Insights and Perspectives

Insights and Perspectives


Read the latest from Geographic Solutions.

Skills for Growth: How Registered Apprenticeships Yield New Career Paths

In many ways, an apprenticeship provides a faster track to employment than four-year degrees -- especially in industries ripe for expansion. 

Apprenticeships have long been responsible for developing talented individuals into trusted teammates and sought-after leaders at companies large and small. The earn-while-you-learn model simultaneously establishes living wages and upskilling, which is vital to long-term career success.

In 2019, when the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) announced the availability of Apprenticeship State Expansion Grants, Geographic Solutions began a partnership with St. Petersburg College (SPC). The community college, based in Pinellas County, Florida, assisted in crafting a Registered Apprenticeship Program that would help to grow and support new talent.

Six apprentices have completed the program since its start, while five have transitioned into full-time roles at the company. These individuals have worked their way up into key roles, supporting departments such as quality assurance, workforce and unemployment insurance development, and business analysis.

Mapping Out the Journey

The Geographic Solutions (GSI) Apprenticeship Program takes one year to complete. At the end of their tenure, if they are a good fit, and if there is a position available, they can be hired for a full-time position.

The program starts with an experienced mentor walking the apprentice through the entire process. The components of the apprenticeship include department involvement, structured on-the-job training, rewards for skills gain, and credentials. During the supervisory part of the program, apprentices learn through a step-by-step process that follows a job competency chart.

The earn-while-you-learn model encompasses technical and educational training.

For the in-class segment, SPC provides entry points with four courses throughout the year, enabling them to ‘learn while they earn.’ Each quarter, apprentices earn a certificate for course completion. Upon completion of all courses, program participants celebrate with a live graduation in front of friends and family.

From College to Career Path

Lee Noel, a Programmer/Analyst on the Unemployment Insurance Adjudication Team, started the GSI Apprenticeship Program while studying data science analytics at the University of South Florida. Through this program, he saw the opportunity to not only learn programming and planning skills but to understand how to thrive in a professional workplace setting.

“This is my first-ever technology company where I'm working in software, in a professional environment, on a daily basis,” said Noel. “I’ve learned about deployment into production and also skills to make sure my communication is clear to the end user.”

Bisi Adeshina, a Programmer/Analyst on the Reporting and Print Forms Services Team, was immediately able to apply what she learned in class to her work. After going back to school for web development, a career counselor informed her about the program while she was applying to entry-level tech positions.

“I feel that an apprenticeship is a great option for those looking to join the workforce quickly, simply because you can get hands-on experience,” said Adeshina. “You are getting paid for the time and you're getting the training and it’s [the length of the apprenticeship] less than a four-year degree.”

Careers have many peaks and valleys. Adeshina has been able to learn about how to come back from the valleys by listening to senior developers share stories of success and failure.

“Everybody starts from somewhere, and you can’t do it alone,” said Adeshina.  

Soft Skills for Hi-Tech

Kyleigh Ross was one of the first participants in the program. She sought a job in tech after working in hospitality. What drew her in was the chance to dabble in multiple positions and try several things before deciding on a path.

“I think it’s very important for companies to offer apprenticeship programs because it gives people the opportunity to focus only on real-life skills,” said Ross. “It’s beneficial to the company because the incoming apprentice is being built to fit the company’s needs.” 

Employed with the company for three and a half years, she’s learned to ask for help during key points in projects and to accept every opportunity to advance or learn a new skill. She advises incoming apprentices to consider all guidance given, be open to constructive criticism, and stay eager to learn and grow.

Jimmy Pham found the program by searching for opportunities on various job boards. With a background in education, the program piqued his interest.

“I liked how we were able to combine what we were learning in the classes toward our work environment,” said Pham. “My recommendation for anyone who’s looking towards apprenticeship to get into information technology -- go for it.”  

Continuous Growth in Apprenticeships

According to the most recent data from the USDOL, apprenticeships have experienced a 64% increase since 2012, with close to 15,000 programs created by employers around the country.

Doug Carruthers was an established employee in a career field unrelated to software development. He started over when he came to Geographic Solutions, having only a few generic information technology certifications and little idea what kind of jobs were available beyond working at the help desk or writing code. He was able to work in multiple roles and departments until he found his niche.

“Apprenticeship is one of the best ways to grow a skill,” said Carruthers. “Shadowing different people exposes you to different approaches while reinforcing the core concepts common to the company as a whole.”

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