Apprentice Brigade is the workforce training and staffing division built on top of our for-profit professional services company. In response to the complex economic and business challenges affecting our region on the Central Coast of California (just 30 miles from Silicon Valley), we were faced with difficult decision; relocate to another part of the country with a lower cost of living and available talent pool, or figure out a way to survive in the face of these challenges.
Due to the mass influx of people seeking high paying tech jobs, the Bay Area has quickly become gentrified, and that trend is continuing down the coast. Without the ability to take advantage of higher paying jobs, people are getting pushed out of the cities and neighborhoods they call home. For those who already have tech skills, there is plenty of opportunity in Silicon Valley, so much so it has become difficult to fill new positions here.
While increasing employment costs are a concern, perhaps a bigger problem is qualifications and capability of the talent pool. There are competing arguments about the “STEM Shortage” which refers to the perceived lack of qualified talent in the US. On one side of the argument the “shortage” is fueling the controversial H1B program which allows US companies to import talent to fill their needs. On the other side of the argument it’s said that there is no shortage of workers, there is a shortage of the best workers desired by the top tech companies. A clear takeaway here is that our workers must be the best they can be throughout their career, or face replacement as the qualified talent pool grows.
We see a promising solution that has the potential effect of cancelling out these problems. It’s been our opinion that companies need to take ownership of the talent problem by investing in our communities to produce the talent they need. Largely that has not been the case, instead expecting our public education system to fill this void. At the rate the tech industry is evolving and without investments and meaningful partnerships, this problem will not solve itself.
As a small company which grew largely through internships (we’ve hired 16 of our 39 interns), we have seen the value of investing into our potential employees. The more structured our internships are, the better the result. For-profit Bootcamps (if you can afford them) are a bandaid for the skills gap between the public education system and job requirements. What is missing is high quality vocational training which produces qualified talent who are ready to do the job and to do that job exceptionally.
A Modern Apprenticeship is our solution to the talent creation pool. Unlike traditional apprenticeships which are largely a mentorship on the job, our goal is to provide a structured training program with immersive curriculum in combination with mentorship. This combines the best elements of bootcamps, internships, and apprenticeships. With a focus on the achievement of mastery, we know we can produce high quality talented workers. We know this because we’ve been doing it the last eight years, and our past employees have done well for themselves as their careers and lives moved on to new challenges, locations, and opportunities.
Everyone leaves eventually. As you might have surmised, in order for companies to survive and grow, we need a continuous talent pool to pull from as we experience the natural churn of employees. While we need to solve this problem for our company, we have decided to solve the problem for our region by producing more talent than we need. Why would we do this? In practical terms we don’t want to compete with other companies in the region for the talent we produce, and given that we have a proven track record for producing quality sought after talent, we believe we are better equipped to solve this problem than other companies with little or no experience in comprehensive training. It also further solidifies our position as a contributor and participating member of our community. The remaining challenge is how to pay for training talent at scale, and it Takes a Village.