When Cartomu Kabba graduated from high school last year, instead of continuing education or looking for a job, she landed a paid apprenticeship to combine the best of both worlds. “I felt like this was a good path because I was more interested in learning and working at the same time, since I felt that would be more effective for me,” said Kabba.
The 19-year-old Bronx resident heard about paid apprenticeships from Code Nation, a program that teaches people how to code. She applied through Multiverse, a platform that matches apprentices with 12- to 18-month opportunities among their 300 clients, who often offer salaries between $50,000 and $70,000 per year. Kabba created a profile and was matched with insurance company Chubb.
She started her 12-month apprenticeship this past March on a remote team working on Blink, a startup within Chubb, and has been focusing on bringing insurance to consumers in a digital channel.
“I’m getting a dual learning experience on the technical side of using data and the business side, on how a company grows from the very beginning,” said Kabba. “I’ll be learning how to create a database from scratch instead of only understanding the analytics,”
Although apprenticeships are often associated with skilled trades, they’re now emerging for these kinds of white-collar jobs. According to the US Department of Labor, apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with instruction to prepare workers for highly skilled careers, are typically paid and involve a structured training plan with an intention to master specific skills.
Kabba’s days toggle between working on tasks and learning a skill for another project like Python or Microsoft Azure, along with attending monthly Multiverse boot camp sessions. The boot camps are taught by Multiverse coaches — she’s already learned Excel, SQL, Power Bi, Python and basics of data analytics. On a monthly basis, Kabba meets with her Multiverse coach to review objectives to focus on to improve technical skills like Python and soft skills like engagement.
“I think the apprenticeship will definitely help pave the way for a future full-time job because I have real-life experience and that’s always very important in a workplace, especially in a field like data where change is very rapid,” she said.
Multiverse concurs: Most apprentices (87 percent) remain at their companies full time after completion of the program, and many are offered the apprenticeship on that basis.
Phyllis Mooney, executive director of career services at Pace University, said these hands-on learning and working opportunities typically provide phenomenal insight into a company’s culture, leadership preparation and unmatched networking opportunities.
“A lot of employers use these programs to pipeline full-time talent. It’s also relevant work experience for your resume if you move on from the host employer. The learning is constant, as is the feedback,” said Mooney.
It’s a win-win, according to Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and author of “The Unspoken Rules” (Harvard Business Review Press). “Apprenticeships are internships with the promise of mentorship, pay and learning. That’s a great deal! For employers, apprenticeships are a great way to build your leadership bench, not to mention a loyal workforce.”
Apprentices can reap several additional benefits aside from the pay and continuous learning and work aspects. Ng said, “Financial capital — money — isn’t the only thing you can get from an apprenticeship (or really any work experience). This is also your chance to build your human capital (what you know and can do), social capital (who you know) and reputational capital (who knows you and for what).”
Access to apprenticeships isn’t limited to college-age adults. After working in retail for 10 years, 30-something Steven Hubbard had his sights set on an IT career, but there’s that pesky catch-22: You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job.
In 2015, he applied for a full-time role at Maxx Potential, a consulting firm offering apprenticeships in technology. Apprentices get assigned a highly skilled mentor, a peer buddy, a development coach and they have access to network with other apprentices through meet-ups and study groups like hangouts for crypto.
By acquiring new skills and learning about the cloud, databases, programming, securities and how domain name systems work, all while getting paid, Hubbard felt prepared to ace job interviews when he left Maxx in 2017.
“They’re [employers are] saying, ‘Tell me what you would do during this situation.’ Well, I can tell you what I actually did.”
“Without Maxx Potential and that support network and learning system, I wouldn’t have been able to transition into what I’m doing now or it would have been incredibly difficult,” said Hubbard.
Since completing the apprenticeship, he landed full-time roles as a front-end web developer and solutions architect, nearly doubling his salary every time he scored a new job. Now, the Richmond, Va., resident is employed as an enterprise architect for Cockroach Labs, a Chelsea-based company that helps organizations manage their data.
Kimberly Mahan, founder and partner at Maxx Potential, said most apprenticeships last around 14 months, during which time apprentices advance to higher levels in quality assurance and testing, application maintenance and support, information security, software development, and data management and reporting.
‘“We operate like any other consulting firm. We’re building the minor league — a farm feeder system to senior consulting firms,” said Mahan. “We create an environment where folks are always learning. Think about it before you sign [student] loan papers.
We can get you experience so you can get in — and most employers have tuition reimbursement programs so you can get your degree later. What you need to get into the door more than anything is real-world experience.”
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