Why you should make apprentices core to hiring

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Put our talent to work

The past few years have changed the ways many organizations source and hire talent. These changes have stemmed from both pragmatic (the Great Resignation) and altruistic (realization that resume-based hiring is fundamentally biased) reasons.

What we see now in more mature organizations are emerging talent sourcing programs. As part of these programs, organizations are looking to hire apprentices to help fill their entry- and near-entry-level positions.

It’s fantastic that companies are starting to invest in alternative pathways to hiring. However, what’s happening so far is not enough to make the difference we need, either in companies’ bottom lines or in our society.

Companies should view apprentices not as part of their “nontraditional” or emerging hiring strategies, but as core to their talent strategies. Doing so will unleash a plethora of benefits for businesses and our communities.

Business benefits of making apprentices core to hiring

Hiring aligned with business needs

Making apprentices core to your talent strategies means you get an expanded talent pool from which to fill open positions. Beyond having more talent available, you can align hiring with business needs.

No CIO would be able to hold their job if they decided to only flex processing capacity in May. So why do companies make most of their entry-level hires during a limited portion of the year?

With college recruiting and hiring, you’re beholden to graduation cycles. With apprentices, you can hire when your business needs it. Or, by working with a partner to supply top apprentice talent, you can have confidence knowing that it will be there, trained and ready to deliver, exactly on time.

Reduced recruiting time and costs

Think about the machine of college-based recruiting. The time, money, travel, effort, competition. Estimates are, these equal 15% of the total cost to acquire entry-level talent.

Hiring apprentices eliminates these costs. And, because of the other benefits outlined here, you’re getting a better ROI for what you do spend on apprentice recruitment.

Faster time to productivity

A common misconception is that organizations need to train apprentices 100% from the ground up. If you are working with an apprentice partner, like Catalyte, apprentices arrive already trained for the specific role and on the exact technologies/skills they will use in it.

Far from being blank slates, apprentices begin their careers with equal or greater skills and applicable knowledge than most college hires. This means they need less time to ramp to full productivity. You get to new product innovations faster, and at reduced costs due to less time needed to onboard or integrate apprentices into a team environment.

Higher retention rates

According to Gallup, “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary — and that’s a conservative estimate.” So, based on an average of 26% turnover per year, a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $70,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $910,000 to $3.6 million per year.

What we’ve found at Catalyte is that, beyond delivering value faster than college hires, apprentices remain with companies longer, too. We attribute this to several factors, including that the average apprentice is older than the average college grad. They have maturity and have already decided what they want out of their lives and careers. The apprenticeship they join is a chosen career, often their dream career that once seemed out of reach. Apprentices know what they’ve sacrificed to get to this position and aren’t about to let that go.

More professional workforce

Apprentices bring with them a wealth of professional experience. We’ve deployed former teachers, retail managers, financial advisors and ER nurses into client organizations.

Each of these experiences means the apprentice has the professional skills that many college hires initially lack. They know how to manage up, communicate clearly and effectively, drive projects forward and be responsible for performance outcomes. In the words of one of our software development apprentices, “Because I’ve had the experience of dealing with life or death situations, this work isn’t much pressure for me.”

Societal benefits of making apprentices core to hiring

Invest in local communities

We used to talk about the concept of “farm-to-table software development.” You can apply this idea to all sourcing models built on apprentices.

By sourcing local talent, you are reinvesting your payroll budget back into your local communities. We often hear companies say that they can’t find local talent. But if we change the way we look for talent, and look for potential rather than resumes, we can find and train apprentices in any location.

Increase digital equity and solidify democracy

This might seem hyperbolic, but I truly believe that the more we hire apprentices, the more we strengthen the foundations of our democratic society by reducing wealth gaps and increasing digital equity.

Hiring apprentices creates incredible wealth transformation. For example, a Catalyte software development apprentice goes from making $25,000 before joining, to making $98,000 just five years later. This is one of, if not the only, consistent, proven way to move individuals and families up the economic ladder.

Only 40% of adults in America have a four-year college degree, usually a prerequisite for most “professional” jobs. We can’t continue to function as a democracy – a supposed meritocracy – if 60% of the population is automatically denied meaningful employment.

Apprentices give organizations the increased ability to achieve their top-line, bottom-line and mission-based goals. It’s time to move apprentices out of the realm of alternative hiring. It’s time to make apprentices core to every organization’s hiring practices.

This post is adapted from a Sourcing for Innovation podcast. You can watch a preview of and listen to the whole conversation below.

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