What comes to mind when you picture an apprentice? Maybe a plumber, welder, or some other type of trade. But what about someone at a computer learning about information technology?
Ticket Into Tech, a new apprenticeship program in San Luis Obispo, is connecting students with businesses to learn the tools of the IT trade in a real-world setting. In the process, the program is revitalizing a centuries-old concept to train workers in the local community and creating a whole new model for how businesses can engage in the educational process.
Ticket Into Tech allows students to gain experience for their resumes while working alongside cybersecurity and other IT professionals.
“Apprenticeship is the gateway to getting the experience that’s necessary to landing a job in technology,” said SLO Partners Executive Director Michael Speccierla “It provides businesses with a way to hire skilled local talent that can keep pace with the rapid changes in technology.”
The program’s first cohort placed 28 apprentices with 18 companies through a direct matching process. Speccierla and SLO Partners Business Liaison Dan Weeks took a different approach to apprenticeships by connecting directly with companies to gauge their needs early in the process rather than relying on job posting sites after the apprentices are trained.
This personal touch resulted in greater success since the training offered matched the needs of the companies and the apprentice’s profile fit with the company’s culture.
Weeks said these relationships allowed SLO Partners to hear directly from businesses about what they needed and how the apprentices could deliver that value to local companies.
“We wanted to create demand, create value that apprentice is a desirable component for their business,” Weeks said. “All the jobs are in the small companies, who are the ones looking to hire local professionals.”
Clever Ducks, an IT consulting firm in San Luis Obispo, currently has three apprentices who are gaining hands-on experience from the company’s more seasoned employees. Co-founder Amy Kardel sees the apprenticeship program as a critical part of building and sustaining a cybersecurity workforce.
“When we think about cybersecurity we think often of only the point of the spear cyber warrior types, but cybersecurity requires a whole army of skilled tech workforce to set things up correctly in the IT environment and maintain them,” Kardel said. “Apprenticeships let us train this essential workforce efficiently and meet the needs of the job market while giving people a great start in a growing career field.”
Although still in its infancy, the program is already delivering the boost of confidence students need to be successful in the IT world.
“Ticket into Tech taught me skills that have proven to be invaluable in the apprenticeship position they placed me in,” said a student who completed an apprenticeship at Amazon. “The learning has continued each day of my on the job training, and I feel confident that I am now on the right path toward achieving personal success in a career that I truly enjoy.”
The program is coordinated by SLO Partners, part of the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education. SLO Partners was formed in 2014 to align business needs with educational pathways and work experience to meet the county’s workforce needs. The county is facing a unique problem with the 2024 planned closure of Diablo Canyon Power Plant which will leave hundreds of skilled workers without jobs.
The group’s goal is to fill 1000 tech positions by the time Diablo Canyon closes by offering retraining as well as opportunities for those never in the tech industry. However, many jobs in IT and cybersecurity require at least a few years of professional experience, which leaves many people interested in the career path without a place to start.
SLO Partners is preparing for Ticket Into Tech’s second year and recently announced a partnership with Full Stack Academy to launch a 18-week coding boot camp that will serve as a precursor to an apprenticeship. Students can choose from pathways toward becoming an IT technician, software test technician, or software developer.
The program requires an application and 10 hours of pre-work that’s available online or in person at CodeSLO. For more information, visit slopartners.org.