- Firms like Ford, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Sony Electronics, Sprint, Toyota, Twitter, Visa and Walmart are exploring, and in some cases implementing, apprenticeship programs for careers in technology.
- Tech apprenticeships offer a new way for Americans without a college degree or tech background to land a job in the field without going back to school.
- The average student loan balance is around $30,000, up from $10,000 in the early 1990s.
Ryan Reed was having a tough time.
The 38-year-old, a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, had been trying for months to land a job in technology, a passion dating to his days as a second-grader disassembling flashlights for fun.
But the former firefighter, who’d suffered a career-ending back injury, didn’t have a college degree — a formidable roadblock in the industry. With five kids to support, he couldn’t afford to go back to school.
Luck was on Reed’s side, though. In 2018, he found — and landed — a paid apprenticeship as part of a new program at IBM, and was recently hired full-time.
A growing push among tech firms to hire, pay and train apprentices means getting a college degree — and its resulting loan burden — may no longer be a requirement for cash-strapped individuals.
“Going into debt at 40 for $50,000 or $60,000 isn’t a great option when you’re trying to plan for your retirement and college for your kids,” Reed said. “That’s not the kind of change most people can make.”
Apprenticeships have long been leveraged in traditionally blue-collar professions — such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and metal workers — as a way to provide recruits with hands-on training and technical instruction as well as a paycheck.
Now, major firms — including household names like Ford, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Sony Electronics, Sprint, Toyota, Twitter, Visa and Walmart — have started exploring, and in some cases implementing, apprenticeship programs for careers in technology.
These companies are hiring from previously overlooked segments of the workforce — namely, those without higher-education degrees or a previous job in technology — in order to help address a severe shortage of skilled workers in a fast-growing sector of the U.S. economy.
Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO at Tesla, made headlines recently by saying he’d accept recruits without high-school degrees for the firm’s artificial intelligence team.