The Apprenticeship Path to IT Employment
For a significant chunk of European history — as far back as the 12th century, more than 800 years ago — apprenticeship was a primary means for training up young people in any of a broad range of trades, crafts and professions. The foundation of an apprenticeship was a long-term, ongoing relationship with a teacher (called a master) who would work daily with the apprentice.
Young learners would gradually progress through a fairly standard seven-year period of study and labor. After apprenticeship, and before attaining master status — at which point a tradesman could take on apprentices of his or her own — newly trained workers would become journeymen.
A journeyman would retain their relationship with (and obligations to) their master, but be able to travel around and practice their trade or craft. The apprenticeship system remains alive and well in the 21st century, and many of the broad strokes of what we've just discussed can still be seen in hands-on trades and crafts.
An apprenticeship model is still used to teach and train plumbers, masons, bricklayers, carpenters, welders, pipefitters, boilermakers, and ironworkers, to name just a few. These are the so-called "skilled trades." Here's a longer list of 72 such vocations.
Where and How IT Enters Into This Picture
I've been reading about the nuts and bolts of apprenticeship programs in the IT sphere for years now. My recollection of all of this spiked this morning while perusing a press release issued by tech industry association and global IT certification leader CompTIA. Dated Sept. 21, it bears the following headline: RapidAscent, Inc. announces approval by the State of California for Cyber Security Apprenticeship Program.
This new program provides vocational training in cybersecurity to qualified candidates, and then seeks to place them in high-demand jobs to help address a national and global shortage of cybersecurity professionals. A particular focus for this program is to identify and train up recently separated (or ready-to-separate) members of the armed forces, especially those with military operational specializations in and around various aspects of security (physical, cyber, and more).
I've written about such programs in the past here at GoCertify, including a series of offerings from Microsoft piloted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that included a security track (circa 2018). This RA program includes no-cost options for qualified candidates leaving the military "to gain a skillset in a rapidly expanding field and can let them continue to serve the country in a cybersecurity role with a government agency or government contractor."
This is a well-known phenomenon for vets who've obtained security clearances in the past, and are thus much easier to qualify for role that involve working with sensitive systems and information.
CompTIA Apprenticeships for Tech
What makes the RA program especially interesting is that it's part of CompTIA's Apprenticeships for Tech (CAFT), a U.S.-focused program that seeks to bring qualified and trained IT workers together with industries that need such people. The idea is to cultivate a skilled tech workforce that's ready for full-time IT employment.
An influx of such workers would help companies and organizations develop a talent pipeline while reducing hiring costs and taking advantage of employer financial incentives (grants, free training programs, tax breaks, and so forth). The Apprenticeship.gov website tackles things from the would-be IT workers' perspective.
Apprenticeship.gov provides a wealth of information about what options and opportunities are available, including links for career seekers, employers, and educators. All of these lead to specific coverage of what's out there for each such role in the apprenticeship game.
Obviously, CompTIA seeks to expand on such offerings so that worker shortages in many key areas — including cybersecurity, but also finance, software development, hardware and test technicians, systems administrators, and more — can be matched with apprentices graduating from related programs that prepare them explicitly to fill such jobs.
It's a great idea, and offers a fast, low-cost path to entry-level workers and career changes who may not have time or means necessary to earn a four-year degree.