Article | November 11, 2019

How Virginia Is Building Tech Talent Through Apprenticeships

Jackie Black

Veterans possess a desire to learn, discipline, and strong teamwork and leadership skills — all valuable qualities for success in an apprenticeship program. And Northern Virginia is rich in transitioning servicemen and women who make great candidates for tech-related roles.

In honor of both Veteran’s Day and the first day of National Apprenticeship Week, it’s fitting to share how a community college and a regional technology council collaborated to create a tech apprenticeship program for veterans.

Go Virginia Grants Fund the Tech Talent Pipeline Apprenticeship Initiative

In August 2018, Virginia Governor Northam announced the Go Virginia grants to support regional collaboration and develop workforce opportunities. Northern Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church) was awarded funding for the Tech Talent Pipeline Apprenticeship Initiative, which aims to:

  1. Establish new apprenticeship roles for IT-related jobs, including cybersecurity and cloud computing.
  2. Work with 12 regional employers to establish the apprenticeship programs.
  3. Hire 400 apprentices.
  4. Build long-term sustainability for apprenticeship programs.

To accomplish these goals, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), a regional tech council representing 1,000 companies including Amazon Web Services, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, teamed up to provide employers what they needed to create an apprenticeship program specifically for veterans.

Creating an Apprenticeship Program for Veterans

NOVA serves as the apprenticeship program sponsor and intermediary. In this role, NOVA registers the apprenticeship program with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry and works closely with local employers who want to hire apprentices to develop program standards and curriculum for related technical instruction.

NVTC uses its Veterans Employment Initiative, a program that connects veterans and military spouses to tech employment opportunities in northern Virginia, as the primary recruitment tool for the apprentices and a conduit for employer participation.

“Work-based learning centered on training, such as tech certification and corporate mentoring, is a perfect way to leverage the leadership and managerial expertise that exists in the veteran and military spouse communities,” said Steve Jordan, executive director, Veterans Employment Initiative.

Together, NVTC and NOVA work with the area’s tech employers, including, Northrop Grumman and Telos, to create apprenticeship programs that best meet the company’s hiring needs.

Flexibility in apprenticeship programs is crucial to enable them to keep pace with rapid developments in the technology, including changes in software and certification criteria.

“One of the unique things that community colleges are positioned to do through instruction is be flexible to employer needs,” said Melanie Stover, director of corporate and workforce engagement, NOVA.

The veteran apprentices are paid from day one and learn the critical skills necessary to succeed in tech-related roles.

“An apprenticeship program signals that a company is making an investment in you,” said Stover. “It’s investing in your professional growth, by training and mentoring you, and putting you on a path to succeed there.”

Inspiring More Apprenticeship Programs

Consumer Technology Association® (CTA) member, based in Tysons, Virginia, saw the value in veteran apprenticeship and is creating its own program with support from NVTC, NOVA and the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition.’s first group of apprentices will start in January 2020 in test analyst and IT analyst roles.

“We are thrilled to launch the Apprenticeship Program, which provides a pathway for successful transition from military service to the technology field in an earn-while-you-learn, competency-based model including classroom instruction, on-the-job technical learning and individualized mentoring,” said Victoria Schillinger, vice president, human resources,

“ is innovating our recruitment and talent development practices through our apprenticeship program and gaining the benefit of employing exceptional veterans who have served our nation.”

On this Veteran’s Day, CTA thanks veterans for their service and supports their transition to tech careers through apprenticeship.