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.”

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.


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.

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