Companies embrace new tech talent through youth apprenticeships

Posted on Oct 29, 2019 :: Partner
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Posted by Michelle Schuler, Manager of TechSpark Wisconsin

“Tools & Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age,” a new book written by Microsoft President Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne, provides the reader with an inside view on many of the biggest technology trends and thorniest issues of our time, offering insights on how the world can better address these challenges.

One of those challenges is a critical need for talent. According to Code.org, there are nearly 7,000 technology jobs available in Wisconsin alone. These are good paying jobs that, on average, pay significantly more than the average salary in the state.

The good news is that investment in computer science talent in the region is growing. More school districts are looking at programs, such as TEALS, a Microsoft program where volunteer industry professionals are paired with teachers to provide computer science education to high school students. In 2017, Wisconsin had 13 TEALS schools and this year the program has expanded to 45 Wisconsin schools.

While there’s a healthy pipeline of computer science-proficient students, we lack a pathway to efficiently bridge them into the computer science and IT jobs that are available today. Work-based learning has grown in fields of welding, electrical and construction industries, yet it has not taken off in the technology field. It’s a problem Tania Kilpatrick, director of CESA 6’s Center for College and Career Readiness, has seen firsthand.

“High school students feel that there are no technology jobs here in the region because no companies will open their doors,” she said. “We need to open our doors to your young people to keep them in the region.”

The career pathways gap is a critical issue that’s impacting Northeast Wisconsin and beyond. It’s a problem we have both an opportunity and responsibility to address by working with the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, New North, the NEW IT Alliance and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development-IT Youth Apprenticeship partners to encourage more companies to implement IT youth apprenticeships. These apprenticeships benefit students, employers and the community — students gain hands-on experience in computer science, employers gain access to skilled workers, and the community retains talent in the region. It’s a win-win-win for Wisconsin.

There are already several companies in the region, including Schneider National, Heartland Business Systems, Secura Insurance and CellCom, developing their IT Youth Apprenticeship programs. Schneider’s Brian Stuelpner, vice president of strategy, planning and architecture, says the company is open to new ways to attract and grow talent.

“Schneider is constantly looking to tap into talent that can help take us to the future,” he says. “Our traditional channels of experienced hires and college recruits have been a wonderful engine for our growth, and now we are also looking to engage an emerging source of talent by partnering with high school programs such as TEALS. Not only does this help us solve the problems of today, but it also further cements Schneider as an employer of choice for the next generation.”

We applaud the efforts from companies throughout the region changing their culture to embrace this new technology talent pipeline. Ensuring that IT Youth Apprenticeships are available is critical for the future of our students, business and the region at large. If you are a Wisconsin business that might be interested in participating in this program, please reach out today to get involved.

On the Web

news.microsoft.com/techspark

Michelle Schuler is manager of TechSpark Wisconsin and a co-founder and past president of Women In Technology Wisconsin.