Ed Podowski is looking to open more locations of Cockeysville-based computer repair business UTX. He calls the repair portion the computer clinic, but needs to have more clinicians.
“I was having problems getting people to do the repairs,” Podowski said.
He believes the solution comes with a mix of training and work. Apprenticeships were common for trades such as electrical work and plumbing — now UTX is one of the first local companies to work with an organization applying that model to expand the number of tech workers.
TranZed Apprenticeship Services, which set up shop in Baltimore earlier this year, is helping to train apprentices that will work at UTX. The employers invest in the training, and pay apprentices while they work. The apprentices also take about 144 hours of coursework.
“They are full-time employees from day one,” said TranZed’s Paul Champion. “It’s learning the skills of the job while you’re there.”
Podowski, who expects to bring on five apprentices in the next year, said the process of working with TranZed to identify candidates that may be a good fit cuts down on the time he spends seeking applicants, as well as interviewing.
It’s a model that was first applied in the U.K. under 3aaa, an eight-year-old company that provides “nontraditional” apprenticeships in a variety of fields. TranZed Apprenticeship Services is a partnership of that organization, as well as the TranZed Alliance and the Children’s Guild.
While apprenticeships caught on in other European countries, Baltimore is the first location for the effort in the U.S., and it’s the first such apprenticeship program to formally register in Maryland. Champion said they recognized the Baltimore area has a “vibrant IT community,” and also saw a push for more STEM jobs to close the oft-maligned gap between available IT jobs and workers with the skills to fill them.
“You have the demand from the sector and the push from the local government system, which is a good mixture to have,” he said.
Champion said TranZed is seeking to provide training in IT, cybersecurity and digital marketing and social media. After opening an office in northeast Baltimore earlier this year, the program had its launch in November. Champion said the first apprentices are being placed, and the program received 150 applications. Businesses such as Lockheed Martin, Alliance Technology Group and Black Label are also committed to bringing on apprentices. They are still seeking tech businesses, large and small, who would be interested in participating.