There’s an IT skills gap in the United States.

But that might not mean quite what you think it does.

“We’ve been hearing about this skills gap for years,” says Tony Bryan, Executive Director of CyberUp, a nonprofit that’s dedicated to strengthening the cybersecurity workforce. “But today it’s really more of a pipeline problem than it is a gap.”

The issue, according to Tony, isn’t necessarily that there aren’t skilled people in the workforce. In his view, the US has done a good job of ramping up technology skills training through a variety of vehicles, from classes at conventional colleges to learn-to-code bootcamps. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of infrastructure to connect skilled people to the right roles.

“If you take these IT classes at a community college,” Tony explains, “you might still have a tough time getting a job that uses your skills, because companies are looking for the right fit, not just for basic knowledge.”

There’s a disconnect. But the good news is that there’s a way to bridge it: apprenticeships.

Why Apprenticeships Work

Apprenticeships aren’t a new concept; in fact, they’ve been around for thousands of years. But in IT, they’re gaining newfound prominence as a bridge for “new collar” workers – people who have training in technical skills but haven’t necessarily completed a traditional four-year degree in the field they’re pursuing.

At a practical level, apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with paid performance. The apprentice has a defined term during which they’re expected to work, learn, and receive fair wages. For individuals, this is a chance to gain high-quality career experience that can lead to more permanent roles. For organizations, it’s a way to access highly skilled work and build a talent pipeline.

One of CyberUp’s functions is to facilitate connections between individuals and organizations, so that potential apprentices have access to opportunities – and so that potential employers have access to skilled talent.

That’s where ATB came in.

The ATB Apprenticeship Program

At ATB, we understand that our success depends on the quality of our people. So, when we became aware of CyberUp’s apprenticeship program, we were intrigued about its potential for building a talent pipeline.

We worked with CyberUp to outline an apprenticeship role and find suitable candidates. The process led us to Alex Hummel.

Alex has a degree in cybersecurity and had participated in skills training in connection with CyberUp. But he realized that, to get the type of role he wanted to further his career, he needed more on-the-job experience. We were able to help provide that via an apprenticeship position as a Network Consultant.

By all accounts, it’s been a success.

“I’ve been able to do a lot and gain very valuable experience,” says Alex. “There’s always something new to learn.”

That’s included learning the ins and outs of remote backups, interacting with cybersecurity software, and assisting in the deployment of over 200 laptops – plus learning the expectations and culture of our company.

“ATB is the best work community that I’ve been a part of,” says Alex. “You can talk to anybody here, and everyone is willing to help each other out.”

From our end, being able to assist in Alex’s growth while putting his skills into practice has been a win-win. “Alex has helped us grow our email phishing campaigns,” says Christopher Miller, VP of Sales and Marketing at ATB Technologies. “Overall, it has been great watching him learn and jump in to help take additional tasks off of the rest of our team.”

For Alex and for ATB’s apprenticeship program, the positive outcome is a harbinger of what’s to come.

The Future of Apprenticeships

We’re excited to help Alex continue to grow, and we look forward to strengthening our apprenticeship program with more skilled individuals who can benefit from in-role experience.

“If you’re thinking about an apprenticeship, I’d say give it a try,” affirms Alex. “Just go for it. You’re getting experience that every company wants.”

Christopher agrees. “There’s a gap between education and the real world,” he explains. “For students, it’s a great way to bridge that, and for us, having someone come in who’s gone through the apprenticeship program is a real benefit.”

For individuals seeking to gain new skills, to upskill existing ones, or to re-skill in a parallel field, an apprenticeship is a great option. At ATB, we anticipate more successful apprenticeships in the future as we continue to build our partnership with CyberUp.

The outcome is the ongoing reduction of the IT skills gap, and the continual strengthening of our team of technology experts so that we can best serve our clients.

If you’re interested in learning more about our apprenticeship program, reach out to us online. To learn more about CyberUp and get involved with their apprenticeship opportunities or training initiatives, visit wecyberup.org.

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