Apprenticeships are nothing new. But business is taking a fresh look at how to use them to generate a talent pipeline for white-collar jobs. Potential occupations for expansion include jobs in finance, insurance, supply chain management, telecommunications, and information technology. According to analysis by Burning Glass Technologies and the Harvard Business School, the core occupational groups for apprenticeships could triple from 27 occupations to 74, increasing the number of apprenticeship opportunities to 3.3 million.
The benefits are clear: Apprenticeships provide paid on-the-job training and real-world experience for individuals to develop the skills that employers value. This helps those new to the workforce transition from the education realm into the business world, or it can aid already skilled workers make a shift in industry or job role.
Unlike internships, apprenticeships typically occur over a longer period of time and lead to a full-time job. And while starting salaries for apprenticeships may be lower at first, they pay off in the long run. Mathematica Policy Research found that those who complete apprenticeship programs in the United States earn an average of $250,000 more in their lifetime than those who do not. By some estimates, technology-focused apprenticeships can even pay up to 50 percent more annually.
Pallavi Verma is a senior managing director for Accenture who oversees its business in the Midwest United States and leads the firm's national apprentice program. She notes that apprenticeships "provide the candidate with the training and mentorship needed to develop proficiency in targeted business and technology areas, supplemented by soft skills to augment the individual's performance and ready them for success."
Meeting a business need
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are more than 7 million job openings in the country and only 6.1 million available workers--and many of those workers are lacking the right skills to fill the open jobs. Rapid changes in technology and emerging business models are making it more important than ever to prepare workers not only for their current jobs but also for the types of jobs that will be in demand in the future.
"This is the largest mismatch ever recorded, but the disconnect goes deeper than connecting employers and job seekers. We are experiencing a skills scarcity that is a defining feature of today's economy and a major obstacle for many U.S. companies," Verma explains.
However, many industry leaders claim that the traditional four-year degrees that colleges and universities provide fail to help students graduate with the skills necessary to secure high-paying jobs. Companies are pursuing white-collar apprenticeships because of their potential for retaining workers and helping to close these enduring and persistent skills gaps.
For instance, as technologies evolve and automate, the skill level needed to meet these requirements increases. Just consider entry-level jobs in IT such as quality assurance or help desk technicians. Those were once good entry points to building a tech career, but today they are shrinking options. The new entry point for an IT career is a middle-skill level such as software developer,...