Last week’s election results will soon usher in a divided Congress in Washington. While we can no doubt anticipate lively policy debate in the foreseeable future, one issue where there is bipartisan agreement – both within Congress and the administration – is the need for successful workforce development programs. It is essential that we equip our workforce with the proper skills to qualify for the jobs of tomorrow, today. An effective way to do this is by continuing to offer targeted, high-impact apprenticeships.
This week marks the fourth annual National Apprenticeship Week, which highlights the critical role these programs play in developing a highly-skilled workforce in the United States that meets the demands of a wide-range of employers such as those in the tech industry.
While traditional four-year degrees are beneficial to many, others can find equal success through different channels. Apprenticeships offer individuals with high-quality training, practical experience, and skills that can be transferred to various full-time positions, including opportunities to create the next smartphone, application, or transformative medical device that could change the world around us.
Additionally, apprenticeships generate economic value for employers and employees alike. According to the Department of Commerce, for every dollar allocated towards these programs, employers receive a return on their investment of approximately $1.50, while employees who participate in apprenticeship programs earn an estimated $300,000 more over the course of their careers when compared to their peers who do not.
Already, tech companies offer a diverse set of programs for workers across the country. For instance, Accenture’s latest partnership with Columbus State Community College provides a year-long apprenticeship program where students get hands-on experience with advanced technologies. IBM’s Apprenticeship Program creates pathways to employment for candidates without an advanced degree in the hope that they can fill an open STEM job within IBM or another company. In addition, Microsoft’s LEAP Engineering Acceleration Program offers individuals with non-traditional backgrounds or those returning to the workplace a 16-week, real-world experience through development and project management apprenticeships, and Amazon’s Technical Apprenticeship looks to train military veterans for tech jobs, including those in cloud computing.
By gaining these experiences, individuals are better equipped to fill the roughly 3.3 million open science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs across the country. And these opportunities exist within and outside of the tech industry. For example, farmers throughout the Midwest now utilize smart agricultural equipment to maximize crop yields, while energy companies in Texas are in high demand of researchers and engineers to tap into new energy sources, and manufacturers in South Carolina and other states are looking for skilled workers to build autonomous vehicles and usher in the next era of transportation.
National Apprenticeship Week serves as a valuable reminder that we must continue to work towards finding creative ways to ensure all individuals – from students to those transitioning to a new career – are able to acquire new skillsets and take advantage of the opportunities that exist within our industry and beyond. And the success of America’s workers, surely, is one area where our soon-to-be divided government can find common ground.