Editor’s note: To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we are highlighting several successful Registered Apprenticeship programs across the state. Work-based learning opportunities, including Registered Apprenticeships, help provide hands-on career exploration and training for high school students in Iowa. Through these opportunities, students are able to experience a wide variety of career fields from advanced manufacturing to health care to information technology. These valuable experiences also align with the Future Ready Iowa goal of having 70 percent of Iowans with education and training beyond high school by 2025. National Apprenticeship Week runs Nov. 15-21 and is an annual event.
Tell us a little about the Registered Apprenticeship program(s) that you offer to high school students. In particular, please share details on your IT apprenticeship opportunities.
Ruan Transportation Management Systems (RTMS) initiated a technology-based apprentice program in partnership with Des Moines Central Campus in 2017. RTMS provides the opportunity for selected apprentices to gain valuable work experience, earn income and continue their post-high school education. The apprenticeships can provide up to 20 hours per week of hands-on learning during the school year. There are opportunities for additional work hours on weekends and in the summer. Apprenticeships typically last three years and focus on three areas: help desk, hardware analyst and programmer. Our goal is to cultivate and grow more technologists while providing capable, interested apprentices with a long-term career at RTMS. It also provides an opportunity for apprentices to learn the transportation and logistics industry.
What type of student is a good candidate for an apprenticeship program?
RTMS considers candidates from sophomore to senior year. The program targets Central Campus High School juniors who are taking the cybersecurity class, enjoy technology and are looking for an alternative to a four-year college or university. RTMS also looks for students who are team players, have strong communication skills, are motivated and are quick learners.
Why are apprenticeships important for strengthening Iowa’s workforce?
There are value and benefits for both apprentices and companies like RTMS. For students, they receive high school technology credits as well as college credits. They earn wages and get valuable industry experience. For RTMS, we are able to access talent prior to the market, generate more technologists and have the ability to shape new hires to our company culture. Apprenticeship opportunities help RTMS provide long, meaningful careers to these students who may become future employees.
What advantages do businesses have for sponsoring student apprenticeships?
Apprenticeships help create a pipeline for new talent. It also allows apprentices to see multiple technical disciplines to see what they are interested in and excel at.
How did you build relationships with schools?
As a member of the Iowa Business Council, RTMS is part of a broader effort to increase the number of students who have work-based learning opportunities prior to graduating high school. The apprentice program is a great opportunity for RTMS to provide work-based learning opportunities for students. Central Campus desired a partner in establishing a Registered Apprenticeship program. Given the proximity of Central Campus to the Ruan corporate headquarters, it was a great fit. Central Campus also has a strong technology and cybersecurity program. All of these reasons made this partnership a great opportunity for both.
What tips would you give to other schools/businesses that are looking to add an apprenticeship program to their work-based learning opportunities?
Engage folks who are doing apprenticeships today. Recognize that it is a great talent pipeline. Try it and get started.