This report highlights issues and strategies for employer engagement gleaned from interviews with eight US DOL American Apprenticeship Initiative grantees implementing technology apprenticeship programs in collaboration with state registered apprenticeship and local education partners.

The goal of this report is to highlight effective employer engagement practices and identify key lessons learned from implementing technology-focused apprenticeship programs. As of March 2018, there were 6.6 million job vacancies in the US, signaling a shortage of skilled workers. Furthermore, a 2017 McKinsey survey of young people and employers reported that 40 percent of employers said a lack of skills was the principal reason for entry-level job vacancies, which demonstrates that the current education and training systems do not provide the competencies that businesses need to close the talent gap. Alternative approaches to education and training—such as apprenticeships—offer a potential solution by providing workers and learners with the skills and credentials needed to work in the occupations with the most demand in the 21st-century workforce.

To identify effective practices, JFF interviewed eight individuals who are implementing these types of programs through the American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI) to answer four questions:
1. How are tech apprenticeship programs engaging employers?
2. How do these programs identify employer hiring and training needs?
3. What are the primary barriers faced when working with employers to develop apprenticeship programs?
4. How are apprenticeship programs addressing barriers to employer engagement?

This report summarizes the findings from those interviews and the primary audience are the member colleges of the Enhancing Programs for IT Certification (EPIC) consortium in Kentucky. In 2015, this consortium was awarded a US Department of Labor Round IV Trade Adjustment Assistance and Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant. Led by Hazard Community and Technical College, the project developed online courses in computer information technologies and medical information technology to meet the growing demand for flexible training options in the state.

Working with the state apprenticeship agency and local workforce boards, the colleges held a series of webinars, in-person meetings, and information sessions to raise awareness about apprenticeship programs and state resources available to employers who may be interested in developing more targeted training to meet their IT skills needs. Despite these efforts, no regional employers engaged with the colleges to pursue this opportunity.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Interviews revealed nine common issues and strategies used by AAI grantees to connect with IT-sector employers.  An overarching barrier to engagement perceived by the interviewees was a lack of understanding in the technology industry of registered apprenticeships and how the earn and learn model can address the skills gap.  Strategies to better engage the technology industry and particular businesses include recognizing that

  • ·ongoing industry outreach and engagement throughout the entire duration of the apprenticeship program is essential to creating a successful apprenticeship program,
  • partnerships with local technology councils can aid in ongoing industry outreach and engagement,
  • registered apprenticeship programs must be co-developed with business and industry to meet current business needs,
  • registered apprenticeship programs must be agile to adapt to changing employer and participant needs,
  • employer incentives can spur employers to engage, and
  • a group sponsorship model may help individual businesses overcome barriers to engagement