i3 | November 17, 2020

Tech Apprenticeships Can Help in Uncertain Times

Pick your cliché —unprecedented, extraordinary, or just plain strange —2020 has been a year like none before. These crises —from COVID-19 to social unrest —created the need for radical and swift changes in our approach to the workforce.

During these uncertain times, creating an apprenticeship program may not seem like a workforce priority. Yet, tech apprenticeships are critical to economic recovery. Now is the time to expand apprenticeship programs to help the millions unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic get back to work faster. Maria Flynn, president and CEO of Jobs for the Future, captured this need well when she said, “the Americans first to lose their jobs in a recession are often the last hired in an upswing.” 

Apprenticeships can help us change this “first out, last in” paradigm as our economy and country begins to recover.

Jobs are available in the tech industry but there is still a skills gap between those positions and the skilled workforce. Apprenticeships are a flexible model that meets the workforce where they are in their career journey to fill available jobs. They create a pathway to serve the under-represented and unemployed by providing training for in-demand skills for workers who need it most, all while earning a liveable wage. They provide opportunity and access to those who are often overlooked in the industry, including community college students, veterans, high school graduates, career re-inventors and other under-represented communities. If anything, the pandemic reinforced the need to find ways to offer opportunities to fill high-demand, high-skilled positions.

To address the challenges of starting an apprenticeship program, CTA interviewed members of the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, each who are in a different stage of their journey to create or run an apprenticeship program. Through these interviews and industry research, CTA and our industry partner IBM created a playbook to help build stakeholder awareness and buy-in for apprenticeship programs.

The playbook covers how the pandemic has accelerated the future of work to a highly digital world of remote work and increased automation. Organizations and employees are learning how to be productive and effective remotely. How we work, where we work, and our workforce is transforming. Each of these areas must be considered for establishing and running an apprenticeship program. The playbook also covers specific use cases to meet current business challenges:

  • Facing Resource Constraints 
  • Fostering Diversity and Inclusion
  • Rebalancing the Work
  • Recruiting and Retention

Apprenticeships are key to preparing employees for the exact needs of an organization and for new demands that will emerge. They are also an important way to advance a more inclusive workforce. The future will demand more digital skills and diverse perspectives —and apprenticeships are a proven way to meet this need. Visit CTA.tech/apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship Use Cases

Resource Constraints

Businesses are resource constrained in new ways and now forced to make swift and radical workforce planning decisions. The positive return on investment (ROI) of apprenticeships can help address some resource constraint issues; and, federal, state and local funding is available to offset apprenticeship program costs, training and wages. In 2019 alone, over $300 million in new grants were awarded for apprenticeships. 

Diversity and Inclusion

Casting a wider net focusing on under-represented groups in technology will help drive innovation in the workplace while creating a culture and mindset shift to embrace the opportunity and close the skill gaps. The apprentice talent supply chain is rich with diverse talent including high school and college graduates, retail workers, service industry, first responders, veterans and more.

Rebalancing the Work

Often, senior level talent is required to perform low-level/low-margin tasks. By creating a competency-based approach to define the skills needed for each work process, organizations can better understand the work and rebalance the workload leveraging apprentices. As a result, senior talent can focus on more strategic/high-value tasks, leading to increased productivity, innovation, and employee engagement. 

Recruiting and Retention

Several entry-level skilled engineering positions often go unfulfilled by university recruiting efforts as graduates with advanced degrees seek higher skilled roles. Opening the talent pipeline to apprentices helps create a robust pipeline of talent willing to seek out new experiences to grow their skills. 

To learn more about future of work trends, including apprenticeships, join us at CES 2021.

Subscribe to i3 Magazine

I3, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry. Subscriptions to i3 are available free to qualified participants in the consumer electronics industry.