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Apprenticeships / Builders Conference / Philly Tech Week / workforce development

Apprenticeship programs not only change lives, they strengthen the workforce companies need to thrive

Insights from a keynote panel session at the 2024 Builders Conference.

A panel discusses alternative pipelines to tech careers at the 2024 Builders Conference (Courtesy Nicole Pumphrey)

Following is a recap of one of the sessions at the 2024 Builders Conference, a daylong convening on building better innovation ecosystems. Notes for this piece were documented in real time on our community Slack — join here. Find other takeaways from the conference here.

Creating alternative pipelines into the tech workforce has the potential to change lives. Dominique McPhaul, a packaged application development associate at Accenture, told her own story as an example. 

“My apprenticeship has offered me and those around me the freedom of autonomy,” McPhaul said.

Her mother got pregnant in high school, and wasn’t allowed to graduate. McPhaul herself did graduate high school, but there wasn’t money for college. She felt a loss of identity, and a loss of direction. Then she found the Philadelphia Apprentice Network and began working at Accenture. She recently completed the program and was hired full time.

“It really did make a change in every facet of my life,” McPhaul said, explaining that the program offered more support, tech, and financial stability than ever before. “For the first time in my life, we were doing more than just surviving.”

The Philly chapter is part of a nationwide apprenticeship network cofounded by Accenture and two other other global consulting giants. So far, the network includes 10 cities and 200 employers committed to 10,000 total apprenticeships by 2030, said Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown, a senior manager at the company.

Finding phenomenal people who can give their best selves at work everyday is the priorityJameel Rush Google

It’s key to bring new people into the pipeline because tech companies and organizations tend to steal the same talent over and over from one another, said Jameel Rush. He would know, as Google’s global director of inclusion programs, where he helps manage 50,000 employees across 50+ countries.

“Instead of that same cycle,” Rush said, “we should break that and open up to talent that can do a great job but may require a different approach.”

That’s been recognized at Exelon too, said Karen Douglas, who manages IT workforce development at the company. The largest regulated electric utility in the US hosts interns all year round, she said, and about 60% of them get converted into contract or full-time roles. Many of those interns come from programs Exelon creates with partners in local education. 

It’s important to start early and build innovative programs like that that can fill in the workforce gaps, added Nicole Pumphrey. Before becoming VP for talent and workforce at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, she was at Per Scholas, the nonprofit that offers tuition-free training bootcamps across the country.

“We need to think about what are those programs, what are those innovations that could adapt quickly,” Pumphrey said. She advised educators to partner with an employer, glean exactly what they’re looking for, then build a program to fit those needs.

How can we be sure these programs are working and that everyone gets a fair chance to participate? It’s critical to find a fair way to measure everyone equally, said Rush, of Google. Finding “phenomenal people who can give their best selves at work everyday” is the priority, he said, but DEI is still important. 

“If you’re not building cultures that allow all folks to thrive,” Rush said, “you’re locking yourself out from where the world is going.”

➡️More from the 2024 Builders Conference

Companies: Accenture

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