Community college students — with support from employers — are a key source of talent to help solve the country’s skilled tech talent shortage, according to results of a survey “Apprenticeships: From Community College to Promising Tech Career,” released by Accenture.
The goal of the survey, which queried 1,000 community college students and 200 community college counselors across the U.S., was twofold: (1) to better understand students’ career aspirations and obstacles; and (2) to identify how employers can leverage apprenticeship programs to tap into this diverse talent pool to help offset the nation’s tech talent shortage — particularly since U.S. employers are also in a global competition for talent, struggling to find the skilled workers they need.
The survey found that the majority (59%) of American community college students aspire to pursue in-demand tech professions — such as app developer, programmer, coder and cybersecurity analyst — but want help from employer-driven programs, including apprenticeships, to help them prepare for and break into careers in technology.
“Despite the unemployment rate being at a 50-year low, millions of American workers are at risk of being left behind in an economy increasingly defined by technology and automation, and companies across the nation frequently cite the skills gaps as a major obstacle in filling their open tech jobs,” said Jimmy Etheredge, Accenture’s chief executive for North America. “As employers, we have an opportunity to create new pathways to tech careers. In doing so, we can help people secure their futures while enabling companies here to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”
Community college students and counsellors alike rank apprenticeship programs as one of the best pathways to in-demand jobs. However, while the programs are highly ranked, participation in and awareness of them are low: more than half (58%) of community college students are not aware of apprenticeship programs, and only 8% have participated in one. The figures are even worse for women, with nearly two-thirds of women (63%) unaware of apprenticeship programs.
The research also found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of students who participated in apprentice programs said their experience led them to a better job. Students say apprentice programs have helped them improve their economic mobility and achieve greater financial stability, with the most highly selected outcomes including:
° Securing a job with higher salary (cited by 40% of students who participated in apprenticeships);
° Acquiring the skills needed to pursue higher value work (37%);
° Landing a full-time job instead of part-time or multiple part-time jobs (33%).
According to previous research on the topic, nearly one in seven of the 23.4 million job postings analyzed in 2016 (3.2 million) could have been filled by professional apprentices, helping employers close the skills gap and reducing income inequality across the nation.
“Finding the right talent for the job is one of the biggest challenges U.S. businesses face today,” said Carolyn Cawley, president of the of U.S. Chamber Foundation. “Through apprentice programs, businesses and community colleges can close the gap between the needs of employers and the skills of those looking for work. Accenture’s professional apprentice program has helped them unlock a new wave of tech workers.”
Accenture — an early adopter of professional apprentice programs — piloted its apprenticeship program in 2016 in Chicago and San Antonio. Having scaled the program to 450 apprentices across 20 U.S. cities in the three years since then, the company is calling on employers across the nation to jump-start apprentice programs within their own organizations.
As a co-founder with Aon of the Chicago Apprentice Network, and in partnership with the Business Roundtable, Accenture has published a national apprentice playbook to help employers create apprenticeship programs.