Why the Apprenticeship Model is Succeeding in Corporate America
“For Americans and our economy to thrive, our workers need the education and training required to fill the digital economy jobs of today and tomorrow. In many cases, that training and education isn’t always tied to a four-year degree,” said Bob Kress, Managing Director of Accenture Security, Accenture.
In an analysis of more than 26 million job postings, the degree gap -“a discrepancy between the demand for a college degree in job postings and the employees who are currently in that job who have a college degree” - was found to be significant, according to a study by Accenture, Harvard Business School, and Grads of Life. The study attributes degree inflation to two key factors: the fast-changing nature of many middle-skills jobs and employers’ misperceptions of the economics of investing in quality talent at the non-graduate level.
“We teamed with i.c.stars, a technology and leadership boot camp for underserved young adults, to create our CIO Analyst internship to bring in talented individuals whom have the training, but not necessarily the degree” said Kress. The strong talent pipeline that developed as a result of this internship program developed in 2008 was the beginning of Accenture’s journey to evolve how it recruits for entry-level roles.”
Building on the success of this internship talent pipeline, Accenture next partnered with Wilbur Wright College, part of City Colleges of Chicago, to build an apprenticeship program designed to help apprentices become job ready for technology roles. This new earn-and-learn program provides on-the-job learning to develop proficiency in targeted technology areas, supplemented by soft skills to augment the individual’s performance and ready them for success. Upon completing the twelve-month apprenticeship program, individuals have the potential to take on a full-time role with Accenture.
“We believe that apprenticeship programs, particularly at the local level, are critical to igniting a spark of interest in technology fields and ultimately building a pipeline to help address the skills gap in the U.S.” said Kress.
In year one, the twelve-month program started with five participants from the Wilbur Wright College; in year two, Accenture brought on eight apprentices, six of whom were hired full-time. Now in year three, the program has brought on 27 participants across internal IT and the client facing business. Five i.c.stars graduates are among this group; Kevin Williams is one of them.
“My overall experience has been amazing. Accenture provided every new joiner with the tools and resources needed to jump-start their career,” said Williams. A client-facing apprentice, Williams plans to get his agile certification (PMI-ACP) within the next six months.
Coaching and mentoring has been important to the success of the program. “In the first year, there was a fair amount of coaching, spending time with not only employees but supervisors as well,” said Melissa Summers. “Success from the first year made it easy to identify new projects. Supervisors were talking about the great experience, so others approached me about participating.”
Apprentices are advancing professionally at Accenture. “The talent that we’re getting from these organizations is not only diverse, which leads to more innovative solutions,” said Summers. “But we’ve also seen career growth – first-year apprentices are progressing through the organization.”
“One of the objectives of the apprenticeship program is to broaden the workforce. Whether you look at cyber or IT in general, there’s a shortage of talent,” said Kress. “Through the apprenticeship program and working with programs like the City Colleges and i.c.stars, there is an opportunity to broaden the workforce and give back to the community. It’s a win for everyone.”
“When I’ve talked to employees that are involved in mentoring apprentices, they say how rewarding they find the experience and that it has increased their level of engagement. Not only are they helping to grow the knowledge and skills of others, it is also helping them to grow professionally as well.” said Caroline DeVinck, Strategic Program and Operations Manager, U.S. Corporate Citizenship, Accenture.
In 2017, Accenture and Aon co-founded the Chicago Apprentices Network, which convenes companies from across the Chicagoland area, including McDonald’s, Walgreens, and Zurich, that are committed to expanding professional advancement through apprenticeship programs. “The biggest challenges for new employers is usually the apprehension to engage a talent pool that they haven’t embraced before; these events help with that,” said Summers.
For Williams, confidence as well as hard skills learned through i.c.stars prepared him for the apprenticeship. Most importantly, i.c.stars cultivated his desire to pay forward his skills. “I will continue to provide the tools/resources within my network to ensure those around me are growing as well,” said Williams.