How to Launch Your First Digital Apprenticeship Program - And Make It A Success

Digital apprenticeship programs offer employers the opportunity to invest in their workforce by introducing meaningful and digitally transformative skill sets that are increasingly in demand. Launching a successful program, however, requires careful planning, an understanding of the available funding sources, goals that measure performance over time, and a partner who can provide end-to-end support for program execution.

In this article, we will discuss how to create a comprehensive plan for launching a digital apprenticeship program — one that is capable of delivering on key objectives while also providing valuable development opportunities to participants. We'll cover everything from identifying funding sources to establishing the right internal structure.

Creating a Comprehensive and Well-Structured Launch Plan

When creating a plan for launching a digital apprenticeship program, employers should consider the following.

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Identify Roles That Are Compatible With the Effort

When determining which roles the digital apprenticeship program should be rolled out for, it’s important to consider the most in-demand skills needed across business operations. These may include positions related to data science, software engineering, and other IT functions such as web development or mobile app design. Depending on the organization's size and tech stack, additional roles could be added, such as DevOps or customer success/support personnel.

It is also recommended that employers review job postings from competitive businesses in order to better understand what type of talent they most urgently need. By taking certain steps during the initial planning stages, employers can generate the specific resources — hardware and software, personnel, funding — to lead successful initiatives. These initiatives may include:

  • Augmenting skill sets in disciplines where the business needs additional resources 
  • Offering more efficient employee training cycles with shorter learning curves due to improved performance resulting from targeted knowledge transfer methods
  • Increasing gender and racial diversity within traditionally male-dominated fields where racial minorities are underrepresented

Set Expectations for Both Mentors and Apprentices

When setting expectations from both the employer side (mentoring activities) and the apprentice side (commitment level), employers should outline a clear set of commitments between the two parties to ensure success.

For example, employers should expect apprentices to fully engage in their program requirements, including:

  • Attending all required mentorship sessions
  • Completing assigned tasks on time
  • Submitting milestone progress reviews

Accordingly, they must commit themselves to mentor responsibilities such as:

  • Providing feedback when necessary
  • Guiding apprentices on career development strategies
  • Continuously challenging them with engaging projects that are aligned with the company’s goals and objectives
  • Creating an environment in which ideas can be shared openly without fear of judgment or retaliation

By ensuring these mutually beneficial conditions are met through honest communication at each stage of the process leading up to graduation day, both sides will benefit from this endeavor for years into the future.

Establish and Allocate Funding

Establishing and allocating funding to support a digital apprenticeship program will involve researching multiple potential sources, such as grants from government entities or organizations in the industry. There are also employer tax incentives provided by state agencies and sponsorships from local institutions or companies that support workforce development initiatives.

An employer should make sure it has allocated sufficient funds at both the launch of the program and its completion. This includes not only direct costs like salaries for mentors and staff members but also any indirect costs associated with providing software training materials, the technology infrastructure needed to run coursework online (e.g., videoconferencing platforms), and other considerations. 

Additionally, if digital apprenticeships are implemented outside of U.S. jurisdiction, there may regulatory differences or changes that might impact their ability to access certain sources of capital. Depending on the region, different laws and regulations might make it more difficult or more expensive for companies to acquire the necessary funding. For example, businesses may need to comply with stringent oversight or requirements that would not otherwise apply within the U.S., thus increasing their expenses.

There are also a number of public and private partnerships that organizations can explore if they are strapped for in-house resources.

Developing an Internal Program Structure

Creating an effective internal structure for a digital apprenticeship program is vital to its success. In order to do this, companies generally need to consider the following factors:

The number of apprentices they plan to take on and the types of roles each apprentice will be expected to hold

Consider how many resources are available, in terms of budget and personnel. A digital apprenticeship program requires more than one individual managing it. Therefore, if organizations are unable to allocate enough staff members for this purpose, then scaling up might not be viable. Once a feasible size has been determined for the program, the organization should think about what types of roles would benefit from having an apprentice on board.

The requirements for entry into the program and the learning objectives

The requirements for entry into the program outline what an apprentice needs to achieve during their tenure. Consider setting learning objectives in order to ensure that progress is tracked and monitored throughout the duration of the apprenticeship. Learning objectives should include a wide range of skills, such as technical proficiency in technologies related to the job (e.g., coding languages or database management); problem-solving; communication and collaboration with peers, clients, and other stakeholders involved in projects; and an understanding of organizational processes and protocols within departments. Going through all of these will effectively prepare graduates for their roles. Once these have been established, it will be easier for companies to benchmark success over time by identifying any areas that need improvement early on as well evaluating outcomes post-completion.

The rules that need to be put into place, such as attendance expectations or how pay will increase with improved performance

These rules may also involve setting consequences for violations of company policies or penalties for failing examinations. Setting these rules makes participants more accountable while giving them an incentive to continue performing well. Additionally, putting a clear set of guidelines in place helps ensure everyone understands what is expected throughout the duration of the apprenticeship so there are no misunderstandings down the line.

The systems to use, including group activities that promote further engagement between apprentices and employers

 Mentoring programs can be designed to fit the individual needs of the organization and its apprentices: Mentors should have experience in their field, but they also need to provide a safe space for apprentices, where they can learn without fear of judgment. This is particularly important for younger apprentices who may feel intimidated by authority figures in positions of higher standing. Group activities such as presentations, role-playing exercises, case studies, and virtual collaboration are excellent ways of engaging apprentice teams while also providing valuable training that can help prepare them for real-world scenarios post-graduation. Companies can even go one step further by offering additional opportunities like tech summits or community events. These allow digital apprentices to understand the various skill sets required within their specific industry. At the same time, it creates or strengthens relationships with employers who already have a strong understanding of the various skill sets required in the field and may have already incorporated them into their own practices.

The flexibility required when structuring these initiatives

Not all models will fit every team, but finding something suitable can significantly improve participation and return rates over time. Companies should consider offering tailored pathways, allowing participants to customize their experience and set individual learning goals that align with the program’s objectives. Flexible scheduling options, such as providing a mix of online classes and in-person meetings for mentorship/coaching sessions, are also important as they allow learners to complete their training around any extra commitments they may have outside of their work life. Adaptable timetables also give both the company and the apprentice the freedom to pause activities if necessary without compromising progress. There is no pressure on anyone involved to forcefully meet unrealistic expectations. Setting too many lofty goals could lead to burnout immediately after a digital apprenticeship takes off.

Finding the Right Partner

Ultimately, it is up to the organization to take action and use its own resources to help shape the next generation of leaders. What each organization needs is the right partner to guide it through the process.

Give employees the opportunity to grow through digital apprenticeships with Correlation One — contact us now.