Learn how Adcap developed its apprenticeship programs to address the candidate skills gap.
By Brad Wilkins
In my last post, I discussed Adcap’s belief in bridging the candidate ‘skills gap’ with a compromise. With an abundance of intelligent and capable recent graduates, returning veterans and individuals seeking industry transitions, we knew we could find a successful compromise. Instead of complaining about the lack of an already-qualified talent pool, we would create one. This is how we got the idea to institute our apprentice program.
When we first discussed the concept of an apprenticeship position with the management team, they were a bit confused by the language.
“Is this an internship?” they asked. No, this was a full W-2 salaried position with benefits.
“Then how is this different from an entry-level position?” they wanted to know.
The delineation that makes this program an apprenticeship, versus just a traditional entry-level position or career transition role, was the blend of three components: 50 percent training, 30 percent practical experience, and 20 percent mentorship.
We decided the program would work effectively for our sales and engineering departments. For the program to work, it was important to find ways to motivate and incentivize mentors to truly share their craft and best practices. They would spend one full day per week mentoring, versus most mentor programs that require a simple lunch once a quarter and an occasional email exchange.
With the sales mentorship program, we tapped into their core motivating factor: money. (Surprised, aren’t you?) The apprentices would be tied to their mentor for their entire career at Adcap. The mentor in turn would be financially motivated to progress the apprentice to each stage of the program. That’s where we realized we need to figure out how to fully lay out the career path from Day One for the apprentice.
To accomplish this, we introduced the concept of CLEAR. In the Adcap apprenticeship program, you will have a clear:
For our sales apprenticeship, the end goal is to develop an account manager internally in 1-2 years with a business case that allows us to break as close to even as possible along the way. For our technical apprentice program, the goal is to develop a deployment engineer with similar objectives.
The first thing we laid out was the career path for both of these roles. When an apprentice begins with Adcap, they should understand not only what the next job in their career path is, but the next three jobs! Additionally, we defined what they needed to learn, accountabilities they should be held to and the expectations they needed to meet to progress through each step.
You’ll notice the time spent at each role is a range of months. We built business cases to define those stages, allowing the apprentices (and their subsequent promotions) to move at their own pace. This was especially important with our Generation Y employees; it gave them control of their own destiny with clear rewards upon stage completion.
Our apprenticeship program did more than just provide an opportunity for candidates making career or industry transitions. It enabled us to revolutionize or hiring process and expanded our definition of what makes a great candidate. We ended up hiring a museum curator, a biology major, a former public speaking professor and a professional dancer in the first wave of our apprenticeship program. All four transitioned onto the sales team nicely, and are leading successful careers with Adcap.
When we bridge the candidate skills gap with a compromise, everyone wins.
Brad Wilkins is the Director of Talent Management & HR Services at Adcap Network Systems, the 2013 Cisco Partner of the Year, and recently participated in TheLadders JobMobile Atlanta panel discussion. Follow him on Twitter at @WorkingAtADCAP.