The Role of Coaching in Apprenticeships

The Role of Coaching in Apprenticeships

While coaching has long been embraced at the executive level in business, more and more organizations are recognizing its value throughout all levels of their workforces and embracing a culture of coaching. Here’s a brief look at how coaching fits into the picture for tech apprenticeships.

Coaching vs. managing

Separating the concept of coaching from managing is difficult if not impossible. Most would agree that the best managers are also good coaches in that they have a skill set that helps them get the most out of their teams.

For our purposes, we’ll consider management to be a process of review, assessment and improvement on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a given role. These tend to be items that lend themselves to being measured, for example sales quotas, deadlines met or customer satisfaction ratings.

While coaching may have similar end goals, it takes a more holistic approach that encompasses not only the business outcomes but the human interactions that lead to them. A manager, for instance, might point out to an employee that he or she is behind on a quarterly sales goal. A coach will seek to understand the attitudes and behaviors that are causing that to be the case, and work with the employee to map out an improvement plan.

An obvious differentiator is that coaching requires a more individualized approach. A sales manager wants everyone to sell more, but the coaching process to achieve that goal will differ from person to person. A coach is there to extract the talent that already lies within the person.

Coaching in the apprenticeship model

The tech apprenticeship model used by Franklin Apprenticeships recognizes the value of coaching, and was designed with coaching as a central component. Each apprentice works weekly with a Personal Success Coach to monitor progress and identify areas for improvement.

The key here is that those sessions do more than track progress on technical skills like achieving certifications (management). The organizations who hire apprentices want to know that they’re adding not just technically competent personnel but well-rounded employees. That’s why our Success Coaches also work with apprentices on the ‘soft skills’ that lead to better interactions with customers and co-workers alike. These include problem-solving skills, solution-focused thinking, communication, time management and even managing stress.

As an increasing number of organizations recognize the value in taking the next step from management to coaching, the coaching model itself becomes more and more important, and well-coached employees become more and more valuable.

Interviewing for a Tech Job: 5 Questions

Interviewing for a Tech Job: 5 Questions

Whether you’re considering an apprenticeship or a traditional job in the tech field, you can expect a series of interviews just as you would with any other position. You should of course be prepared for traditional interview questions like:

Tell me about a time when something didn’t go as you had hoped, and how you responded.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

How would your co-workers describe you?

With a tech role, however, you should also be prepared for more specific questions related not only to technology but the intersection of technology and soft skills, including your ability to communicate. Answers will vary depending upon your level of experience, but you should be prepared to address questions similar to these:

What do you do to stay current and keep your tech skills up to date?

Technology changes constantly. Your potential employer wants to know that you have the habit of putting in the effort to stay on top of those changes.

Which resources do you consult to help you do your work?

This is a similar question in that the interviewer wants to know that you do more than just show up and do the work in front of you. Your answer here demonstrates that you’re engaged with the broader tech world outside of your job. You know where to go to solve for the challenging questions.

Which technology products or services are your favorites, or least favorites, and why?

With this question, the interviewer is probably less interested in the specific products or services and more interested in the “why.” For him or her this is a glimpse at what makes you tick as a tech professional. This is not the time to go off on a rant, but if there are products or services that you feel come up short, be prepared to explain why you think so – and what you would do about it if you were in charge.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I work in another department and know nothing at all about tech. How would you explain so I can understand it?

This is a vital question that begins to uncover the way you’ll interact with others. In many roles, the very best technical skills are less valuable if you can’t communicate effectively with other team members. Your ability to translate the complex into layperson’s terms demonstrates an important component of those soft skills mentioned above.

Suppose we’re having this discussion two (or three, or five) years from now. How do you think technology will have changed?

Just as any interviewer will want your vision of where you see yourself in the future, they’ll be interested to see how much thought you’ve given to where technology might be going. There are no wrong answers here because no one knows for certain, but be ready to demonstrate that you’ve given the bigger picture some thought.

Even if you’re coming into a tech apprenticeship with no related experience, you can do the background work to answer these questions. With some research, you can tell an interviewer what you will do to stay current, which resources you think will be most valuable, and so forth. The fact that you’ve given these things some careful thought will set you apart from many other candidates.

Top 5 Reasons to Become a Tech Apprentice

Top 5 Reasons to Become a Tech Apprentice

There are plenty of great reasons to consider apprenticeship as the path to your tech career, and every day we see how apprenticeships change lives for the better. Based on our experience, these are the top five reasons to consider a tech apprenticeship:

Demand for Tech Personnel

Even through the pandemic, companies have been challenged to find enough qualified employees to fill their tech roles. Help desk workers are always in demand, and the cybersecurity climate continues to be a huge issue for nearly every organization, meaning a growing need for network engineers. Also, the nation’s largest financial institutions are facing a shortage of qualified mainframe/enterprise computing workers. All of these are areas of focus in our apprenticeship programs.

No College Debt

The average cost of attending college ranges from just over $11,000 per year for in-state residents at public colleges to more than $40,000 for private schools. And that’s just tuition and fees, not room and board. No wonder more and more students are considering other options. An apprenticeship track requires no college degree. You can have an in-demand, well-paying career without all the debt.

Paycheck from Day One

An apprenticeship is not an internship. You’re on the payroll with your employer from your first day, and you qualify for benefits just as every other employee does. You earn a salary at a reduced rate while you learn and achieve industry-recognized technical certifications on the job, notching a pay raise as each one is completed.

Apprenticeships Aren’t Just for Recent Graduates

Some of our apprentices are just out of high school or college. Others are parents returning to the workforce after raising a family. Still others are ex-military, or simply seeking a change from a dead-end career. Apprenticeships work especially well for those with families because all your training is done during work hours … no more night school or burning the candle at both ends.

You Won’t Go It Alone

Stepping into a new career under any circumstances can be intimidating, and there’s always the fear of taking a wrong turn. That’s why the Franklin Apprenticeships model includes a Personal Success Coach for each and every apprentice. You’ll have a weekly check-in session to make sure you’re on track with your learning and meeting your employer’s expectations. We’re with you for every step of your journey.

5 Tech Hiring Challenges, and How Apprenticeships Can Help

5 Tech Hiring Challenges, and How Apprenticeships Can Help

While the pandemic had a significant impact on employment, one longer-term trend remains unchanged: Companies continue to have major challenges with recruiting personnel to fill their empty seats in tech roles. There are many reasons why this is so, but here’s a look at five major issues … and how apprenticeships help organizations address them.

Lack of Qualified Personnel

Traditional recruitment methods produce traditional results, leaving a sense that the same pool of candidates is perpetually recycled with everyone just moving to a new seat every so often. Breaking this cycle requires fishing in some different ponds, and that’s where apprenticeships really shine.

Apprentices largely come from nontraditional sources, including people who’ve chosen not to pursue the expensive four-year college path and those returning to the workforce after military service or raising a family. And they’re diverse in more than just background, with women and minorities represented at well above industry averages.

Recruiting Costs

If you’ve hired personnel through recruiters, you’re familiar with the hefty price tag (20 percent of base pay, maybe more). And that might be fine if it led to long-term employees, but in the tech sector changing jobs frequently is almost a badge of honor.

The apprenticeship model is completely different: Candidates are paid a reduced salary while they learn on the job. And they’re trained not only on the IT skills and certifications the work requires, but on the soft skills that make them great employees. Not only do the numbers make more sense, the apprenticeship model leads to…

Engagement and Loyalty

As noted above, keeping your tech roles filled can feel like an unending game of musical chairs as candidates jump to the next opportunity that offers a few more dollars, and the next, and the next.

Our employers enjoy a 95% long-term retention rate after program completion. Why? Apprentices are reared in their specific company culture and are grateful to – and loyal to – the organizations that nurture their careers and give them the early opportunity to learn and grow.

Alignment with Company Goals

One major pitfall with candidates from traditional recruiters is that your new hire comes with old habits, not all of them good. Getting someone who’s had significant experience elsewhere to fit into your own organizational culture can be a big challenge.

Apprentices are immediately put on a track not only to check off the technical certifications your position requires, but to do their jobs your way. Weekly check-ins with both a Franklin Success Coach and an internal manager assure that tasks are not just completed but are done to your specifications.

Adjusting to Remote Work

As if successful recruiting weren’t already enough of a challenge, last year’s sudden shift to remote work added a new degree of difficulty. Recruiting, onboarding and training are much harder when they can’t be done in person.

We’ve been very successful in doing all those things remotely since long before it was a necessity. We’ve been able to supply organizations with great candidates who become great apprentices and employees by virtual means because our model was designed to do just that.

Apprenticeships in America: Catching Up

Apprenticeships in America: Catching Up

It’s no secret that the United States has lagged behind Europe – and specifically the United Kingdom – in the adoption of apprenticeships. Why is that, and are we closing the gap?

A few statistics for perspective: As recently as 2014, an article in The Atlantic noted that only about five percent of young people in the U.S. are pursuing apprenticeships versus about 60 percent in Germany. And while a Wikipedia entry predicted a doubling of U.S. apprenticeship numbers from 375,000 to 750,000 between 2014 and 2019, that number still pales in comparison to more than 2 million apprenticeships launched since 2015 in the UK, with its much smaller population.

Why Does the U.S. Lag Behind?

While those statistics include all apprenticeships, not just tech-oriented fields, the story is similar across the board. Why?

First is a simple lack of awareness. We’re working hard to spread the gospel of the apprenticeship model, which we feel is a win-win for employer and candidate alike. And we’re getting there, as top-tier organizations like IBM join us to throw their weight behind tech apprenticeships.

Still, there’s a lingering stigma among young people in America around not pursuing a four-year college degree. This has its roots in the post-World War II years, when many parents who had not had the opportunity to attend college considered it the ultimate badge of success to see their children earn diplomas.

The Future of U.S. Apprenticeships

That stigma, though, seems to be fading as reality sets in. Education costs have increased geometrically, far outpacing the cost of living. Worse, that college diploma is no longer a guarantee of high-paying employment that will pay off a potential mountain of debt. And many prospective college students are recognizing yet another financial reality: those four years spent incurring debt are four years when they could have been earning a salary instead, a double financial whammy.

A model that pays the student to learn from the first day and accomplishes this within regular working hours so the candle doesn’t need to burn at both ends, would seem to fill the bill. And that’s how an apprenticeship works. For employers, apprenticeships are an alternative to traditional (and expensive) recruiting methods to fill in-demand tech roles. And as an added benefit, the pool of apprenticeship candidates tends to be much more diverse in age, background and ethnicity than candidates reached via traditional means.

With all that working in favor of apprenticeships, we think the gap will close quickly, and the United States won’t be playing catch-up for too much longer.

The Buffalo News: M&T Bank on the hunt for diverse hires for mainframe jobs

The Buffalo News: M&T Bank on the hunt for diverse hires for mainframe jobs

The Buffalo News:

M&T Bank mainframe jobs

M&T Bank is on the hunt for diverse hires for IBM Z Mainframe jobs. Learn how Franklin Apprenticeships along with IBM and Urban Institute is helping them find and hire mainframe apprentices for their Z Development program.

 

Success Story: How Can a Success Coach Help You Start a Tech Career?

Success Story: How Can a Success Coach Help You Start a Tech Career?

The background:

Anne R. was a member of the first cohort of pre-apprentices in the Franklin Apprenticeships/UMBC program in the spring of 2020. It would be safe to say that she felt a bit lost at first.

After a few training sessions with her classmates, she wrote to her mentor, a Franklin Success coach:

“… I feel like I’m really struggling with this class. I feel like every time I go into class, everyone is speaking a different language. It seems like everyone just has previous computer science education and maybe that’s my problem? I have no formal education … I really want to be successful here and I want to find a career in this field but I’m just really lost and I don’t know what exactly the problem is. Am I under qualified or am I just not getting things?”

The power of coaching:

Situations like this one are why every apprentice has a Franklin Personal Success Coach. This call for help was heard and answered by Kathy, Anne’s coach, who responded immediately, and this attentiveness led to an hour-long conversation. Kathy provided additional resources for Anne, as well as careful and regular follow-up. We are proud to report that Anne successfully completed the five-week program with the rest of her classmates. She also received additional support from Franklin’s Success Coaching and Recruiting teams to help with resume preparation, job interview skills, and sitting for the ITIL certification exam (which she passed). The Franklin support system helped Anne to see past her anxieties to unlock her true potential and find a new career path.