Formal ICT apprenticeship programs: Why not in the USA?
- By Professor Steve Linthicum
- Published May 21, 2014
Could info tech apprenticeships enhance technology education (and build a better tech workforce) in the United States?
“On April 16, 2014, the President and Vice President announced new federal investments using existing funds to support job-driven training, like apprenticeships, that will expand partnerships with industry, businesses, unions, community colleges, and training organizations to train workers in the skills they need. Employers, unions, and foundations are joining these efforts with new commitments to support job-driven training.”
The decision of the President and Vice President as outlined above makes a great deal of sense if we can successfully “connect the dots.” From the perspective of a full-time faculty member at one of the 112 colleges in California’s community college system, a “dot” that needs to be connected in order for this effort to succeed is the relationship between the nation’s community colleges and key industry participants that can together create learning paths that can effectively achieve the characteristics of “apprenticeship programs.”
Research time spent attempting to tie “apprenticeship programs” in the United States to “information and communication technologies (ICT),” left me wondering why my efforts were less than stellar. The disappointment was justified as I widened my research with a global lens, finding a number of programs carrying the “apprenticeship” label, where companies that have their roots here in the United States have created programs in foreign countries, designed to support job-driven training.
Examples include IBM, with its United Kingdom operation supporting an apprenticeship program that appears directed at “school-leavers.” In attracting “leavers,” IBM’s message on its website is:
Whether you’re taking a gap year out before heading off to university or you’ve decided that university isn’t for you, our school leaver programmes will enable you to jump straight into the world of work and gain the experience, skills and contacts you need to bring to life the smartest solutions to the toughest challenges.
In return, we’ll give you everything you need to build the career you want. But it’s up to you how it goes. You’ll be the one in charge, putting forward ideas, taking on responsibilities and making choices about how you get the job done.
So what are you waiting for?
As part of this program IBM has developed a structured apprenticeship pathway that includes a three-year commitment. Participants are given the opportunity to continue their learning to achieve the Advanced Apprenticeship for IT Professionals qualification in the first 18 months, leading up to Higher Apprenticeship qualifications that focus on either technical or business areas.
Technical apprentices can achieve qualifications consisting of:
● Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence and in ICT Systems & Principles.
● Level 4 Diploma in Professional Competence for IT & Telecoms Professionals and in Computing & Systems Development.
Business apprentices can achieve qualifications consisting of:
● Level 3 & 4 Diplomas in Business & Administration,
● A Certificate in Principles of Business & Administration.
While not as comprehensive, Dell has developed another apprenticeship program. In partnership with the Malaysian government, Dell has an eight (8) month program. Areas of study include technical writing, business presentations, IT essentials, Internetworking, and operating system training.
Last year, Cisco Systems joined this group of USA based companies, announcing its “validated apprentice programmes in the UK, in an evening event that will feature attendees from partners including Pearson, reseller Partners and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).”
Efforts in the United States appear more directed towards internships, selecting students from the nation’s colleges and universities for potential internships. Intel, for example, with its web based “United States Student Center,” identifies opportunities for college students or those who have graduated within the past 18 months.
Evidence suggests that in order for the term “job-driven training” to have the sort of meaning the President and the Vice President desire, key participants like the nation’s community colleges and ICT industry giants like Cisco, IBM, Dell, Intel and Microsoft, need to work together, developing and promoting structured apprenticeship programs like those identified above. From the perspective of a career and technical education faculty member, I’d appreciate the challenge of assisting in program development designed to provide my students with a head start in their ICT related careers.
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