech. I think that it just shows, once again, that it can really work. As an employer finding that talent, and again, looking at the aptitude and looking beyond the resume sometimes and seeing the passion that they have, and understanding that we have to be more broad in our thinking.

Cable: I love it. You gave me absolute chill bumps right there to say exactly that. You’re right. They were in a particular career for years, and they pivoted. What a great word to pivot into something completely new, and they’re the rockstar. They’re knocking out of the park. That is fantastic news. Thank you for sharing with us both those personal stories along the line of the realm of what you do, but then the big picture of how that’s going to make an impact into both apprentices’ lives as well as the employers who are bringing them on. I appreciate that. As I wrap up our focus here, we’re a branded company that likes a good tagline. We have a great branded tagline called Potential Unlocked. I was wondering if I were to ask you as an HR manager, how else would you give advice or what advice would you give to anyone who’s listening or watching me in the podcast to say early in a career or early in a tech career, what advice would you give to say, “Hey, let’s unlock that potential.”

Angie: That is such a great question. My advice would be a literary quote is, start with the end in mind. What is your dream job and what do you want to work towards? I think once you have identified your career goals, really begin mapping out those short and long-term goals and how you’re going to achieve that dream job. I think it’s so easy to get comfortable in what you’re doing and before you know it, years can go by and you haven’t made any progress toward what you ultimately want to do in life.

I feel like if you have those goals in front of you and you’re actively working toward them, you can stay motivated and you can stay on track. Like I said with the example before, sometimes you have to pivot. You might need to ask for help and that’s okay, but as long as you’re working towards that job or that role or career that will bring you joy, you’re headed in the right direction. Even if it gets tough, I encourage you to keep going because, in the end, it will be worth it.

Cable: Man, what a great wrap to this podcast. Think about it. I asked her the question, what advice would you give and she says, start with the end in mind. Make your goals, lay out your roadmap, and work towards those. Even if you got to pivot, you may got to ask for help. You still got those laid out and you’re still moving towards that final goal. Thank you, Angie. That is great first episode. I’m like super uber excited, but what a great way to wrap that up is by literally just that frame of what you said. I got to stop talking because that’s what I get told to do, is stop talking. I don’t want to take away from what you just said, but I do want to thank you, Angie, for being here. Thank you for being on Frankly Speaking. Again, as we go into future realms of apprenticeships and future realms of changing people’s family trees, changing lives, I want to say thank you to both you and to Black Knight for being a part of that journey. Thank you.

Angie: Thank you so much for having me.

Cable: You’re welcome. To everybody else out there in TV land or podcast land now, we appreciate y’all coming on to the show and we will see you guys for the next episode from Cable Rose. This is Frankly Speaking. Thanks.

Speaker: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking, Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 00 – Introducing Frankly Speaking

Episode 00 – Introducing Frankly Speaking

Franklin Apprenticeships today announced a new podcast about tech apprenticeships and early careers called, Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. Frankly Speaking gives listeners a behind-the-scenes view from the real people and organizations that are building tech skills on-the-job with apprenticeships and trailblazing a new way to develop America’s tech talent pool. Episodes are available on Franklin’s website and on major streaming services including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Podcasts.