Internships vs. apprenticeships

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Every year, an estimated 300,000 people intern for employers in the U.S. For many companies, this is a main way to evaluate entry-level talent before extending a job offer. While internships have their place in talent sourcing strategies, it’s time to reevaluate their effectiveness compared to apprenticeships.

If talent and workforce development is a top priority for your organization and you’re not doing apprenticeships, you’re doing it wrong. Adding apprenticeships allows you to improve the amount, productivity and diversity of the talent you bring into your organization.

Apprenticeships have better ROI than internships

Almost every mid-market or enterprise organization has some type of internship. They’re quite expensive to run. Before you include managerial oversight, housing, lost productivity and other related costs, each intern costs about $21,000. If you have 50 interns a year, that’s over $1M to “hire” talent that only has a 68% chance of remaining with your organization after three months.

Contrast that with apprenticeships, which cost between $25,000-$250,000 to launch. Work with an established partner and you’ll reduce start up and overhead costs, only paying on a per-apprentice basis, similar to a conventional hire.

While I can’t speak for other organizations, our conversion rate is around 90%. So, a Catalyte apprentice is 32% more likely to remain with an organization. This is a huge difference that has an immediate positive impact on your sourcing ROI.

Apprenticeships are easier to run than internships

The average organization begins its recruitment process eight months in advance of the start of the internships. By contrast, it takes just 44 days, on average, to make a market hire. Already, you’ve lost about 200 days of productivity in which that new hire could have contributed to your business.

With internships, you also have recruiters traveling to universities. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the numbers you need in the moment, or secure their commitment to future employment.

An apprenticeship delivers the talent you need when you need it. You don’t have to work around May-to-September academic cycles. You have access to “always on” talent streams, so you can sync hiring business needs. And the right partner does that leg work for you: sourcing, vetting, training and delivering individuals with the technical and professional skills to fit into your organization from the start.

Apprenticeships give you a competitive advantage over internships

Internships are a competitive game. You’re recruiting against larger, maybe better known companies. Can you provide the same perks as Google, Amazon or McKinsey? Probably not. But, that’s what you’re up against when you try to source talent from the same, small, homogenous number of colleges and universities.

Apprenticeships allow you to bypass the recruitment line and get direct access to better, more productive and diverse talent. Talent that others either aren’t looking for or can’t find. These are people who, unlike interns, deliver value starting on day one.

An internship is a process of vetting potential future employees. Interns have to learn the culture, the systems and how to work in your organization.
An apprenticeship is a process of advancing current employees. Already vetted, apprentices can focus on growing their skills, taking on new responsibilities and providing increasing business value.

Apprenticeships are better for America than internships

Along with the business case for apprenticeships in place of internships, there’s a moral case for them, too.

Internships, historically, have been about who you know and where you went to school. As more become paid, they have become slightly more inclusive. But, they still lock out the roughly two-thirds of people who aren’t pursuing a four-year degree.

What’s wonderful about apprenticeships is they line up with the values of our country. They give people the opportunity to better their lives, regardless of where they came from or who they know. Because they have some innate ability and the determination to see things through, apprentices get the opportunity to have access to, and succeed in, 21st century jobs.

With all of these benefits, it’s astounding to me that more organizations haven’t already adopted apprenticeships. It’s my dream to see 100% of the Fortune 5000 embrace apprenticeships. When that happens, it will result in amazing business outcomes for employers and life-changing economic opportunities for millions of Americans.

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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