A recurring theme in Kansas City’s tech circles: not enough skilled workers to fit the open job opportunities, said Ryan Weber.
“That shouldn’t surprise people because it’s not a Kansas City problem — it’s a national problem,” said Weber, president and CEO of the KC Tech Council.
Click here to learn more about the KC Tech Council, a leading advocate for Kansas City’s tech community.
More than 4,000 tech job postings remained unfilled in October, according to the most recent Tech Checkpoint report from the KC Tech Council. Software developers and computer user support specialists top the list of openings. Click here to view the full report.
As a way to combat the worsening problem, Weber and his team recently announced a multi-year investment and partnership with Apprenti — an apprenticeship program designed to cultivate tech skills and offer first-hand experience for potential candidates.
Along with growing tech talent, Apprenti’s mission: diversify the pool of applicants to meet evolving workforce needs and reach untapped potential. It’s a goal the KC Tech Council is also working to accomplish, Weber said.
“Those conversations and priorities on finding a more diverse workforce stemmed way before what we’ve seen over the past summer with the uprising against racial injustice; but I think that helped confirm that [diversity] is a priority,” he noted.
With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the overall dependency on technology, the KC Tech Council’s partnership deal with Apprenti was accelerated — but still thoroughly discussed, Weber said.
“When we were evaluating our partners and looking at all the different programs out there, there were a couple specific reasons to why we chose Apprenti; their success rates with finding and graduating diverse candidates is until anything we’ve ever seen,” Weber said, noting that about 80 percent of candidates are retained or hired by the businesses once the apprenticeship ends.
“And also, Apprenti is not just in Kansas City,” he continued. “They are in 16 other markets, and their database is national. It’s a two-way street — our companies who have offices across the country can find candidates in those communities, and those candidates can also be brought to Kansas City.”
Click here to check out Apprenti’s 16 other markets.
A six-figure investment for the council over the next several years, the partnership necessitated the addition of Erin Christensen as KC Tech Council’s program manager for Apprenti, Weber said.
“Really how Apprenti works is that it’s based on partnerships. Partnerships with training providers and training partners — so working with different educational institutions within Kansas City,” said Christensen, who has a background working in higher education. “As well as community partnerships to help be our advocates and ambassadors for the program.”
The training providers are expected to lead an eight- to 15-week educational program for interested students, and upon training completion, students will be paired with a business for their year-long apprenticeship.
Although the vast majority of apprentices stay within the company where they started, it isn’t required.
“Apprentices are employees of the company, but in a temporary, full-time position,” Weber stated. “The typical duration of the apprenticeship is a year. If retained, they are converted to a permanent, full-time position with the organization. One of the most positive outcomes with Apprenti is that there is over an 80 percent retention rate from apprentice to full-time, permanent employee.”
The KC Tech Council plans to launch the Apprenti program in the first quarter of 2021 by searching for employers, as well as educational and community partners. Weber requested that businesses interested in joining the apprenticeship program first apply to be a member of the KC Tech Council. Companies of any size are encouraged to participate, he added.
“One of the great services that Apprenti offers is helping with all of the paperwork and reporting requirements that are typically placed on employers,” Weber said. “This is helpful for startups, small companies, or even medium-sized companies that may not have an HR department or specific person to manage those files. We will manage that process for them.”
Moving further into 2021, nothing is certain beyond uncertainty because of the ongoing pandemic, Weber said. Still, the KC Tech Council plans to focus on its three pillars: workforce development, policy advocacy and industry access, he said.
“Although we are expected to be virtual for most of our events, we will continue to be creative and innovative on how we can create access to our industry,” Weber said. “We have to, considering today’s environment.”