Trend Toward IT Apprenticeships Picking Up Steam

Apprentice happy guy at work

Apprenticeship is an approach to training the next generation of practitioners of a trade or profession primarily through on-the-job application of their skills under the close supervision of an experienced craftsman.

 

The idea is as old as human civilization, but became systematized during the later Middle Ages after famine and the Black Plague killed off half of the population of Europe and drastically increased the value of labor. There have been a number of tweaks across time, but that form of apprenticeship is re-emerging in 2017 — more about that in a second.

 

With an increased value in their labor, thousands of peasants began moving between principalities and kingdoms in pursuit of the same thing almost all people want — more money and a better standard of living. Of course, it helped to be a skilled worker such as a mason, glazier, cooper, carpenter, blacksmith, butcher, or baker. In response, trade guilds arose in towns and cities as a means of ensuring that those claiming to offer "skilled labor" were indeed skilled.

 

It was a simple process: An established citizen with a successful record in a trade — a master craftsman — would take on young people as an inexpensive form of labor and, over time, train them in the craft. In return for their labor, the master craftsman would provide food and lodging.

 

Eventually, apprentices would pick up enough knowledge and skill in the craft to become "journeymen," with the authority to offer their services directly to customers. If the journeyman was good at his trade and had a mind for business, he could eventually open a workshop and take on apprentices of his own.

 

Apprentices served an important role in a guild's ability to meet the needs of a town and region. It's an old idea, one whose time has come around again, and one which could help the IT Industry bridge the current skills-gap.

 

One organization leading out in this effort is CompTIA and its IT-Ready program, a free eight-week intensive classroom-based education and training program that seeks students from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the field.

 

Participants generally come from the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed, displaced workers, women, ethnic minorities, and veterans. In just a couple of months, these individuals are prepped and ready to fill entry-level IT jobs and have certifications validating their knowledge and abilities.

 

Apprentice two women at computer

Another un-harvested crop of future IT pros includes tech students who were under-trained in college. According to CompTIA's Assessing the IT Skills Gap report, 87 percent of IT and business executives surveyed agreed with the following statement: "Colleges are not sufficiently preparing students for today's jobs." This includes positions in cybersecurity, a domain ranked among the poll's top five IT skills gap areas.

 

The idea here would be to place students in multi-summer internships where students work for the same, or a similar, organization with the promise of being hired upon graduation. Working elbows deep in the real world of IT can give a student a better grasp of the importance and effectiveness of their training than sitting in a classroom and doing exercises that often have little real-world relevance.

 

This idea is being successfully implemented by New York City's Success Via Apprenticeship (SVA) Program — a collaborative project of the New York City Department of Education, the teacher's union and the City University of New York (CUNY). The SVA program trains individuals who have a passion for teaching and learning and prepares them to become CTE teachers. The SVA program consists of three components:

 

? Teaching Internship
? Industrial Work Experience
? Post-Secondary Academic Study

 

Participants gain valuable work and educational experience as well as preparation for becoming CTE teachers by spending two years teaching in a classroom setting and an additional three years working full-time in various job positions. Although SVA focuses on those wanting to become CTE teachers, the idea is easily applicable to other IT fields.

 

IT apprenticeships hold great promise for organizations willing to invest a little time and money in developing their pool of future employees. This idea is also a great path forward for high-school and college students who already have certifications or are currently earning them.

 

If you happen to be such a student, throw caution to the wind, knock on a few doors and pitch yourself as a solution to helping an organization meet its present and future IT needs. Fortune is a fickle mistress, but she loves the strong and smiles her favor on the brave.

 

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About the Author
Calvin Harper

Calvin Harper is a writer, editor, and publisher who has covered a variety of topics across more than two decades in media. Calvin is a former GoCertify associate editor.