One of the hardest parts of finding and starting a new career is the acquisition of the necessary skills to be successful. Not being able to fulfill all of the job application requirements can be a deterrent from pursuing a great opportunity.
Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS), a nonprofit working to grow Arkansas' information technology (IT) talent pool, developed an apprenticeship program to help job seekers overcome this common barrier.
The ACDS IT apprenticeship provides customized IT training that runs concurrently with a full-time, paid position where participants are able to immediately use their new skills. To be considered, ACDS asks individuals to upload their resume to the ACDS site and complete an assessment. Based on the number of available positions, ACDS shares resumes with employers. If an ACDS candidate receives a full-time offer of employment, they will be able to participate in the one-year apprenticeship that will include customized training developed by their new employer and ACDS. Because the program is based on actual open positions in the IT field, it may take up to six months for an applicant to be placed.
While the apprenticeship is certainly considered an opportunity to develop work experience, it is distinguishable from an internship. While internships can be a short-term opportunity with no pay, the ACDS apprenticeship guarantees a full year of paid, full-time work. Since each apprenticeship is tailored to each individual position, employees are usually welcomed to stay in the job beyond the apprenticeship. Participants are assigned a mentor to help them through the process, and ACDS works with employers to guarantee a pay raise within the year for those who successfully complete the program.
While the apprenticeship model for hiring IT positions is still a new concept in Arkansas, ACDS is confident about its continued success. Currently, there is a shortage of IT workers for the number of open positions – for every skilled IT worker, there’s approximately 10 positions to fill. The hope is the shortage is at least slightly alleviated by the fact that the apprenticeship opens up the possibility of an IT career to demographics who have been historically underrepresented in the field. Lonnie Emard and Bill Yoder of ACDS stress that the apprenticeship is a great fit for women, minorities, anyone looking for a later-in-life career change, or anyone who worries that it is too late to make a career out of their interest in technology.
ACDS worked with employers in Northwest Arkansas to adjust requirements for open IT positions. It was becoming increasingly difficult for companies to find candidates with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and with at least a few years of relevant work experience. After the development of the apprenticeship program, many employers now put more importance on the potential and the aptitude of an applicant, and they trust that the training they have put together with ACDS will result in a qualified candidate eager to show off their new skills. Arvest Bank, Simmons Bank, and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield are just some of the employer partners. ACDS is actively looking to add new employers seeking IT talent to the program.
As Bill Yoder, executive director of ACDS, states, “At the intersection of capability and opportunity lies the road to success.”
For more information on the apprenticeship program, visit acds.co/apprenticeship.