How Apprenticeships Can Give Employers an Edge

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Learning is a hot topic in the business media. They had already been gain popularity in the years leading up to 2020, steadily increasing in number since 2011. Despite a lull during the pandemic, they are again being hailed as a way to facilitate economic recovery, including helping employers fill more jobs in local regions and Industries where there are specific types of shortages.


While apprenticeships can indeed play an important role in economic recovery and solving labor shortages in specific regions and industries, they can also be a powerful way to enhance DEI goals, whether many companies had pledged to prioritize at the height of the Black Lives Matters protests. in 2020. Simply having a learning program is not guaranteed to achieve these goals, however, and the particular ways in which learnings are carried out make a big difference to their outcomes.

For employers who want to maximize the benefits of learning to meet their specific needs, they would do well to look to higher education and do so in a way that goes against past convention.

Look beyond the baccalaureate

In the past, employers traditionally viewed the baccalaureate as a credible pre-screening. By expanding this vision to include the associate degree, especially in conjunction with apprenticeships, they can tap into a larger and more diverse body of talent much earlier in the pipeline. Community colleges are where most black and Latino students begin their journey into higher education, regardless of their GPA. Many ambitious high achieving students choose community colleges for various reasons. By focusing on the bachelor’s degree, employers are missing out on a tremendous pool of talent, not to mention the opportunity to improve their DEI scores.

In addition, by turning to community colleges to fill apprenticeship positions, employers can not only tap into a broader and more diverse talent pool, but they can also play a key role in further training and of the continuing education of these students. A very high percentage of young Latinx adults, for example, express a desire to earn a four-year college degree. Many, however, must interrupt his studies for various reasons such as financial pressures or family obligations. Almost half of college-going Latinx students therefore attend community college, as it is often seen as a cost-effective route to starting their careers earlier and supporting their families while earning some sort of degree, if not a four-year degree.

Learning partnerships with community colleges could therefore be a way for companies to not only take advantage of this large pool of talent sooner, but also facilitate the ongoing training of the employees they hire in this way. After all, four-year establishments are now count on transfers over two years in a way they’ve never had to before. By working with higher education institutions to form credit-generating and transferable apprenticeships, these employees can potentially acquire new skills and qualifications through upgrading or retraining and then apply them in the same companies. We know from research that employers who invest in the ongoing training and education of their employees inspire greater loyalty of these employees. This could be a win-win for everyone: employers, four-year colleges, community colleges, and students.

Collaborate with higher education institutions

Fortunately, there are models of collaboration in specific sectors that employers and higher education institutions can learn from. With the increased need for nurses during the pandemic, for example, hospitals and health systems reach in their respective communities to develop apprenticeship programs in conjunction with community colleges so that students can earn money while learning. This opened up the field of nursing to a more diverse student body. While much of this may have been driven by sheer necessity, the saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” is very much true.

While there are many specific actions businesses and schools can take to create successful collaborations, there needs to be a highly structured and organized system with both parties clearly communicating their needs and what they want from the partnership. There must be fast feedback loops so that both parties are constantly updated on the results in real time. For this reason, resource people, even entire teams, are needed on both the college and employer side whose roles are dedicated to making the collaboration work. All of this is easier said than done. Collaboration can be very difficult, especially now with the added complexity of hybrid learning and working situations.

One way for employers and schools to navigate these complexities is through an intermediary specifically designed to facilitate collaboration. An example of such an intermediary is an organization for which I previously served as founding executive director, Year up to At New York. This organization partners with both colleges and employers to place apprenticeship students in the business sector. Another example is Jobs for the future (JFF), a well-established anchor intermediary and knowledge center for apprenticeships, where I am also a board member. There are many such intermediaries, some of which are supported by the government in its ongoing commitment to strengthen apprenticeship programs in the United States. Employers looking for potential partners or intermediaries can use resources such as Finding Partners.

When something becomes trendy, it’s tempting to want to jump on the bandwagon as quickly as possible. However, to ensure that the trend is not just a passing fad but an enduring development, companies must invest the time and care necessary to conduct the process in a way that leads to the desired results.

Lisette Nieves is the President of the Fund for the City of New York (FCNY), an institution responsible for developing and helping to implement innovations in policies, programs, practices and technology to advance the functioning of organizations governmental and non-profit organizations in New York. and beyond. Prior to the Fund, Lisette was Director of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and Full Clinical Professor at New York University Steinhardt. Lisette is also a distinguished clinical teacher at NYU, supervising doctoral students and supporting research initiatives.


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Norma A. Roth