Keeping talent may call for apprenticeships, training

Service providers struggling with conventional employee hiring and retention approaches may need to pursue alternate routes, industry executives said.

MSPs face challenges when it comes to finding and keeping talent.

Industry executives point to a couple of approaches for cultivating skilled workers and keeping them on the job. Apprenticeship programs and internships are among the methods for preparing inexperienced people to take on technical jobs. To boost retention, service providers should emphasize training and pay close attention to how new hires acclimate to their jobs.

Building, keeping talent via apprenticeships

Amy Kardel, vice president, strategic workforce relationships at CompTIA, cited apprenticeship programs as an effective approach for responding to the talent gap. The approach offers an alternative to traditional hiring methods, she said.

"What we are doing now doesn't work," Kardel noted. "We have a gaping hole in the number of jobs we need to fill."

Kardel defined apprenticeships as providing the following:

  • paid positions, funded by the employer;
  • a combination of competency training and on-the-job learning;
  • a mentor that helps tie together learning experiences; and
  • an industry-recognized and nationally portable credential.
We have a gaping hole in the number of jobs we need to fill.
Amy KardelVice president, strategic workforce relationships, CompTIA

An apprenticeship program also opens opportunities for entry-level workers displaced from other industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kardel, speaking at the ConnectWise IT Nation Connect conference, suggested apprenticeships provide a path toward "pandemic-proof" jobs.

CompTIA launched Apprenticeships for Tech in 2020 to boost the availability of apprenticeship programs.

Amy KardelAmy Kardel

Improving retention

Businesses investing in apprenticeship programs can bolster employee retention, an important consideration amid the Great Resignation. Building talent, rather than poaching it from another company, inspires loyalty. "I think it's the gift of reciprocity that comes through," Kardel said. "You invested in me as talent -- I'm going to stick with you."

Aaron Bolton, owner of UpSkill Learning Solutions, a leadership development firm in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., area, also cited the retention advantages of hiring and training less-experienced workers. He acknowledged getting such employees up to speed takes time but noted searching for the ideal hire requires a similar commitment.

"You can continue using all that time finding the right candidates, or you can find someone who isn't as skilled and skill them yourself," Bolton said, speaking at IT Nation Connect. "Take that same time, and invest in them, and … build loyalty."

Service providers ramp up apprenticeships, training

Service providers are launching initiatives designed to cultivate tech talent. Here are some examples from the first quarter of 2022:

  • Accenture and Salesforce plan to offer paid internships to college students and apprenticeships to people reinventing their career tracks. Those moves are part of the Accenture Talent Hub for Salesforce, a center in Albany, N.Y., that aims to generate 100 jobs in 2022.
  • Tata Consultancy Services will grow its STEM and computer science education programs in New Jersey by 25%. Nurturing the local talent pipeline will contribute to the company's goal of hiring around 1,000 employees in the state by the end of 2023.
  • Transformation Lead, a consulting firm in Atlanta, is partnering with the American Institutes for Research and CompTIA to build a Registered Apprenticeship Program. The program will include on-the-job training and mentorships.

The retention task doesn't end with training, however. Sunny Kaila, CEO and co-founder of IT By Design, recommended treating new employees "like a client." IT By Design, based in Marlboro, N.J., is a technology services provider for MSPs.

"The first 90 days require high touch," he said during an IT Nation Connect panel discussion on employee engagement. "If you don't build that connection in the first place, that first impression, then it's hard. There's high potential for them to leave."

While attending to the newcomers, businesses should also ensure they don't take long-time employees for granted. "In this Great Resignation, even their chances of leaving are high," Kaila said.

Additional reporting by John Moore.

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