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.

Still Hiring for a Cultural Fit? Or a Better Culture?

Still Hiring for a Cultural Fit? Or a Better Culture?

When you interview a candidate, you’re probably looking for not only the technical skills required for any given position, but also a sense that the person sitting across from you (or on the other end of that Zoom call) shares the attitudes, values and beliefs you associate with your organization … the so-called “cultural fit.” You might even give preference to candidates who’ve been referred to you by existing employees, a leading indicator that they’ll bring those same values to the table.

On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. The hiring and onboarding processes represent a large investment of time and resources, and it’s only fitting that you should be comfortable with a new hire beyond their technical abilities.

But there’s a potential pitfall there as well: Hiring people who all think and behave in the same ways means you’ll continue to do things in the same ways, and for most companies that’s a recipe for being left behind.

Nearly every organization has a stated goal of improving diversity, but perhaps it’s time to start thinking beyond different boxes checked on an application and consider diversity of thought. Who are the applicants whose background gives them a different worldview than your existing team, and what can they bring to the table?

New ideas. Solutions your current team might be missing. Better ways of doing things that you’re missing due to the blinders of “our culture.” The world is changing around us, and if you’re still hiring for the same culture as you were a decade ago you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Think less about a cultural fit and more about a cultural add. Probe for creativity and new ways of thinking in your interview process, and then encourage that mindset in the workplace. There are many, many candidates out there ready to challenge your ways of thinking and make your organization better in the process.

Learn how apprenticeships can add new dimensions to your company culture: Contact Franklin Apprenticeships.

Tech Apprenticeships: Overcoming Fear in Uncertain Times

Tech Apprenticeships: Overcoming Fear in Uncertain Times

By design, apprenticeships address many significant issues faced by hiring managers and their organizations. Are apprenticeships still a viable answer in these times of remote work and budget cuts? A new report says, emphatically, “yes.”

The report, titled “Advancing Tech Apprenticeships,” was produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), who in conjunction with IBM have launched the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition. It notes that apprenticeships now represent a viable “fifth option” to the four traditional hiring pipelines: experienced hires, college graduates, interns and co-ops. And now more than ever, apprenticeships meet the hiring and retention challenges faced by many organizations.

The report outlines four specific areas where apprenticeships answer those needs:

Resource constraints: Organizations have been forced to make swift and often radical workforce planning decisions, often with more limited resources than in the past. The positive ROI of apprenticeship programs helps to address these shortfalls, and federal, state and local funding is often available to mitigate program costs. More than $300 million in new grants were awarded in 2019 alone.

Rebalancing work: Senior-level talent is often required to perform low-margin tasks, and that’s never been the case more than this year, when many companies have scrambled simply to keep functioning in a work-from-home environment. Apprenticeships create a competency-based approach to define the skills needed for each work process, rebalancing the workload and freeing senior personnel to focus on high-value tasks.

Diversity and inclusion: In a recent survey, the vast majority of organizations expressed ‘greater diversity and inclusion’ as a stated goal. The CTA report notes: “The apprentice talent supply chain is rich with diverse talent including high school and college graduates, retail and service industry workers, first responders, veterans and more.”

Recruiting and retention: Entry-level skilled engineering positions often go unfilled as degree holders seek higher-level roles. Companies opening their doors to apprentices find a robust pipeline of talent seeking entry-level positions and a chance to grow their skill sets. And while retention has been an especially thorny problem with traditional hiring methods, employers have enjoyed a 95% long-term retention rate with our apprenticeship programs.

There is no doubt that the pandemic of 2020 has accelerated changes to the future of the workplace. The CTA report confirms that apprenticeships are uniquely positioned to meet those changes.

The complete CTA report is available for download here. Questions about apprenticeship programs for your organization? Contact Franklin Apprenticeships.

Tech Hires: Onboarding in a Work-From-Home Environment

Tech Hires: Onboarding in a Work-From-Home Environment

Finding and training new hires is hard enough in normal times, and the work-from-home (WFH) environment has added many new layers of difficulty to the process. How do you onboard a new team member when they’re literally not on board? It’s no wonder many companies have hit the hiring “Pause” button.

You absolutely can find and train new hires remotely. Here’s how to succeed:

The interview. We’ve been interviewing candidates by video since long before the 2020 lockdown. It just makes sense, and is a better use of everyone’s time, especially for the initial rounds. Our recruiters maintain that they can learn at least 90% of what they need to know in a remote interview.

The in-person part. Once they’re hired, bring them in to issue the company laptop and any other required equipment. This is a critical moment, and an opportunity to demonstrate how committed you are to their success. Be ready with a training deck, syllabus, schedule and anything else they’ll need to know about their training regimen. These tools show the new hire you are prepared and ready for their arrival.

Boot camp first. The first 30 days should be intense and training-focused. It’s not unusual for new hires to spend most of the day in training, role-playing or mock presentations. Include them in any group meetings as well, even if they’re not yet qualified to participate. When everyone is working separately it’s more important than ever to foster a sense of working as a team.

Close the loop. Don’t assume everything is going to plan. Check learning with end-of-week quizzes or other exercises to help you audit both the training and the trainers. Use this opportunity to check in with your new hires as well: How are they doing? Is the training overwhelming them? This feedback can help you make vital adjustments to your onboarding program.

When does it end? Never. You’ve now built some good habits for incorporating training into the workday … keep them going. A daily session of 10 – 30 minutes or so is ideal, even if just to share real-world challenges and solutions among team members. Who had a really sticky customer problem and how was it resolved? Whether your team is at home or in the office, training should never stop.

Questions about remote onboarding, or how apprenticeships can help? Contact Franklin Apprenticeships.

The Role of Trade Unions in the US Apprenticeship Arena

The Role of Trade Unions in the US Apprenticeship Arena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a few goals I am working on concurrently:

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

OneFile Introduces Apprenticeship Software to US Audience

OneFile Introduces Apprenticeship Software to US Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, what does OneFile have in store for 2017?

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

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

7 Problems Apprenticeships Solve That Traditional Education Doesn’t

7 Problems Apprenticeships Solve That Traditional Education Doesn’t

Re-imagined Programs Create Win-Win Opportunities for Everyone. 

At the recent Celebration of Apprenticeships Conference in London, Franklin Apprenticeships co-founder Tom Bewick chaired a panel discussion about American Apprenticeship expansion. Bewick, a source of knowledge for UK apprenticeship training providers, led a vibrant discussion about the burgeoning commercial opportunities in the United States, where a major apprenticeship expansion effort is currently underway. 

Expert panel discussion focused on the various opportunities for British companies to bring their highly successful apprenticeship programs to the US. These include:

  1. Filling the critical skills gap in high growth industries such as IT, Financial Services and Advanced Manufacturing
  2. Advancing US STEM initiatives with a wider range of non-traditional apprenticeships. Currently in the US, apprenticeships are dominated by military and traditional trades. UK companies can introduce US companies to apprenticeship programs in such industries as creative arts, healthcare, IT, media, professional services, and digital office.
  3. Adding diversity in the apprentice pool and the workforce – Program expansion into non-traditional apprenticeship sectors invites participation by more women and minorities.
  4. Bettering job prestige at the entry level – especially in the high tech and health care industries.
  5. Improving ROI for corporate job training programs.
  6. Creating standards for employees and employers with qualifications and skills assessments.
  7. Adjusting training budgets make apprenticeship programs affordable for smaller companies, and scalable for larger companies.

So what’s missing? Why haven’t more US companies adopted the apprenticeship model? While companies see apprenticeships as a solution, they typically don’t know how to get started. That’s where there is tremendous opportunity to take content from the UK and other international programs and configure it for US companies. Fast tracking programs and streamlining support can help to speed US adoption.

For more insight about apprenticeship programs in the US, please contact Kim Nichols, CEO, Franklin Apprenticeships.

Watch the full panel discussion here: