When Apprenti Louisiana graduates talk about their experience participating in the state’s first technology apprenticeship program, a common sentiment emerges.
The program, they say, is almost too good to be true.
Apprenti—a national initiative founded in 2016 and operating in 10 states—provides three months of free certified technical training and a paid one-year apprenticeship with a local company. NexusLA, a subsidiary of the Research Park Corporation, launched Apprenti Louisiana in Baton Rouge last October with five partner companies—TraceSecurity, General Informatics, EATEL Business, Transformyx, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.
“For me, it was pretty much perfect for what I was looking for at this point in my life,” says Jared Carmouche, an Apprenti grad who left the banking industry and is now an apprentice at Eatel Business. “The fact that it was free and a great opportunity, I was sort of skeptical the whole time, thinking this can’t be true.”
The goal of Apprenti Louisiana is not just to help participants find jobs, but to fill the skills gap in the Baton Rouge area’s talent-hungry tech industry. The program provides a reliable pipeline of trained apprentices to meet the growing demands for tech talent at local companies. Apprenti has even attracted interest from out of state, including two in the first cohort who moved to Baton Rouge from Texas.
And employers participating in Apprenti so far have been impressed with the results.
“The success of the program is evident by the ability of the apprentices to be immediately productive and to be an additional avenue for building a quality workforce in the Baton Rouge area,” says General Informatics Executive Vice President Devin Zito. “We’re looking forward to being a part of the program’s future success.”
The Research Park pursued the Apprenti model last year in an effort to help local tech partners facing significant challenges identifying and hiring skilled talent for IT roles, says Research Park Corporation CEO Genevieve Silverman. A needs assessment conducted with employers found cyber security analysts were in high demand, which became the focus of the first Apprenti class.
LanTec, a corporate training center in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, provided the tech certification training for the first group, funded via a federal grant, Silverman says. Future classes will use a braided funding model of state and federal dollars, as well as employer contributions.
As an added benefit to employers, Apprenti organizers take on the work of recruiting, screening and selecting applicants, who are then trained, certified and ready to begin their apprenticeships.
“The program does not require prior experience, but an aptitude to learn complex skills and an attitude to complete a demanding program,” Silverman says, adding the selection process involves an online test and multiple interviews.
Employers who opt in must provide an upfront one-year apprenticeship offer, she says, based on applicants successfully completing the training. Minimum salaries are $17.19 an hour for the first six months and $21.10 for the subsequent six months. At the end of the apprenticeship, it’s up to the employer to offer a full-time position.
The companies involved say the deal is too good to pass up, especially considering the fact that they don’t have to spend their own time and money on the selection and training process.
“It was the fastest hiring decision we’ve ever made,” says Barret Williams, director of data center operations at Eatel Business, which hired one of the nine apprentices.
Williams says Apprenti organizers interviewed employers about their company cultures and needs in order to match them with the right candidates. Eatel was then able to interview two candidates Apprenti provided and chose one.
Most employers, like Eatel, are interested in being part of Apprenti again next year, Silverman says. She also hopes to expand the program, which offers training for 12 different tech jobs, locally and statewide over time.
“If you look at the program, it’s broader than our one hire,” Williams says. “Nine people (in the first class), that’s significant. Companies would have been cannibalizing talent from each other, all vying for the same talent pool. Anything we can do to make the talent pool wider.”