Where Will Tomorrow’s IT Talent Come From?
Looking beyond college-educated recruits, employers see apprenticeships as a viable option
The New York Times recently reported on changes in business hiring practices and noted that many workforce experts see removing college degree requirements as increasingly important to expanding diversity and reducing inequality. Experts cited by the Times further stressed the benefits from expanding hiring practices to tap overlooked pools of talent in current tight labor markets.
The Times article specifically points to Accenture as a company that now requires college degrees in fewer than half of its job postings. The company’s approach to apprenticeships began as a form of corporate responsibility and rapidly evolved into a growing aspect of the mainstream hiring pipeline.
Accenture is dedicated to creating career pathways for people from diverse backgrounds, including those who do not have four-year degrees. In fact, since 2016, the firm has sponsored more than 1,200 apprentices across more than 35 cities, including Los Angeles and Sacramento. In 2021 alone, Accenture brought on nearly 600 apprentices.
Apprentices, many specializing in roles ranging from cybersecurity specialist to digital transformation analyst to artificial intelligence, “learn while they earn,” which helps drive the concept of professionalism. And, after a one-year stint as apprentices, a majority of these eager, hard-working people stay on with the company as full-time employees.
The California Market
California Governor Gavin Newsom has said he wants the state to employ 500,000 apprentices over the next seven years. According to the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS),
“Apprenticeship is a proven but underutilized workforce and education strategy connecting Californians to better jobs and higher wages, while meeting the talent needs of employers.” What’s more, apprenticeships could transform the state’s “workers, students, and diverse regional communities,” LINCS says.
Indeed, California’s public and private sector organizations see apprenticeships as a practical, viable way to find people with the initiative, skills and zeal to learn—and earn—as they work. Apprenticeships offer both employees and employers an opportunity to close gaps. For employers, it’s a chance to hire smart, driven, talented people, many of whom have fewer opportunities to attend college. It also opens the pool to a wider range of diverse talent. For employees, it’s a chance to learn new skills while acquiring the experience to make them even more valuable in the job market.
Mark Noriega, Accenture’s Sacramento managing director, told the Sacramento Business Journal that the company’s apprenticeship program is designed to tap untapped talent. The initiative is “both a strategy for getting a more diverse workforce and … an effort to aid recovery from the pandemic,” he said. Noriega also told the Journal the program is designed to “grow a network,” adding that apprenticeships represent “a big opportunity for businesses in Sacramento.”
Since 2019, Accenture has had 21 technology apprentices in Sacramento, including business analysts, developers, security analysts and general technology specialists. Many are now full-time Accenture employees, some working in the public sector.
Accenture’s apprenticeship program has been particularly beneficial to veterans. For example, California native and U.S. Navy veteran Martin Arias turned skills he learned from developing a retailer’s website into an Accenture career. “There are quality workers who just need an opportunity to prove themselves and show their capacity to learn,” Arias says. He adds, “I am thankful for the apprenticeship program. It gave me a way to make a mid-career transition.”
Accenture leadership has high praise for the at-large nationwide apprentice program, particularly how it has helped veterans discover careers with real growth potential. The
company’s North America CEO, Jimmy Etheredge, said in a LinkedIn post, “I … love how our program helps experienced people reskill for jobs that will be in high demand in the future, like the English teacher who found a path in IT and a former military combat medic who is reinventing himself as a specialist in cloud technologies.”
The apprenticeship program shows no sign of slowing down. With a goal to fill 20% of Accenture's U.S. entry-level roles from the apprenticeship initiative in 2022, the company has teamed with the Business Roundtable and Chicago Apprentice Network to recruit even more potential workers from across the country.