Identify, Recruit, and Retain Untapped Talent Through Apprenticeship: Case Study and Resources

February 15, 2023
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Checkr Editor

Hear from the VP of, Ken Oliver, on the proven power of apprenticeships including resources to start your own apprenticeship program.

Last month, I presented the case for businesses to build and implement apprenticeship programs for people with arrest or conviction records. Today, I want to take a closer look at one company’s apprenticeship program success, AsanaUP, and offer resources to those interested in creating a talent pipeline at their organizations to support justice-impacted individuals in learning the skills necessary for them to thrive in job roles within the technology and knowledge-based sector.

Earn-and-learn apprenticeships models can effectively support justice-impacted people in learning in-demand skills while offering a pathway to meaningful employment. Employment that supports this population in caring for their families, growing their careers, and building access to economic mobility.

Apprenticeships not only offer necessary access to career advancement opportunities, but it is also a cost-effect way to source, identify, and retain incredible employees who will set your organization up for success in an ever-changing future of work against the backdrop of an ongoing labor shortage.

Building an apprenticeship program to identify and upskill talent with records is an investment. It’s in investment in talent like any other and when done thoughtfully pays dividends, expanding your talent pool to include highly qualified individuals, allowing you to scale operations and retain loyal employees trained specifically to be successful at your organization.

Apprenticeships can also invigorate DEI efforts by sourcing and training underrepresented talent who bring a wide swath of lived experience for stronger innovation. The faster your businesses can fill job roles, the more customers you can acquire, not only strengthening revenue but fortifying our economy at the same time.

The recent growth of apprenticeship adoption in the tech industry is a promising trend for the future of work. By implementing an apprenticeship program, employers build the infrastructure necessary to foster lasting employee relationships and have a meaningful, positive impact on their communities.

What makes a successful apprenticeship program

San Francisco based tech company, Asana, has implemented an apprenticeship program with incredible success. Since its inception in 2019, Asana has hired over 80 apprentices to join them as full time employees.

The goal of Asana’s apprenticeship program, called AsanaUP, is to create opportunities for individuals that are trying to break into tech from non-traditional backgrounds and from underrepresented groups, hire highly qualified talent, and build a representative workforce.

AsanaUP welcomed their 7th cohort of engineering apprentices in the Fall of 2022.

What is the secret to their success? Sophia Yamauchi, Emerging Talent Program Manager for AsanaUP, said that setting expectations, providing a team of support, and regularly offering feedback has been key to the success of their program.

Sophia remarked, “If you’re only looking for candidates coming from a traditional 4-year educational background, you’re limiting your pool of applicants. By placing a focus on apprenticeship programs, you’re diversifying your candidate pool and allowing for more people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to join the company and thrive.”

Beginning with the understanding that individuals breaking into tech are ambitious, hungry to learn, and determined, they set out on a six-month training program with Asana. Supported by their designated mentor, a manager, and teammates, they are given clear guidelines on what they’ll need to accomplish to be successful in the program. This upfront understanding, combined with three clearly defined feedback reviews, sets the apprentice up for success. As a result, 82% of apprentices have been converted to full time employees at the end of their program.

“There are many companies who are starting to take on the model of apprenticeships. More and more, these programs are proving you don’t need a traditional 4-year degree to be successful or a background of working in tech, you don’t need the pedigree that was once thought of a “must-have” ten years ago,” said Sophia.

The success of AsanaUP’s apprenticeship program proves we can disrupt the future of work with fairer hiring practices. And we can do it one job at a time. Sophia continued, “Every incremental hire contributes to the makeup of your company. Companies can choose for each incremental hire to be similar to everyone else in the company, or choose to bring in someone with a new perspective and challenge the norms.”

How to get started with an apprenticeship program

There are two types of apprenticeships: registered and unregistered. Registered apprenticeships are formally approved by either the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship or a state’s apprenticeship agency. Registering an apprenticeship program serves to protect apprentices (via regular wage increases, for example) and to meet certain criteria to maintain quality. Unregistered apprenticeship programs are not registered through the DOL or a state agency and can be created and maintained by individual organizations and employers to meet their individual needs. However, it’s important to note that short-term work-based learning programs like internships are not considered apprenticeships.

There are many free and sponsored programs available through community colleges, industry associations, private firms, and community-based organizations as well as subject matter experts ready to support organizations looking to invest in apprenticeship programs.

For registered apprenticeships, there are varied subsidies available that are set up to provide financial support to organizations looking to tap into this effective method of talent sourcing and training. There are also incentives and tax credits available for unregistered apprenticeships as well.

Below are a few currently available subsidies who prioritize registered apprenticeships in California:

  1. In California, DAS has a number of grants or funds that pay for training, etc.
  2. CA DAS recently released their Innovation Fund that is not grant based
  3. USDOL Apprenticeship Building America

To learn about subsidies available in your jurisdiction, find your state’s contact info here.

Accessing these funding sources varies widely. Organizations like JFF and TechSF (featured in last month’s blog post) are set up to help companies navigate the grey areas of starting an apprenticeship.

Below are some additional resources for organizations interested in apprenticeship programs:

If you’re interested in learning more about established tech apprenticeships, find some examples below:

Become a hiring partner to an existing apprenticeship program

Many companies with established apprenticeship training programs work with hiring partners to place their graduates. Chris Schuhmacher, software engineer, started with Checkr in November of 2021 as an apprentice from Slack’s Next Chapter program, which partners justice-impacted individuals with tech companies. Previously, Chris was one of the first 18 individuals to participate in The Last Mile’s entrepreneurship and coding courses inside San Quentin.

As a software engineering apprentice at Checkr, Chris was introduced to different teams within the engineering organization over a five month period, acquiring experience on a variety of products while gaining exposure to different teams. Chris said, “Checkr provided a lot of opportunities for mentorship during the apprenticeship program that really set me up to succeed here. In fact, all of the apprentices that have gone through Next Chapter and Checkr have turned into full-time employees.” He continued, “I would encourage any company to put a lot of thought into taking part in a program like this. There’s huge value to it — not only are you investing in your people, you're investing in your culture. You’re teaching people that just because someone has made a mistake in their lives doesn’t mean they should be thrown away. Apprenticeships are a way to lift people up.”

On the quality of apprentices, he posited, “The people that I have seen go through the apprenticeship program are extremely motivated and they are some of the hardest working people I know. Because a company has taken the time to invest in them, they’re willing to give it their all, so that loyalty factor is through the roof.”

When it comes to fair chance hiring, Chris added, “So many companies are talking about diversity and inclusion, and what that means in terms of race and gender, orientation, etc., but it has to include people with criminal records as well. They are a marginalized segment of society and one that is under-utilized. If companies really want to expand DEI, this segment of the population needs to be included as well, and it has to be more than lip service.”

Building a fairer future of work one apprentice at a time

The technology industry and knowledge-based economy have the power to change paradigms. When paradigms change, doors open to new ideas and solutions to shape the next decade of progress and innovation. We only have to identify and uncover previously untouched methods, or pathways, to make real change.

I call upon leaders in tech to implement apprenticeship programs, to reach out to the multitude of partners available to help you weigh your options, and to have the courage to join us in building a fairer future of work. A change that opens the doors of opportunity to underrepresented groups, bolsters DEI and representation at our organizations, and strengthens our workforce and economy.

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“Every incremental hire contributes to the makeup of your company. Companies can choose for each incremental hire to be similar to everyone else in the company, or choose to bring in someone with a new perspective and challenge the norms.” 
Sophia Yamauchi, Emerging Talent Program Manager

Ready to give us a try?