Report: Apprenticeships for Community College Students Can Lessen Tech Talent Shortage

According to a new survey from Accenture, an Ireland-based professional services company that operates offices in downtown Detroit and Livonia, community college students, with help from employers, are a key source of talent to help solve the United States’ skilled tech talent shortage. Accenture also has an Ann Arbor office.
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tech apprentices
Accenture has released a study that says apprenticeships for community college students can help decrease the tech talent gap in the U.S. // Stock photo

According to a new survey from Accenture, an Ireland-based professional services company that operates offices in downtown Detroit and Livonia, community college students, with help from employers, are a key source of talent to help solve the United States’ skilled tech talent shortage. Accenture also has an Ann Arbor office.

“Apprenticeships: From Community College to Promising Tech Career” collected data from 1,000 community college students and 200 community college counselors across the U.S. Its goal was to better understand students’ career aspirations and obstacles and to identify how employers can leverage apprenticeship programs to tap into the talent pool and offset the shortage.

The majority – 59 percent – of American community college students aspire to pursue in-demand tech professions such as app developer, programmer, coder, and cybersecurity analyst but want help from employer-driven programs, including apprenticeships, to help them prepare for and break into technology careers.

“Despite the unemployment rate being at a 50-year low, millions of American workers are at risk of being left behind in an economy increasingly defined by technology and automation, and companies across the nation frequently cite the skills gaps as a major obstacle in filling their open tech jobs,” says Jimmy Etheredge, chief executive for North America at Accenture. “As employers, we have an opportunity to create new pathways to tech careers. In doing so, we can help people secure their futures while enabling companies here to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

Students and counsellors alike ranked apprenticeship programs as one of the best ways to in-demand jobs. Participation in and awareness of them are low, however. More than half – 58 percent – of students were not aware of apprenticeship programs, and only 8 percent have participated in them. The figures are worse for women, with 63 percent unaware of apprenticeship programs.

The research also showed that about 71 percent of students who participated in apprentice programs said their experience led them to better jobs. Students said the programs helped them improve their economic mobility and achieve greater financial stability, with 40 percent of participants securing a job with a higher salary, 37 percent acquiring the skills needed to pursue higher value work, and 33 percent landing a full-time job instead of part-time or multiple part-time jobs.

According to research from Harvard Business School and Burning Glass Technologies, nearly one in seven of the 23.4 million job postings analyzed in 2016 – about 3.2 million – could have been filled by professional apprentices.

The report, available here, is based on an online survey of students who were currently attending or planning to attend community college in the U.S., along with academic and career counselors at these institutions. The survey was conducted between the end of June and early August 2019. Targeted students were men and women from ages 18-45 with an income below the median household level (a maximum of $60,000). The sample distribution reflects the national population in terms of ethnic makeup.

Accenture, which has professional apprenticeship programs, has a national apprentice playbook, available here.

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