May 30, 2020
Apprenticeship and other work-based learning programs provide IT businesses with an effective way to grow and diversify their workforces. As long as the tech industry continues to expand—and the number of IT jobs in other industries continues to rise—demand for highly skilled IT professionals will remain strong. However, many IT occupations are beyond the reach of people who aren’t already working in the field or who don’t have a postsecondary credential.
Pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs can break down barriers preventing people from pursuing IT jobs in a number of ways. For one thing, they provide participants with opportunities to gain the real-world work experience and industry-recognized credentials that employers value. Moreover, in addition to helping trainees master essential technical skills, these programs help people develop the employability skills that are essential to entering and advancing in a profession like IT. And on top of that, work-based learning programs enable participants to build social capital by providing them with meaningful connections to IT employers and experienced tech professionals.
To be effective, IT-focused work-based learning programs such as apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships should be developed in alignment with industry standards of professional expertise and proficiency, and they should include a meaningful amount of employer engagement.
A reliable way to ensure that a program will truly help participants develop skills that are in demand in the IT labor market is to get employers involved. Partners from the business community can offer valuable insights to guide the development of training coursework, and they may be willing to facilitate hands-on training activities.
The greater the degree of employer involvement, the greater the likelihood that they will support the apprenticeship model. That’s important because some employers have voiced concerns about the length of traditional pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, citing fears that the skills participants gain could be outdated by the time they finish their training, given the rapid pace at which technologies and IT credentials are evolving.
Engaging employers in the design and delivery of apprenticeships can help mitigate their concerns by giving them an opportunity to see firsthand how work-based learning activities and hands-on training, combined with classroom instruction, quality career exploration opportunities, and wraparound supports, strengthen participants’ technical skills and overall levels of job readiness.