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Tech Companies Try Apprenticeships To Fill The Tech Skills Gap (thehill.com) 123

Slashdot reader jonyen writes: For generations, apprenticeships have been the way of working life; master craftsmen taking apprentices under their wing, teaching them the tools of the trade. This declined during the Industrial Revolution as the advent of the assembly line enabled mass employment for unskilled laborers. The master-apprentice model went further out of focus as higher education and formal training became increasingly more valuable.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where employers are turning back the page to apprenticeships in an effort to fill a growing skills gap in the labor force in the digital age. Code.org estimates there will be a million unfulfilled tech jobs by 2020.

jonyen shared this article by IBM's Vice President of Talent:IBM is committed to addressing this shortage and recently launched an apprenticeship program registered with the US Department of Labor, with a plan to have 100 apprentices in 2018. ... Other firms have taken up the apprenticeship challenge as well. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, for example, has called for creating 5 million American apprentices in the next five years.

An apprenticeship offers the chance for Americans to get the formal education they need, whether through a traditional university, a community college or a trade school, while getting something else: On-the-job experience and an income... Right now, there are more than 6 million jobs in the U.S. that are going unfilled because employers can't find candidates with the right skills, according to the Labor Department.

IBM says their apprentices "are on their way to becoming software developers in our Cloud business and mainframe administrators for technologies like Blockchain, and we will add new apprenticeships in data analytics and cybersecurity as we replicate the program across the U.S."

"Ninety-one percent of apprentices in the U.S. find employment after completing their program, and their average starting wage is above $60,000."
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Tech Companies Try Apprenticeships To Fill The Tech Skills Gap

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  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @04:37PM (#55578021)
    So a work experience program? This is nothing new.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They might try, you know, paying people more. Also how about hiring more than 20 year olds? That might help too. Might kill their monoculture but that's toxic anyway. But God forbid they actually act like they're subject to the "demand" side of supply and demand.

      The US has always been about encouraging anything that drives wages down, and actively blocking things that drive wages up. Add to that companies that outsource the crown jewels to anyone in Bangalore who's cheap and has a pulse or at least one

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's precisely the thing. Who on earth would have thought that refusing to hire people who don't have at least 3 years of relevant experience and a degree for helpdesk jobs would result in there being nobody to hire with experience?

        Surely, this is completely obscure and unpredictable that refusing to hire people without experience would result in there being no people with experience to hire. It truly is a stumper.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        People make stupid decisions non-stop. The simple solution is to move some place with better conditions and where there are people that are making the state/country more amenable to existing by minimizing taxes and putting control of ones well being into ones own hands. If you fail at that point you only have yourself to blame.

        I make six figures and moved to New Hampshire. I'm no genius either. I do have a 4-yr B.S. CS degree. It's cheap, wages are good, and it's a relatively business friendly environment c

      • Yea , they did it for centuries, and then came labour rights movements ... who gained right in fucking BLOODY conflicts
        so setting the clock back to slave labour is clearly the solution ... job experience programs are as old as hellgium here ... most of them come down to the euh "apprentice" doing shitty shit ... copies, writing letters, logistics (read "can you take this to ...." ?) and end up with a year of nothing learned and way less paid but i guess what these people mean is "absolutely nothing paid"
    • So a work experience program? This is nothing new.

      Almost, but not quite.

      There is a real problem with apprenticeship, in that you pay a noob a living wage while he or she learns a trade or skill. By the time they assimilate enough skills they can take over the jobe at hand.

      A work experience program is usually something fo r student to do.

      Problem is in the late 80's as more management levels and accountants were added, ovewrhead meant that you could temporarily save money by not training replacements. It's all culminated in people retiring with no re

  • Good luck living on this in Silicon Valley. Welcome to the world of the working poor.

    Quite frankly, it's getting ridiculous. This is, by the way, also the reason why you can't find tech workers. Why bother learning something when you can make more money in management?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ayano ( 4882157 )
      You assume all 'tech jobs' worth having are in SV. There's a great need for technical experience outside of these hubs. The most experienced and high demanding jobs however will be at these hubs. Data centers need engineers as well as the software to maintain it which may not be a priority for 'hub' locations.

      Embedded software engineers are also scarce, many employers are trying to train their EE guys which lead to the IOT security fiasco as they try implementing plug and play tech without much thought.
      • by glitch! ( 57276 )

        Embedded software engineers are also scarce, many employers are trying to train their EE guys which lead to the IOT security fiasco as they try implementing plug and play tech without much thought.

        Really? I recently signed up with Upwork, and they rejected me. "Unfortunately, at this time there are already many freelancers with a similar skillset to yours and we cannot accept your application."

        I listed embedded experience in 6809, PIC, MIPS, and the Trimedia PNX1302 VLIW processor. I am pretty sure I also listed four device drivers for Linux and FreeBSD. I guess there must be a glut of people with these skills.

        • Presumably it is not an absolute number that they're targeting, but a proportion based on what they have clients buying.

          Maybe there is a shortage, and yet the shortage is not so extreme that companies are willing to trust freelancing websites to find firmware programmers?

          You might want to try forming a company and sending brochures directly to potential client companies. Even if it is just you, it sounds more professional to have a company name than to be an individual freelancer. On web programming using a

        • by Ayano ( 4882157 )
          They're looking for more recent embedded technology. I'm talking about micro Linux kernels, Yocto linux, as well as (but not surprisingly) Qualcomm and Broadcom tech (ie snapdragon 800+).

          I worked on the PMIC for an OMAP based system used for smartphones. There's a large development space for smartphone-like technology in getting IOT with similar features. This is what's currently sexy in embedded design. Older boards used in long-term serviceable technology (think rail-road, construction) tend to be gett
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          There is definitely a shortage of embedded software engineers around here, and a lot of the ones that are available only want to do contract work. Companies dislike contracting for embedded because it's not like they can hand the completed code off to a normal software engineer for maintenance, and often they lack the skills to even write a suitable requirements spec to get the contractor to produce what they want.

          Maybe Upwork is not giving you accurate information, but I had to disable my voicemail it got

          • by mikael ( 484 )

            If you do accept a permanent position, there is the hazard of "jobslide" or "job drift", where if you accept a position that involves several different skill sets, you may find yourself pigeonholed into the hard-to-fill tasks, while they use the interesting tasks to lure new employees. So the only way to avoid this is to work as a contractor and keep them tied down.

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          Every job I seem seems to have moved over to ARM/Android/iOS. I'm working at a company that had their own display systems running on a Linux OS variant. They were more or less dragged kicking and screaming to make use of Android due to the cost of the licensing generic GPU drivers.

          The "embedded" jobs that I see are invariably Qt/QML GUI developers. Mainly because it is impossible to debug and step through QML code. Everything else from DSP's to GPU's and multi-threaded CPU programming now has some type of m

      • You can look elsewhere other then SV but then you need 10 years exp in 2 year old software, be an admin, device ops, slash programmer and fit into their budget of 45k
        • .. and be under 23 with at least a master's, Scorpio or Capricorn, brown belt in judo and speak fluent Urdu.

          Guitar playing also desired.

        • you need 10 years exp in 2 year old software

          Just wanted to say, if you run into this a lot and you happen to be in the south region of the US, just lie. If they test you on it, wing it or flip them off. I've personally been the other side of the desk, looked at what HR was forcing to be on the listing and ask why. Clearest answer I could get was, "Well we've always done that". Especially if they're asking $45k for a very specific skillset. Just fucking lie and call it a day. For $45k/yr there's absolutely zero reasons to be honest and I'm prett

      • You assume all 'tech jobs' worth having are in SV. There's a great need for technical experience outside of these hubs. The most experienced and high demanding jobs however will be at these hubs. Data centers need engineers as well as the software to maintain it which may not be a priority for 'hub' locations. There are plenty of jobs for top notch geeks outside of SV. You doon't get paid as much, but you don't need as much.

        I've seen people orgasm over the pay, yet they don't take into account the insane cost of living there. A friend's daughter took a 6 some figure starting job there, and it was all bragging until she found out she would have been better making 50 - 60K back here.

        She's living in an apartment - college style, with several unrelated roommates.

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          The main advantage of living in SV and other major tech hubs, was that you could find a new job the same day if you were laid off. Other parts of the world you could be unemployed between three months and a year unless you relocated elsewhere; which could require air flights or hotel stays.
          My criteria for any position now is having access to "Meetup" groups in that location.

          • The main advantage of living in SV and other major tech hubs, was that you could find a new job the same day if you were laid off. Other parts of the world you could be unemployed between three months and a year unless you relocated elsewhere; which could require air flights or hotel stays. My criteria for any position now is having access to "Meetup" groups in that location.

            Okay, and fine, If that is your metric, you have no problems living and working there. I had no need to put up with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The solution to the problem of "too poor at $60k" is pretty obvious. MOVE! The free market will quickly fix this problem if people would make smarter decisions. I'm a perfect example of this.

      I got a B.S. in Computer Science in 2008. Right when everything was collapsing I turned down a lucrative job in San Diego. It was my dream job too. I did the math and concluded it wasn't cost effective to take a "good" salary offer when I potentially could do better on my own. The salary was actually really good too eve

      • Ahh the classic libertarian who thinks everyone can follow in their footsteps. Be interesting how that turns out. Get back to me when your population reaches 2 million.
    • Good luck living on this in Silicon Valley. Welcome to the world of the working poor.

      Quite frankly, it's getting ridiculous. This is, by the way, also the reason why you can't find tech workers. Why bother learning something when you can make more money in management?

      Once we're all managers - supply and demand will lower management wages.

      Couple things - the apprenticeship concept has been around for a long time, and you are a paid employee. Interns are the group that tends to work for free. And apprentice positions are a fine solution in many fields. One doesn't become a Master Machinist and command a Master Machinist's pay without serving and learning a lot over time. And rather than be a crap job that no one wants, a lot of people want to become an apprentice, rise

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @04:49PM (#55578071)
    how about they stop lobbying for tax cuts that gut funding to public Universities? When I was a kid a year of college was $1500, now it's $11,000 for the first 2 years and $15,000 for the last two. That's a direct result of funding cuts. I remember reading about what the cost of college was going to be in 20 years in my school's newspaper and being glad I wouldn't have to pay it, being too young and naive to realize I'd have a kid someday.

    Besides, this entire thing makes me nervous. I can't imagine they're doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. I'm too tired right now to bother figuring what the angle is on this but I'm sure there is one. About the only other thing that's kept pace with rising educational costs is my cynicism levels.
    • They're IBM. Those kids will never want to do tech again after IBM is done with them.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Engineering salary in 1970 was $18,000/year. Today it is $105,000/year.
    • https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/... [ed.gov]

      You're not that far off for todays prices, you just didn't adjust your memory for inflation!

      It turns out it is twice as expensive now than 30 years ago, and not ten times more expensive than 20 years ago.

      • I went to college in 95. If it kept place with inflation it'd be around $2600 for year 1-2 and 2800 for 3 and 4. And that's before we talk about the reasons why college should be paid for by the public (aka, "College for all", I refuse to say 'free college' because it just sets up a 'who's gonna pay for it' straw man).
        • Clearly you left out information. My presumption is that you left out important information because it didn't tell the story you wanted.

          If you check the link you'll find out, tuition in 1995 was not $1750/yr for a four year University. That's your claim! It is pretty silly too. Without calculating inflation, it would have been $3,682 when paid in 1995. Maybe you received financial assistance and didn't realize what the total cost was?

          The chart says the average public university was $10,496 in 94-95, and $18

          • I'm telling you what I paid. I paid out of pocket because I was too dumb to look for scholarships (dumb kid, what do you expect) so I very clearly remember it. e.g. I remember scrambling to work enough hours in the summer to get the money socked away and occasionally using a Credit card to make up the difference. Again, dumb kid.

            It's entirely possible that chart was based on national averages that include overprices schools, like trade schools operating under the heading of a public Univeristy. There we
    • Not every job needs a 4 year degree.

      To build a house adding more engineers doesn't get it built faster. You need a lot of skilled trades to put it together as the engineer designed it.

      A large chunk of IT and programming work can be done by someone with hands on training under the guidance of someone else doing the same thing.

      • with a large increase in automation we're gonna need those 4 years to keep people out of the job market longer. The world does _not_ need ditch diggers. A backhoe is so much better at it that it's not even worth paying ditch diggers even if you make them literal slaves.

        Beyond that there are benefits to an educated populace. An educated populace would be less likely to have have given us the Clinton/Trump shit show that was the last election. They could understand the importance of democracy and showing
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are millions of skilled tech workers who are willing to work, able to work, and who cannot find work because companies post FAKE JOBS and REFUSE TO HIRE.

    Stop posting FAKE JOBS.

    Start HIRING.

  • R.I.P. Malcolm Young, founding member of AC/DC. Rocked the world for forty years. Sad.
  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )
    Basically, apprenticeship is a fancy way of saying that the company is willing to give a person on the job training for an associate level position. That is not new. That's how things were 10 years ago before the stupid Great Recession. We're just returning to that model. I can tell you from working at very successful companies that this worked in the past. The only reason companies ditched it was to cut costs. Now they're just bringing it back essentially under a new name.
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @05:35PM (#55578223)

    Being a mid-career techie, I often find myself in a teaching role because our department takes in a few new grads once in a while. I really enjoy doing it and am happy that I can pass knowledge down so people don't have to learn things the hard way. Having a CS degree or a technical certification from a vendor is only one predictor of success. The vast majority of IT jobs could be taught in the apprenticeship model, and I think most would benefit from it.

    I'm very skeptical of IBM doing this just because they've spent the last decade sending every US technical job they could to India. But, one thing I think they might be seeing is that IT and technology isn't just a cool add-on to the world around us...it needs to be treated more like a utility, at least for core systems. That's the big difference...cowboy-coded phone apps with parts written in 11 cool new JavaScript frameworks are very different from things that control life-safety systems and process mundane stuff like payroll that must run no matter what.

    An apprenticeship that allows a new hire to come in contact with a broad range of new and old, exciting and boring stuff would make a very well-rounded technician level worker who can provide competent help. IBM's still printing money with their mainframe business and they see that mainframers are retiring...maybe this is a good way to get new recruits. Even if IBM has 50,000 new grads in India who will learn whatever they're told to, having someone domestically who's under 60 and understands what customers need can only help.

    IT folks and developers walk a fine line deciding what to learn and what to specialize in. Rightfully so, they're worried that if they take time off to go down this path or that, they'll miss out on something else and no longer be the top resume on the pile because they're not doing new shiny stuff. Maybe apprenticeships can fix some of that.

  • by The Cynical Critic ( 1294574 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @05:39PM (#55578245)
    Seems like some kind of progress if you ask me... Before this they used H1B visas to mass import people with skill sets so basic they were the equivalent of a random person taken off the street and put trough a 3-6 month long training program and now they seem to have moved to doing just that.

    However knowing the greedy bastards that run IBM and Salesforce the reason they're doing this is mostly because the Trump administration is now actually trying to ensure that the H1B program is run the way it was always supposed to be run (one of the few good things he's doing) and offering ridiculous tax breaks to companies who put up some token hiring effort.
  • Just another way of saying "We want young (gullible) people that will work 70 hours a week for half of the 'reasonable and customary' wages this position normally pays"

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @05:43PM (#55578263) Journal

    I have been saying this for over a decade at this point. The only reason that I have been able to achieve the level of success that I have in my career is because I have been fortunate enough to have had good teachers (bosses) who were willing to pass along their knowledge in the form of on the job training. Being successful in IT requires continually learning and developing skills and abilities. It also requires humility and being willing to learn from, and work with others. There is too much for any one person to know. You can easily get lost in a single segment of IT, be it networking, servers, programming or even project management.

  • There is no 'talent' gap, there is a 'salary' gap.

    Companies don't want to pay higher salaries to attract people.

    This 'we just can't find able bodies' line is getting really, really old. Like the industrial wide ageism.

    • There is no denying that tech salaries are high. Any decent programmer can make well over 100k a year.

      This is classic supply and demand. When demand outstrips supply, prices go up. When demand is less than supply, prices go down. It follows, then, that there is indeed a talent gap, indicating that there is more demand for programming talent than there is supply.

      This is not a bad thing, many of us benefit from the good pay that results. But let's not pretend that there are more than enough "good" programmers

  • ... America concentrating on education from elementary and middle school through high school.

    That's the track that fails.

    Students don't know the difference between bullshit and wild honey as it is.

  • Isn't this that thing were you pay your employer to be allowed to work?
  • My degree and experience is in management. I did the interviewing and hiring for my dept. I retired about 5 years ago, but I'm skeptical about this "can't find candidates with the right skills" explanation I'm hearing these last several years.

    The impression I'm getting, admittedly from anecdotal evidence, is organizations have "streamlined" the interviewing process to make it easier for their HR depts. They appear to be using filtering algorithms based on their job descriptions. Consequently there is a larg

  • Never mind recent graduates, long-term jobless would also benefit.
  • The subject line was edited to fit length constraints.
    The intended subject line: IMHO: IBM Management has been very dubious of the ethics, legality, and safety of unpaid labor, whether called internship or apprenticeship. From IBM's perspective, TANSTAAFL.

    DISCLOSURE: I am no longer an IBMer. This post is opinion, not based in current knowledge.

    IBM operates in many countries, with varying labor laws, including minimum wage laws. Managers, until they get a go-ahead from legal, are not going to pay less than m

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