Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 2 months ago

An Internship Program Investing in the Future


In this episode of Technically People, Jennifer Carlson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Apprenti, discusses how her apprentice program helps enterprise companies increase diversity while meeting their aggressive headcount needs in the midst of a tech skills shortage.

Apprenti blends classroom learning with on-the-job training, preparing apprentices to fill mid-level roles (software dev, cybersecurity, tech sales, cloud ops). Most apprentices are members of the BIPOC community, women, veterans and people who don’t have a formal CS education but who demonstrate ability in math and critical thinking. 

Carlson works by unearthing hidden potential. For instance, upon meeting with one applicant, a Burger King manager, she dug deeper to find he was actually doing supply chain management. While a “Burger King manager” resume wouldn’t see the light of day at a typical tech company, his history of solving complex problems landed him an apprenticeship. 


  • Tech roles outpace the number of CS graduates coming from U.S. colleges
  • Less than 5% of the national tech workforce is composed of people from BIPOC communities versus 56% of Apprenti applicants   
  • 84% of the program's apprentices stay at the company in which they’ve been placed
  • Upskilling apprentices is fiscally responsible; it costs less than acquiring new talent through traditional sourcing and recruiter fees  
  • How to work with Apprenti

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Welcome to technically people acommunity conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you bythe tech recruitment platform built in the podcast features, insights fromleaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard of building human centeredworkplaces of the future along the way you'll hear concepts thatwill stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself.What's the most future forward way to approach my people leadership, we allknow the future of work isn't waiting around. So, let's get on with the show hello every one welcome to technicallypeople, I'm tiffany Myers host for that episode for the day and I'm reallyexcited to introduce our guest Jennifer Carlson. So Jen is the CO founder andexecutive director of a Prenty Apprenti is a tech apprentice program. It is apublic private partnership that is partially funded through a federalgrant and it's helping tack, employers, foster diversity and inclusion, whilealso meeting this really crushing need to fill technical rows of the future.So the organization has worked with enterprise companies like wayfare andMicrosoft, scripts and J P, Morgan Chase. I think it's also important toknow that a prenty places, people in mid level roles we're talking aboutsoftware developer, Crme, eloper, analysts and it business or cybersecurity text sales cloud ops. One other really interesting note- is thatthe most common background for apprentices is the military and numbertwo is uber driver, so welcome Jen. Can you tell me the need that led you to co,found a prenty yeah, so working with the trade association, there were lotsof tactics being engaged for trying to match college students who are the normfor what we recruit for with the industry and a number of otherassociations around the country who are all trying different approaches toclose the gap, but none of them really scaled, and so when I wrote thebusiness plan for this, it was just as President Obama at the time was fundingapprenticeship for non traditional sectors and trying to expand theapproach of classroom and joint training. And that's when we partneredwith the state of Washington Labor in industries to pursue a rant to kick itoff and pilot in Washington, The Washington Technology IndustryAssociation, the W TIA is the Trade Association for Tech and WashingtonState. So they were the ones who financially back to the start up ofPrenty as a pilot program here and that trade ascensa is based in Washington.But you serve. How many seats are you serving now? Eighteen and many of themin partnership with the Trade Association in those locations? So,let's just see, I gave my overview but provide the kind of that how it worksperspective. From your point of view, so our focus is really two things Ithink you touched on it at the beginning kind of this huge divide. Wehave in tech talent that there's not enough out there, but there's anunderlying divide around diversity, and so our focus is around bringing inunderrepresented groups, women under represented persons of color veteransand persons with disabilities and taking them from other walks of lifeand retraining them. So candidates are folks who are interested in coming intothe tech sector, will go online to a prenty careers dodor and take a basicskills assessment, and this is not white boarding. Can you write code?It's not anything to do with technology, it's math at a basic Algebra andgeometry level, and then logic and critical thinking and a little bit ofemotional intelligence. It's the quantitative side. You have to scorehigher than an at to get into the candidate pool and then we're an ondemand environment. So when companies say we're looking for X, whatever X ison that list of roles that we've filed...

...and have approved for apprenticeshipthat you were reading off some of earlier software development cloudadministration date analytics et ce, then we go to that candidate pool andwe start screening and that becomes the qualitative side. So it will do aninterview with the candidates and we're really looking to get at the skill setsof the individual. What are they bringing to the table that are portableskill, sets that the industry would see value in and then we're kind ofrepackaging? If you will the individual, because we don't take a resume of thecompany, we take the skill sets and the score that the person achieved andwe're kind of curating and distilling down a group of candidates to send itto the company, and then the company interviews them and they're decidingwhom they're going to sponsor into apprenticeship and then an offer isextended. We place those folks into classroom training to get certified onthe skills. They'll need for the rule that they're going to take your Hurdleiis that you have to pass the class. That is your only barrier to entry tothe offer you already received to go to work and then assuming that gets past,which ninety three percent of the folks in the program do then they go to joband the company is paying them for that year of employment to get them thehands on skills where they're growing into the job and then eighty fourpercent of them stay with the company that hired them on as an apprentice,because they're now fully capable of doing that role on their own, so yeahthat earn and learn wage. I think is important to note, because this is, youknow, going to be very different from an unpaid internship, correct and soapprenticeship is a training wage. It is something the apprentice agrees toaccept and the wage that's paid is usually sixty to seventy percent of thewage of a fully qualified person. The national average in the program rightnow is around fifty five, fifty six thousand and then the retained wage onaverage nationally is around eighty eighty four sand. So looking at yourwebsite, there are some really really astounding statistics that give realcontact here. One thing that stood out to me is just the difference betweenthe National Tack Work Force and the APPRENTI applicant composition.Less than five percent of the National Tech Work Force is composed of racialminorities, whereas fifty six percent of apprenti applicants are fromminority communities and the print is also outpacing. The National Tech WorkForce average for women and veterans. I would love to know- and I think ourlisteners would love to know how you're attracting diverse applicants well.Interestingly enough tour placements are very close to the applicant pool,there's very little variance between the two, so it is solidly in the midsfor and when I say under represented, I'm very specific on who I'm talkingabout for diversity under represented minorities, for us, for our sector arespecific to African American Latin ex somebody who is identified as mixedrace, native American or Pacific Islander, not because the clinical EOdefinition of diversity doesn't include Asian, east, Indian, other etc, butthose are not underrepresented in our sector. So when we go out to market, wework with community based organizations that serve these groups of people thatwere trying to bring into the sector. So everything from Urban League tocommunity colleges to women's funding alliance and a united way and othergroups. There are either support systems and plays training andeducation systems in place that tend to serve more divorce people and that'swhere we go directly looking for talent. So when we last spoke, you had shared areally interesting and actually extremely inspiring success story. Inworking with one of your applicants, you- and I talked about someone who wasa burger king manager. I came to you...

...and you started to dive deeper. Whatare you really doing and how complex is? Is Your Work Really, and you uncoveredsome interesting stuff well, and it gets back to that conversation aboutskill sets so when he came to us, obviously, if he were to submit aresume to try and get into a large company as a software developer, peoplewould just kind of look at that and set it aside. But when we talk about how weget to skill sets and do that kind of curation to get folks in front ofcompanies were looking, what are they bringing to the table? In his case, itwas supply chain management from consumption and foods, boiland managinga scheduling to hiring to pay roll. Those are all incredible skill setsthat say this person has handled a lot of complex things and done it overmultiple locations, and so when we take it in those terms and talk about supplychain management to a company, they see that through a whole different Lens.When you extract the Word Burger King No offense to Burger King, but you knowthis person's coming in the door with a lot of great experience. That's whatthe company is going to see when we kind of stripe down the connotation ofwhere it was done, and the company sees value in that and kind of goes. Okay. Ican look at the bigger picture now I get it and bring them in we've. Hadthat happen, for so many people. I want to expand a little bit on this idea oftaking away the connotations, because I think kind of just by dint ofworking with you or by being open to a prenty. It seems like I mean I wouldguess that at least for the roles that you're helping them fill your partnercompanies will have done some work to overcome pedigreebias and other biases is that accurate has then that veneree that they've kindof turned the page and they're aware and fully sort of vested in debasingthe process? Or are you doing a lot of education around that I'd? Say: Theyeread the book. I don't know that they've turned the page like theyunderstand. The concept are recognizing that there needs to be a change, butchange is not easy. So we do a lot of coaching around soft skills interviews.Helping companies identify mentors, helping mentors understand what it isto manage an apprentice, a little differently than new staff coming inthe door and expectation management that just because this person is nowgone through accelerated classroom training doesn't mean they're walkingin the door at the same level as your Stanford Grad coming into the programor coming into your company and part of that conversation, around bias isusually getting the companies to do the heavy lift up front of recognizing thatnot all jobs are created equal and therefore the people you're searchingfor to fill the jobs. Don't have to be not because somebody is lesser than butrather because somebody is coming to the table with a different set ofskills, a different set of life experiences that are actuallybeneficial to your company and rounding out your work force to be able to servethe greater good. So you had mentioned just now the idea that if you do needto adjust your management style when you're on boarding and apprentice sayor maybe any non traditional hirer can you share some mistakes? You've seencompanies make or some success stories that you've seen yeah, so I think,there's a bias built into how we manage college students that are coming in thefront door at about the same pace. Now that some apprentices are coming in andthe company is two sides of the same coin. Companies have built an entireecosystem around on boarding college grads and getting them up to speed andthat's what they're used to if your college Grad comes in the door withmore theory, the apprentice is walking in the door, with an intense amount ofclassroom learning on hands on skill,...

...but not the theory. So one of thesuccess stories I would share is a few companies that were talking to abouthow do they link their new hires on the college side with an apprentice. So theapprentice can help the college person skill up on the hands on while thecollege person is helping the apprentice skill up on the theory, sothere's kind of a collaborative in there about the two of them, linkingtogether with a mentor then only having to shepherd them through the worktogether and kind of building a team environment which is exactly whattechnology is anyway, is building tins and working together. So it's a nicebridge between the two, the downside is some of the things that companies areused to doing, and I've even seen this true of a company that used to do whereyour college colors day like in football season and the Stanford Gradcomes in and is sitting at the desk and his colleague who they worked reallyclosely with, for the last two years, comes in wearing a state college, tshirt and suddenly there's a behavior shift, because I went to Stanford right and then theother person only went to that school. There's some snobbery in the workforceand company figured out that they kind of had to work away from that andbecause you're now dealing with another group of people coming in that theyneed to be able to be authentic and know that they're still valued and thatthis isn't a competition, and so those companies with this particular one didaway with where Your College Day and is where your favorite sports team so likethat's a culture shift, there's an inclusive and an exclusivity that cango with that very easily, and companies have to be really mindful of that whenthey start thinking about culture change, if they're going to shift theirhiring behavior and be willing to hire folks based on skillsets and other things they bring to the table and their capacity to do the workrather than their pedigree. Building on what you just said, if you could givesome specific advice to companies or people in the talent sphere in terms ofsourcing or recruitment interviewing and even on boarding. Well, I think the number one thing thatwe've seen companies do repeatedly is the same behavior. They think it'senough to open the door to people come from a different background, but thenthey don't interview them any differently so trying to put somebodythrough a seven hour loop, not an unreasonable ask from a staminaperspective, but if you're intent is to have them white boarding. Algorithmicwriting all kinds of things that you expect from your traditional Higher EndCollege Grad, they're already set up to fall and not because they don't havethe capacity but because they don't have the same kind of training. Soyou're now you're just trying to unfortunately pound the square peg intothe round hole, and then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy to the company.When they say see, we tried the reality is just as much as you have to look atyour roles really pragmatically as a company and say which roles can weallocate for junior development talent? You also have to then be willing tomodify the interview process to that level as well and be willing to do someof that. Skilling work in house that investing is is a paradigm shift forcompanies to have to think through, and it is an investment, but it is one thatis less expensive than recruiting and will pay greater dividends thanpoaching. So let's talk about racking, there's some two thousand and twentyone research by Conti that found that forty two percent of companies expectto upscale and re skill employees to try at least to close this gap. So Iwanted to know you're. So in this, what trends are youseeing in upskilling and in race...

...killing in the enterprise in particular?Yeah? There are a number of companies who are now looking internally at twodifferent levels for what's called in Cumber worker retraining. An incumbentworker re training can be everything from I'm going to take people who areto wrongs below where I need people today and skill them up and kind ofcreate a ladder internally that people go through or people in completely loadand no technical rules and because you've already hired them. Youalready know that they're aligned to the company and they're performingyou're going to give them an opportunity to re skill into a muchhigher level, and so I give you a couple of examples of that. We've gotan Amazon who's taken people out of warehouse and move them into cloudadministration, God, Microsoft, looking at retail stores and looking to movepeople from retail into Azure cloud support and we've met now with Disney.Who is looking at taking people who have been furloughed from parks andmoving them into software development roles and taking them out of furloughrather than lay off, and so now that they're moving people back into parks,they're, also not at full capacity because of Ovid, which means they don'tneed all of those people, but yet their people. They don't necessarily want tolose. So, where else can they retrain them for organization ally where theyhave? Openings takes a level of creativity to sort of come to that kindof mass shuffling. So you had talked about the educating that you do around bias. Do some educating for a companythat might resist the lift that is required in re, skilling and upskilling?And what would you say to a company who objected to the idea of that? There areusually two holdbacks one is when a company sees this as making anexception like they're, lowering their standards and my reminder to them. Is You have two choices? It's not aboutlowering your standards, it's about training people to the level that youneed them in making an investment than if you choose not to do that. I wouldask you to go to a five year regression analysis on how much your TechDepartment has spent in talent year over year, and what is that numberjumping by, because I'll bet you it's double digits every year and for theamount of money that you spend on talent, procurement and then what areyou paying those people, because you're poaching them from somewhere andthey're, not leaving for flat salary when you package up what it costs youto do that versus what it will cost you to build net new talent? You areprobably at a twenty to twenty five percent savings on the creation of netnew talent and now you're having a business level conversation with them,and they may not be ready for it, but it becomes part of a planning processand a bigger conversation. The answer is, you can keep buying the talent youneed at a higher level. If that's what you think you need but be prepared, youare buying that tally. We're so used to this conversation around how we are nolonger in a cradle to grave society where a person is invested in a companyand a company is invested in a person that has gone the way of the Dodo itseems like we might. I don't know, I'm just speculating be pinching our wayinto a little bit more of this mutual investment. What do you think? Yes, Ithink there's definitely a mutual investment taking place and companiesare recognizing that. I also think it's the level of the need. It isn't justthe tech sector that is down a million people, it's building in constructiontrades. There are not enough nurses and...

...doctors out there, and so the healthcare system is looking at exactly the same thing. We are: How do we latterpeople up from lower level jobs and to higher level jobs and getting closer toUrns Datus? So this is a multi sector issue, that's bordering on crisis, andI think the reason why you're seeing this be a a bipartisan conversation isboth sides of the aisle recognize the need to get people back to work. Allsectors are looking for this kind of talent and are having direct reckonwith. Where do we come up with the money to subsidize this and make thiswork? So we can retrain people ovally. I wonder if you can kind of recap someof the benefits that a company stands to gain if they hire an on boardsuccessfully people with non traditional backgrounds. Well, I meanthere are a number of studies out that talk about having diversity on your staff makesyour company better makes your product better. The end users for every one ofthese products is as diverse as the street. You walk down in any city, andso it's just an reconcilable thought for me that the product developersdon't look like the people walking down the street from a workforce development.I think it's a combination of there's the public good and then there's thecompany good. The company good is around the cost to wait and have yourvacancy rate be as high as it is for job postings, your crust of poaching,your cost of acquisition and staff or recruitment to get those filled. It iseconomically sound to invest in apprentices and bring them on board andtrain them up and get them going. It is an impossibility to close the gap inthe system we have today. We know there are a million more jobs than we havetalent to day alone, and so, if something has to give, then havingeverybody move together in the direction of creating the talent andinvesting in a system that can build a pool that has portable skill sets andportability across sectors is the only way we're going to close that. I just also think about something that wetalk about, often, which is that by making a company more inclusive, you're,making it better a better place to work andyou're, making a product better for everyone. You- and I talked about thisa little bit last time, but I think it's worth calling out. This is notcharity. This is not philanthropy, it's not even corporate socialresponsibility. I think we need to move out of the mindset that investing intalent development falls to social responsibility. No, it falls intoeconomic responsibility like we all need to do it in order to shore up a USsystem. That is not only works for everybody, but it allows your companiesto thrive, not only demographically and geographically but economically. Ifthere isn't anybody in the middle to Canby your product, then shame on you yeah. So we have a segment that I thinkyou've just provided a perfect segue into, which is called the two minutetakeaway, where we ask our guests to share sort of what are some of the mainthemes that they would want to reiterate to our listener ship. I thinkmy two things that I would ask companies to do. First, tactical,second, strategic, tactically, have HR departments, sit down and really getpragmatic with their their it departments about what rules have tohave a college degree and hire and which rolls don't and when you havevery large technology enterprise level...

...companies coming back and saying, sixtypercent of the roles don't require a college degree, but could rather beserved by an industry certification that I think that says a lot. Thesecond thing that, on the strategic side is company culture is built from within.It requires participation at all levels and the companies that we've had greatsuccess in working with are ones where the executive ranks have said. This isnow a directive. It's an imperative for our company, we're going to behavedifferently. That's the kind of strategic shifts that we need to seecompanies making stronger commitments to. Yes, it is a good start to talkpublicly about commitments to higher diversity or to change behavior, butnow we need action. They so appreciates your perspective in your insights. Ithink our listeners will too so if they want to get in touch with you, where'sthe best place to find you a prenty careers, dot. Org is the website andthey are absolutely happy to email me at j, Carlson C, a R L S O N at aprenty career's Dodor, so for any company that is ready to seethis for what it is, which is to say, not a chore, but a set of benefits thatemail is the place to go and Gen is the person to reach out to so. Thank you somuch gone and thank you to our listeners. Remember to visittechnically people com to subscribe, don't forget to leave us that five starreview, if you're, loving what you're hearing that is just the kind ofsupport. That means a whole lot for keeping this podcast going. So thanksfor joining US Jon thanks for listening listeners, we will talk to you. A built in is a tech recruitment platform.That's in constant dialogue with leaders about the future of tech,Bilton's podcast. Technically, people expands those conversations now fellowfuturist create and lead exceptional workplaces, environments that inspirein Demand Tech professionals to join your company and thrive to learn howbuilt in can help your company attract besting class professionals, visitemployers, top Bilton you've been listening to technicallypeople, a community conversation about the future of work. If you want to hearmore cutting edge ideas about creating human center, workplaces subscribe onyour favorite podcast player and you'll never miss an episode and, if you'reover the moon about what you've heard we'd be honored. If you took the timeto give us a five star review so signing off until we meet again in thefuture, I.

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