Photo by Farzad on Unsplash

New “turnkey” registered apprenticeships from YUPRO and OpenClassrooms feature online learning and employer access to a diverse hiring pool. Could one-year apprenticeships become a thing in tech?

The Job
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A weekly newsletter about the intersection of education and work. By Paul Fain

Online Earning and Learning

Apprenticeships in tech roles remain rare—just 4,100 active apprentices worked in tech last fall, according to federal data, roughly 1 percent of the total 366K apprentices in the U.S. at that time. But they’ve been growing fast, with the hot labor market driving a 41% increase last year in registered apprenticeship programs in tech fields.

The expansion includes a range of approaches, including one-year apprenticeships that are aimed more at middle-skill entry-level jobs than more traditional programs for software engineers and data analysts, which tend to take two to three years to complete.

One new model worth watching is a complex work-based learning program that draws from a pool of more than 30K diverse, lower-income candidates, offering one-year apprenticeships in IT support, software development, digital marketing, and data analytics. The apprenticeships are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and feature training, support, and an industry-recognized credential from OpenClassrooms, a global online education provider that’s seeking regional accreditation.

Year Up Professional Resources (YUPRO) is the employer of record for the new program. That means companies can quickly bring in apprentices for entry-level roles while skipping the red tape of creating a registered apprenticeship themselves. Intermediaries like Apprenti, which just won a major federal “good jobs” training grant, similarly enable employers to hire apprentices without registering their own programs.

The “turnkey” approach is geared to companies that are looking to diversify their workforce with work-based learning—and to get the hiring and retention benefits from apprenticeships—but lack the team or expertise to do so, says Michelle Sims, CEO of YUPRO, a public benefit corporation that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Year Up, a prominent nonprofit job-training provider.

“Employers need only commit to hosting apprentices,” she says. “YUPRO and OpenClassrooms do the rest to recruit from an untapped talent community, hire and upskill, and coach and mentor talent to meet employers’ hiring needs while driving social impact through this broader workforce solution.”

YUPRO offers job placement and career advising to completers of Year Up’s free technical and personal skills training, which is provided to young people without college degrees who face economic challenges. This early-career talent pool across 19 markets is an attractive option to some employers, many of which are struggling with a tech labor crunch—700K cybersecurity jobs are unfilled.

The unusually structured staffing firm has seen heavy demand during the pandemic and its wake. It manages both registered apprenticeships and six-month noncertified earn-and-learn programs. Participants in the latter version, which is growing rapidly, can earn a career certificate from Google or IBM’s SkillsBuild

Six-month apprenticeships from YUPRO pay an average wage of $20 per hour. Among the 85% of apprentices who complete their assignments, more than 90% land full-time jobs by being converted from a YUPRO contractor to a permanent role with their employer.

Many of the company’s apprenticeships are for remote work, but in-office opportunities are on the rise.

“Our apprenticeships span across many industries,” says Sims. “Fortune 500 employers in the banking and finance sector are very supportive of this avenue for hiring early-career talent.”

A ‘Workplace-Based College Education’

YUPRO tapped the France-based OpenClassrooms to administer the online learning for its new registered apprenticeship program.

The Labor Department requires that registered apprentices complete a minimum of 1K hours of work at a family-sustaining wage, with at least 144 hours of training, which can be completed online or in a hybrid learning environment. Sims says the online learning option appeals to many apprentices, who need flexibility while launching their career and balancing other responsibilities.

OpenClassrooms is a B Corporation that offers online, competency-based content. Its more than 600 courses and 55 training programs stretch across professions such as coding, IT, product management, data management, digital marketing, communications, and UX design.

The company holds accreditation in the European Union. The WASC Senior College and University Commission confirmed that OpenClassrooms is pursuing its approval. If the provider, which also is seeking licensure in several states, secures regional accreditation and program approval from the U.S. Department of Education (a lengthy process), it could be eligible to receive federal aid.

“Our plan is to build degree apprenticeship programs,” says Pierre Dubuc, the platform’s co-founder and CEO. “That means bridging apprenticeship to higher education and providing workplace-based college education, with a salary, leading to a degree, fully sponsored by employers.”

Employers or governments fully sponsor 80% of students who are enrolled in training programs with OpenClassrooms. These students graduate debt-free. Those who pay tuition fees—the web development program’s rate is $300 per month, for example—can have those costs refunded if they don’t get a job within six months.

Dubuc says part of the draw for the company’s more than 2K partner employers is the relevance of coursework.

“We design our programs starting from their needs in terms of jobs and skills,” he says. “Employers try it and see that our students and graduates have the skills they need to grow their business.”

Online training programs from OpenClassrooms feature career counseling, projects, and one-on-one weekly mentorship, among other components. The cost to provide these education tracks ranges from $5K to $15K per year, Dubuc says. Apprenticeships include the same suite of learning and supports but are more expensive to offer because of federal compliance and coordination with employers. The average annual cost of this training for participating companies is $15K to $20K.

“We are targeting large employers with strong needs in tech and digital skills,” Dubuc says of the new apprenticeships from YUPRO. But he hopes the all-inclusive model attracts small and medium-size businesses as the program expands.

The YUPRO apprenticeships are designed to offer participants a way to earn college credits and credentials. The certificate of completion can lead to transfer credit from community colleges in some states, Sims says. The company also has a partnership with the Seattle Colleges District and is developing one with the Bay Area Community College Consortium.

Sims says the apprenticeships will deliver high-touch human support for online learning, as well as immediate productivity on the job.

The Kicker: “This is a win for employers, our economy, and, most importantly, our early-career workforce that is desperate for options that aren’t limited to those with specific pedigrees,” she says.

Work Shift Explainer: Apprenticeships grow in tech
Work Shift Explainer: Apprenticeships grow in tech The pandemic and racial reckoning of the past two years have dramatically increased interest in apprenticeships.

Open Tabs

No-Interest Loans

The federal government should provide no-interest student loans to borrowers, who would repay the principal of the loan over a set period of time, proposes the nonprofit Hildreth Institute. The feds would invest principal payments in a risk-free asset, such as a bond issued by the Federal Reserve, according to the proposal. That revenue would be used to cover administrative costs and to issue new loans.

New Jersey rolled out its zero-interest student loan program, which includes non-repayable living stipends and wraparound supports for participating students who pursue credentials in healthcare, IT, and clean energy. Borrowers who find jobs above an income threshold will repay tuition costs over time. The nonprofit Social Finance is managing the New Jersey fund, as well as the $100M Google Career Certificates Fund.

Enrollment Crisis

College leaders must rethink what higher education means, Anne Khademian, executive director of the Universities at Shady Grove, writes in Higher Ed Dive. Khademian says the enrollment crisis requires a redesign for “fluid students” who come in and out of higher education and have no allegiance to a single institution—a concept Khademian borrows from sports, where the “fluid fan” is now the norm.

An estimated 40% of U.S. four-year colleges are at or nearing financial and operational risk, according to a new measure from EY-Parthenon. The tool uses publicly available federal data to assess institutional risk levels with six weighted metrics. Higher-risk colleges have notably smaller enrollments on average, the firm found. Those that are at risk also tend to enroll relatively large proportions of Pell Grant recipients.

Career Education

Large urban K-12 districts are rethinking and expanding career education programs as students look for more direct, debt-free routes to well-paying jobs in high-growth fields, Mila Koumpilova reports for The Washington Post. For example, leaders of Chicago’s public schools and community colleges recently traveled to Dallas to learn more about that school district’s collaboration with two-year colleges and employers.

Path to Employment

“Dallas College is giving its students two things that make all the difference when it comes to completing community college: a clear, achievable path to graduation and employment, and enough financial and personal support to get past the many obstacles that crop up along the way,” Iris Palmer, deputy director for community colleges at New America, writes in a brief calling for more structured models for dual enrollment.

Degree Requirements

Most middle- and upper-level managers hold bachelor’s degrees, and many overestimate the prevalence of degrees in the labor market, according to the results of a survey conducted by Opportunity@Work. While most U.S. workers do not hold four-year degrees, the nonprofit group found that 41% of managers think the opposite. And managers with degrees tend to prioritize degrees in their hiring decisions.

Teacher Shortages

States and school districts should use federal relief funds to address teacher shortages, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said recently. A teachers’ union estimates that schools are short 300K teachers and staff. But some experts question whether the shortage is new or national. Arizona no longer requires teachers to have bachelor’s degrees, Politico reports, while other states are issuing temporary teaching credentials.

Startup Community

An online network focused on startups in postsecondary education and training has topped 1K members. The Future of Higher Education Slack community is free and open to anyone who is actively building or employed at an education company, institution, or project in the space. It is backed by JFFLabs, Techstars, and On Deck, with pages for news, discussion, jobs, virtual meetings, and peer-to-peer assistance.

Strong reader interest in last week’s issue on healthcare education suggests that intel on that industry’s moves apply to other sectors. But some of you said the featured programs are a drop in the bucket amid the national emergency of severe labor shortages in healthcare. —@paulfain

A veteran higher education journalist and analyst, Paul focuses on the connections between education and the American workforce.