Ian Whitehill went from military deployment to software bootcamp, waging a new career as a software engineering technologist at Lenexa-based Genuen thanks to KC Tech Council’s emerging apprenticeship program.
“I always wanted to do something where I felt like I was contributing to society and the world around me. When I heard about the opportunity with Apprenti, I jumped on it,” Whitehill said of the national career training program, which launched in Kansas City in early 2021.
He started with Genuen in August after completing a 16-week online bootcamp where he worked on coding and other software processes.
Whitehill previously served as an enlisted military police officer with the Army National Guard for six years. While on duty, he was involved in overseas combat tours in Iraq, Germany as well as helping relief missions in the United States, like the Joplin tornado.
“My stepdad was in the Navy and in the Army as an Intelligence Officer,” Whitehill said. “I grew up around the military. It seemed like an interesting career choice after high school.”
He heard about Apprenti through a job fair where he met Erin Christensen, program manager at KC Tech Council, who tapped into Whitehill’s lifelong interest in technology.
Before joining the military, Whitehill also worked as a train connector with Union Pacific Railroad. He noticed there that technology was becoming a bigger focus.
Such stories are the reason Apprenti exists in Kansas City, Christensen said.
In January, Kansas City became the 17th market in the country to adopt the Apprenti program, with just under 400 local applicants applying for positions. The program specifically works to create apprenticeships for veterans and other underserved individuals.
“One of the focuses is being able to support veterans as they re-enter civilian life,” Christensen said. “We want them to capitalize on what they learned while they were in the military and to understand what their value is.”
The first step in the process is to score an 80 percent or higher on a basic competency assessment. Applicants then select a market and a technology career they are interested in before starting interviews. Once they are selected by a company, two-to-five-month job training takes place before their year-long apprenticeship.
“I love learning about individual stories to help them pivot their careers, and I also love working with companies to help solve their problems,” Christensen said. “One of the biggest unexpected surprises I have loved is seeing how diverse our applicant pool is.”
Apprenti has already spread significantly by word of mouth, Christensen said. New companies have been looking to join the KC Tech Council to expand their opportunities with developing talent.
“We’re all very happy with the progress we have made in the past year,” she said. “We have some exciting projects that will help move the needle forward with Apprenti in the next couple years.”
“One of our applicants is being converted from an apprentice to a regular position early because she was able to hit those milestones so early on,” Christensen detailed. “I think that speaks to how successful our training is.”
The organization hopes to keep growing to achieve new goals for the new year, she said.
“I want to try to identify opportunities beyond Kansas City to see if there are other partners throughout Missouri and Kansas,” Christensen said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.