Professional Development
Career development / Jobs / Mentorship / Software

What’s the value of a tech apprenticeship?

It's a nontraditional path to a job, said one current apprentice. Accenture, Aon and other partners discussed the importance of the hands-on training programs for the Philadelphia Apprenticeship network's one-year anniversary.

(L to R) Jordan Rambo, Sylvia McKinney, Christopher Reed, Brinda Rajaraman, and Hasanah Bahaadur discuss apprenticeships in Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy of Accenture)
Update: Clarification about Accenture's hiring goals has been added. (7/14/22, 10:15 a.m.)

Christopher Reed is a pandemic career changer. After being laid off, Reed decided he wanted to take some time to develop new skills and knew he wanted to get into tech. So, he joined a Tech Elevator bootcamp.

After graduating, Reed said he faced difficulty landing that first entry-level position, especially because he didn’t have a traditional four-year degree. Tech Elevator presented him with the opportunity to interview with a recruiter for Accenture’s apprenticeship program, which offers paid, hands-on technical training. One year later, Reed completed his apprenticeship and was offered a full-time position as a software engineering associate.

Reed discussed his tech journey during the Philadelphia Apprenticeship program’s anniversary event at the Community College of Philadelphia on Wednesday morning. (The program is formerly called the Philadelphia Apprentice Network.) The event featured panels with the program’s partners and apprentices sharing their experiences and thoughts about bringing more apprentices into the workplace.

The Philadelphia Apprenticeship program launched in July 2021 with the goal of creating 500 apprenticeship opportunities by 2025. Jordan Rambo, managing director of Accenture’s Philadelphia metro office, told the network was established to bring together all the different components and entities needed to establish and expand apprenticeships, which are increasingly seen as a way to bring more Black and brown Philadelphians into STEM fields. As of last year, partners included Aon, Philadelphia Works and CCP.

“The intent behind the apprentice network was, in essence, to take that ecosystem and [ask] ‘How can we all work together?’” Rambo said. That includes “employers who are looking for the opportunities, the community partners who are sourcing the talent, the universities who are kind of sitting in the middle and may also have talent that they’re sourcing, but may be looking for alternate pathways.”

The skills and training of each apprenticeship varies according to each company’s needs. In Accenture’s program, apprentices get a coach and are part of a cohort. They are typically aligned with an account team and also have cohorts of apprentices within the account team.

“They get support at multiple levels, whether it’s a mentor or coach, cohort, peer-to-peer mentoring, and then we have events like this,” Rambo said. “We get our apprentices together, talk about what’s working, what can we do differently.”

If apprentices stick through the yearlong program with Accenture, they are offered a full-time position (like Joshua Funches, a software engineering apprenticeship-turned-associate at the company).

According to Rambo, apprenticeships are different from other hiring methods, because they tend to include more people who did not take a traditional career path. He said Accenture’s program and the larger Philadelphia Apprenticeship network also provide more support in terms of cohorts and mentorship.

“I think the difference is creating an environment to help them with meeting them where they are in their journey as a career learner and looking for a new career path,” Rambo said.

According to the director, Accenture is on track to contribute to the Philadelphia Apprenticeship program’s goal of creating 500 apprenticeships by 2025. Rambo said the company is committed to sourcing 20% of its entry-level hires this year through the apprenticeship program, and is on track to meet that goal. Meanwhile, the network at large is continuing to expand and see “hockey curve” progress toward its goal.

As for Reed, he said it’s been a challenging year as an apprentice. He was learning a lot while on the job, and thinks the desire to continuously learn is what attracts people to apprenticeship programs and bootcamps. His advice for anyone going into a similar program is to be open.

“For real,” he said, “be willing to get out of your comfort zone. And just keep all doors open, start building out your network and just be an advocate in training for yourself.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Tech Elevator / Accenture / Community College of Philadelphia

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