When an alarming trend meets an exciting, but unprecedented solution, all you need is a way to make the solution a reality. For California, the trend is the retirement of an estimated 50% of the IT workforce over the next few years (affecting state, regional and local government agencies). In addition to this mass exodus, some IT jobs are being phased out and new skills are required for areas like cybersecurity.
These converging trends happen to dovetail with the governor’s goal of providing upward mobility for state workers. And what better career to pursue than technology?
“California has apprenticeship programs, but they’re for trades, not professional services,” says Eric Rood, acting chief for apprenticeship standards. “Taking employees from janitorial or clerical jobs through intensive technology training is extremely ambitious. But with so much at stake, it was the right time to tackle something groundbreaking.”
California state government is sprawling, complicated and diverse. “You can’t accomplish something of this magnitude in government without a collaborative ecosystem of partners,” says Eric.
Fortunately, Mission Community College was seeking a public sector partner for a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Labor for workforce development. Together with Networking Academy, it approached the State of California, and all the pieces began to fall into place.
The next crucial step was a roundtable discussion with the 10 largest departments employing IT staff, including Motor Vehicles, Taxation, Water Resources, and Transportation. It was a dynamic listening and learning session to understand each department’s needs. Many others joined the ecosystem, including the CIO of Cybersecurity and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, for ongoing roundtables.
A New Model
Today, it is called the IT Government Operations Apprenticeship Program for the State of California. It’s open to all employees. “The governor’s upward mobility goal was extremely important, so applicants had to be making below a certain amount of money to qualify,” says Eric.
There were over 300 applications for the first opportunity, and 20 employees were selected. They committed to 4,000 hours of coursework over 13-24 months. There are 10 courses, 4 of which are based on the Networking Academy CCNA series. Learners attend evening classes twice a week. Every Friday, they have a problem-solving session with academy instructor Kevin Anderson.
“We’ve had to work through a lot of issues, but we’ve got a good formula now,” says Eric. “We intend to double the number of apprenticeships by 2025.”
Expansion of Reach and New Funding
Eric and his ever-growing ecosystem of partners want to attract applicants from local community colleges and the bay area. “We want to develop talent from within and attract talent from the outside.”
The program recently received a federal grant for $4 million over the next 5 years. “As far as we know, this is the first state government program of its kind in the country,” says Eric. “We’re hopeful that other states can replicate what we’ve done.”
Key Advice for Apprenticeship Programs
- If you have a starting class that has no technology experience, consider adding a boot camp to cover fundamentals
- Cover the cost of certification examinations in your program budget
- To accommodate work schedules, consider a hybrid or blended learning model (on campus and online courses, plus discussion groups or problem-solving sessions with an academy instructor)
- Incorporate mentoring in the program; in the California program, the managers in each participating agency mentor apprentices
- There’s no single engine for growth: expand your ecosystem and the reach of your program through public-private partnerships