Best practices: Central Six AlabamaWorks! launches IT apprenticeship program with major national grant

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As Birmingham’s need for information technology (IT) talent grows, Central Six AlabamaWorks! is launching the first officially registered consortium-style software development apprenticeship program in the state, thanks to $150,000 in funding from the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. Central Six is a provider of workforce services for the Birmingham region.

Protective Life Corp. and Sigao Studios will become the first two employer partners of the IT apprenticeship program, where apprentices will work full-time for roughly 15 months to complete the IT apprenticeship.

Additionally, Central Six is partnering with Innovate Birmingham as the training provider for the IT apprenticeship. Innovate Birmingham will launch a free, 14-week Software Engineering Bootcamp on May 20 that will be used as a pre-apprenticeship training program for the IT apprenticeship, and applications are currently open to those interested in a career in software development. After completing the bootcamp, students will have the opportunity to be interviewed and selected for the IT apprenticeship program.

This IT apprenticeship program will help close the skills gap for employers by training apprentices for careers in software development, said Central Six executive director Antiqua Cleggett.

“Apprenticeship programs are expanding nationwide, innovatively addressing the skills gap needs,” Cleggett said. “The registered apprenticeship model has been successful in other industries, including construction and manufacturing, but the concept is relatively new to the IT field. These apprentices will receive progressive wages as their skillset increases and receive a National Certificate of Apprenticeship at the completion of the program that is transferable to anywhere in the U.S. As a result, apprenticeship programs like this benefit both the employer and apprentice alike, by growing talent and increasing a person’s quality of life.”

Apprenticeships allow employers to create a training program that fits their needs uniquely, by including both related instruction as well as on-the-job training at their facility. This model has proven to improve employer productivity and reduce employee turnover as it trains apprentices in competencies recognized nationally and upskills employees in the work specific to that employer partner. Apprenticeships are recommended in a report from Building (it) Together, which suggests that employers use co-op and alternate training opportunities, including apprenticeships, as a path to fill the talent pipeline.

The IT apprenticeship program is a joint effort between Central Six, Innovate Birmingham, employer partners, Apprenticeship Alabama and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship.

“Over the past seven months, our team has worked together to develop a program by the employer, for the employer, including determining the preferred work process, developing curriculum, brainstorming marketing and branding, and determining the apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship structures,” said Kristen Holder, industry cluster coordinator at Central Six. “We cannot thank our partners enough for working diligently to make this program happen.” 

Central Six AlabamaWorks! is the Regional Workforce Council for the six central counties of Alabama: Jefferson, St. Clair, Blount, Chilton, Shelby and Walker counties. Central Six strives to be an industry-driven organization that effectively coordinates the private, public and nonprofit/philanthropic sectors toward creating clear and contiguous pathways to living-wage employment, while establishing a workforce that is responsive to the existing and emerging needs of the local economy. For more information, click here.