Chris is the President of Woz U, an Arizona-based Education-as-a-Service company providing technology curricula to businesses, universities, and colleges. You can reach him at Chris.Coleman@woz-u.com .

To many, the thought of an apprentice conjures the image of a young plumber or electrician learning the tools of the trade while working on the job with the oversight of an experienced professional. While apprenticeships in those important trades continue, the labor landscape has shifted and increasingly demands a technology-savvy workforce. As such, there is a renewed need to implement modern apprenticeships to bridge the skills gap in tech fields by developing a qualified and talented workforce.

As a world-class tech curriculum developer, founded in 2017, Woz U has been committed to closing the tech talent gap by reskilling or upskilling individuals to fill the available jobs. We realized we could drive meaningful change in the tech industry and expedite filling these jobs by innovating that age-old method for learning a trade or career: the apprenticeship. Through Woz Enterprise – the business-focused division of Woz U – we have partnered with organizations like TranZed, Infosys, and CyberProud to develop technology apprenticeship programs that align skills-based training with employers’ specific job requirements. Many of these programs are U.S. Department of Labor certified, and deliver essential tech competencies to the American workforce, while enabling participants to simultaneously earn certifications and a salary.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 2019, there were 17 percent more job openings in tech fields than qualified workers to fill them. This situation is unlikely to rectify itself any time soon; the Bureau predicts job growth in computer occupations to be around 12 percent through 2028, more than twice the growth rate of all other career fields.

From the talent supply side, the pandemic has displaced tens of millions from their jobs, resulting in an increased interest in work-training opportunities in labor sectors with more stability and higher earning potential, like technology. The challenge lies in arming individuals with day-one skills; pouring thousands of dollars toward education in a new career path remains out of reach for the vast majority.

Tech apprenticeships help employers develop their workforce by reskilling furloughed talent for in-demand tech careers, or upskilling existing employees to move into new positions, all while paying a salary to workers learning these new skills. As with traditional trades, these programs have been designed for non-experienced talent to learn the concepts from scratch. Apprentices become day-one ready in eight to 12 weeks while continuing their learning over their first year of employment. In addition to customized, supervised, and paid on-the-job training, apprentices receive formal mentoring and coaching and are eligible to receive college credit toward a bachelor’s degree from institutions like University of Phoenix and Harrisburg University.

The pandemic and the resulting economic challenges have heightened our reliance on technology and sped the development of what many call the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a blending of the physical and digital world through virtual reality, robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence. Training a diverse and highly skilled technology workforce is crucial to rebuilding the economy, closing the ever-widening skills gap in technology fields that are essential to business growth, corporate and national security, and global prosperity.

As National Apprenticeship Week gets underway, we call on the public and private sectors to join us in embracing, utilizing and updating this time-tested workforce development model. More than ever, we need these innovative apprenticeships to create a pipeline of talent for the future of our country and its economy.