Marc Benioff is the CEO of Salesforce, a San Francisco-based CRM platform. Last year, he asked President Donald Trump to create five million jobs through apprenticeships. Although Benioff admitted this was a "moonshot request," the president accepted the challenge.

However, the most surprising aspect of this challenge is the new approach tech titans are taking. Traditionally, apprenticeships helped those pursuing blue-collar careers. But now, they're getting a white-collar twist. Besides Salesforce, companies like IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft all have tech-based apprenticeships.

Although I've never participated in nor offered an apprenticeship program, I've been an intern many times over and developed and managed multiple internship programs. After hearing about the surge in apprenticeships, I was inspired to learn more about them.

Mary Beth Wynn is the senior vice president of people at Jellyvision, a Chicago-based employee communication platform. The company has both an apprenticeship and an internship program. While both are valuable, they aren't interchangeable.

She pointed out that the goal of an internship is to provide college students exposure to a specific career path. The program helps them make more educated decisions about their futures. There's an understanding that, with most internships, the intern is only with a company for a short time -- typically between eight and 16 weeks. Once the internship is over, they return to their academic studies.

Apprentices, however, are often younger -- still in high school. The learning objectives of the program and their academic studies are aligned for a period of 12 months or more with the goal of full-time employment at the end.

Even if your company is not a global giant like Salesforce, you should consider starting your own apprenticeship program following these lessons learned from other small organizations:

1. Apprenticeships promote diversity.

Leaders everywhere are striving to increase their company's diversity. As Re:work Training discovered, apprenticeships are one possible answer.

"Companies are boasting about their focus on diversity," said Harrison Horan, founder and CEO of the Chicago-based sales training and job placement nonprofit. "If a company genuinely wants diversity, their recruiting and management teams need to genuinely evaluate people with diverse educational backgrounds."

Re:work seeks diversity by providing apprenticeships to Chicago's underprivileged communities. The company reports that, on average, participants increase their income by 239 percent. This brings more diverse talent to the companies while helping break people out of the cycle of poverty.

Similarly, Amazon partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2017 to tap into veteran talent pools. These apprenticeship programs help former military members translate their skills and work ethic to a tech environment. Many veterans have already received extensive and valuable training.

2. Apprenticeships support transparency.

Whether personal or professional, the key to any successful relationship is open communication. And the same goes for the relationship between an employer and an apprentice.

Apprenticeship programs simply don't work without transparency. To be successful, participants need to know what's expected of them and what they can hope to achieve.

"Try to give them as much information as you can about the likelihood of being hired on full-time at the end of the program," Wynn said. "Even if the answer is, 'not very likely,' knowing that is better than ambiguity."

Wynn went on to say that about 50 to 60 percent of Jellyvision apprentices become full-time employees. But regardless of whether or not an apprentice transitions into a full-time role, prioritizing open communication instills a greater sense of transparency within the apprentice. And they'll carry that value with them into their next role, whether it's with your organization or another.

3. Apprenticeships are easy.

Every new company initiative comes at a cost. But you don't have to be well-established to create (or afford) an apprenticeship program. Fortunately, there are several organizations that offer help developing effective apprenticeship programs for companies of all sizes.

For example, Apprenti is a tech apprenticeship program based in Redmond, Washington, with locations across the company. The organization partners with companies looking for great tech employees. Apprenti trains the talent so employers don't have to start from scratch and spend money creating their own program.

The DOL also has a list of resources about the most efficient ways to create an apprenticeship program, details on tax incentives the government offers, and advice on reaching out to local labor organizations. These tools and resources make it easier to establish an apprenticeship program on a lower budget, thus removing a major barrier in implementation.  

The Difference Between Training and Teaching Employees
Published on: Feb 28, 2018