The value of apprenticeship programs

A look at some of the key benefits of investing in your workforce with an apprenticeship program

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If your company is trying to figure out how to find employees with the skills needed to grow and compete, it’s not alone. Businesses across a range of industries are facing challenges to creating a system to meet present and future demand. 

Big Tech has responded by experimenting with new training and certification programs to attempt to close the gap. But there’s another promising solution with a long history of success: in-house apprenticeships. 

The modern version of these work-based learning programs creates a pipeline of trained talent and increases employee retention. Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., and they enjoy widespread support. The number of new registered apprenticeships has grown 70 percent since 2011. 

One such success story is Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier. 

In 2017, Pinnacol launched an apprenticeship program with 23 students from Denver-area high schools. The benefits of this partnership with CareerWise Colorado have far exceeded expectations.  

Here’s a look at some of the key benefits of investing in your workforce with an apprenticeship program. 

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A smoother transition when longtime employees retire 

If your industry is expecting to see increased retirements in the coming years, an apprenticeship program may soften the blow. 

In Pinnacol’s case, the company anticipated that many insurance industry employees would be aging out of the workforce — resulting in a huge knowledge and skills gap. Rather than struggling to find experienced workers, Pinnacol decided to start training them internally. 

“We saw this as an imperative talent acquisition strategy,” says Mark Tapy, Pinnacol’s apprenticeship program manager. 

Companies that face similar trends and fail to act now may find themselves at a disadvantage in the future. 

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A new talent funnel 

In many cases, today’s lack of skilled workers is because of technology advancing much faster than the educational landscape. But if you wait for higher education to catch up, it may be too late. 

With an apprenticeship program, companies proactively create the workforce they need and build connections with younger workers in an environment of success. It’s an ideal way to bridge the gap between education and available jobs. 

By identifying motivated young people and giving them a direct pathway to higher-wage jobs, companies develop their own talent pipeline with meaningful career opportunities built into it. 

They also remove financial barriers for workers. Rather than racking up college debt, students have the incentive to earn a quality wage. 

Gaining the skills your business needs now 

Apprenticeship programs make companies more agile, adaptable and prepared to take on the ever-changing needs of the workforce. “We’re expanding bandwidth in a cost-effective way,” Tapy says. 

Apprentices gain more options and opportunities, but so do employers. A company with an immediate staffing need, for example, can potentially leverage an experienced apprentice rather than search for a temporary hire or a short-term backfill. 

Long-term benefits of apprenticeships include no recruiting fees, lower training costs, and new hires with much better productivity rates. Another benefit? Junior employees who supervise apprentices learn valuable mentoring and coaching skills and have more time to focus on their advanced tasks. 

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Big advantages for the next generation of workers 

Besides earning a competitive wage and avoiding college debt, apprentices gain invaluable experience and life skills. The combination of theoretical and practical learning helps participants focus on their goals while discovering endless possibilities. 

“No matter what you do in the future, the skills you learn here will follow you,” says Byonce Reyna, a former apprentice in Pinnacol’s business operations pathway. 

Pinnacol based its program on the three-year Swiss model, which applies across a wide range of industries and positions,  from financial services to healthcare. Apprentices receive industry credentials and can study for a degree as they continue full-time work. 

Advantages include industry exposure and training for in-demand technologies, professional support to help achieve goals, benefits such as paid time off, and high school and college credit or a degree. 

“Career-wise, it really changed my whole perspective. I’m more secure in what I want to do,” says Marco Knight, an apprentice in Pinnacol’s information technology pathway.

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Industry-wide success: A rising tide lifts all boats 

If more companies begin to offer apprenticeship programs, that will only benefit the entire sector. Tapy envisions an industry cluster with multiple insurance companies offering training. 

When an apprentice leaves Pinnacol, they might go to a competitor or vice versa, bringing their highly transferable skills with them. 

“I get really excited about how this is developing and has the ability to continue to push Colorado forward,” Tapy says. 

Where to start 

Creating an apprenticeship program at your company from scratch may seem intimidating. However, if you partner with the right organizations, you can design your program to get the talent you want. 

“For as many businesses as there are out there, there are as many different designs to make this work,” says Tapy. 

Find out more about Pinnacol’s apprenticeship program, and visit CareerWise Colorado help designing a tailored program to meet your needs. 

Pinnacol Assurance does just one thing and does it better than anyone: provide caring workers’ compensation protection to Colorado employers and employees. For more information, visit www.pinnacol.com.

(Content for this sponsored article provided by Pinnacol Assurance)