If you're feeling frustrated by the shortage of applicants to choose from, you're not alone. A report found that 40 percent of organizations are having a difficult time filling positions, siting a lack of candidates, experience, and hard skills as the main culprits. 

Without the right people in place, your company will suffer internally and externally. From stalled innovation to a broken corporate culture, one vacant role can have a domino effect on your business. 

The stakes become particularly high if you're searching for experienced professionals in notoriously competitive fields like technology and engineering. Not only are these roles considered hot commodities, but they demand six-figure salaries and hefty work perks. So in a climate where talent is scarce and competition is high, what's a leader to do?

Some may settle on someone who isn't a cultural fit, but ticks most of the technical boxes. Others may hire two or three people with some of the skills sets, hoping their combined qualifications will make-up for the one person they can't find. In some cases, a leader may just give up all together and outsource the role to a contractor or agency. 

Clearly these are less than optimal choices and could be destined for disaster. However, don't despair quite yet, because there is a fourth option that may solve the thinning talent pool crisis: apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship programs are like mini colleges, only the company is steering the curriculum. Instead of students shelling out thousands of dollars and racking up debt, the organization pays them to learn their systems, adapt their preferred skill sets, and in the end, employ a highly-skilled worker. 

The other benefit is that you don't have to sift through resumes in order to find the right apprentice; you can hire within. This not only develops the current staff you have, but it builds loyalty and retention, preventing you from having to lose important talent in the future.

Apprenticeships allow you to teach the company's culture and values throughout the education process. This means the minute they're ready to tackle the role independently, they've already built relationships with the current staff and understand the inner workings of the company.

If it sounds like a win-win, it's because it is -- when structured the right way. Here are three things to consider when structuring an apprenticeship program: 

1. Make sure they're a cultural fit. 

Great employees have qualities that you can't teach. Passion for the job, problem-solving, and hard work are characteristics that are challenging to find. If a person has shown they've gone above and beyond for their employer, don't let them go.

If there isn't synergy off the bat, then it's best to keep looking until you find someone that has chemistry with your team. After all, apprenticeships require the company's time and money, so ensure their personality and work ethic are worth the investment.

2. Recruit and train mentors.

Mentors are a vital component for any apprenticeship. Not only will they provide valuable guidance, but they'll offer tips, techniques, and knowledge that they won't find in a text book. 

However, it's always best to train mentors before they get started. Pick wisely. You want someone who has been with the company for several years, displayed leadership qualities, and knows how to deliver honest feedback without casting judgment. 

3. Set a three month deadline.

Three months should be enough time to see if the apprentice is adapting to the training and learning the skills they'll need for the position. It's also enough time to gauge any red flags.

At the end of the three months, gather feedback from their mentors, teachers, and colleagues who have worked with them. You'll also want to set-up a one-on-one and ask how they feel about the position, and if they like the role. From there, you can make the call on whether they need more training, are ready to start the job, or need to move on.