Serving the Business Community with Apprenticeships

Oct 23, 2018 BY Michael Specchierla and Dan Weeks
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SLO Partners was formed under the aegis of the San Luis Obispo County Office to address college and career readiness among the county’s student population. Our mission is to engage business partners and educators in aligning workforce needs with career and college pathways, provide work experience opportunities to ensure that students have the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the workplace and businesses have the skilled workers required in a sound growing economy.

Our biggest challenge is, how do we increase the skills of a person enough to unleash their potential.  That’s an important shift and why we also launched a podcast series. Hello Careers is an initiative of SLO Partners which aims to show how to develop an apprenticeship program. We address issues such as: Where there is a skills gap, is there an education and training gap? How do you respond to a tight labor market? What happens when the major employer pulls out of your community?

Using apprenticeships combined with entrepreneurialism so that both employers and employees benefit from that relationship is at the heart of SLO Partners.  We consider ourselves a pop-up university directly tied to employer orders.  Where a university focuses on coursework, we emphasize experience. Our version of education and training includes ramping up like a pop up at a mall and directly tying training to employer needs.  Where a university focuses on a degree, we work with our “students” to get them industry recognized certificates that are current and up to date.

We found that a majority of job growth takes place at small businesses which is why we focus on small and medium sized businesses who don't have the ability to have their own training programs. We provide employers with quality people from diverse backgrounds.  

Screening for attitude and training for aptitude is one of the critical pieces of apprentice success. As we started our work, we found businesses perceived hiring this talent pool a risk. Employers were willing to bring on inexperienced people when we offered to give apprentices experience in exchange for slightly lower wages with a wage step increase as they grew in value.

We are excited to work with The Center of Technology and Workforce Solutions (CTWS) to help amplify and share best practices (such as those we developed at SLO Partners) and to help serve as a clearing house.  To be considered a best practice, you've got to put those practices out there and let people test and really see ‘Are they replicable? Are they scalable now that we have an existing pilot in one community? How do these best practices fit in other areas?  CTWS can be that amplifier and the matchmaker that can help find those communities and those partners and those individuals who can help bring apprenticeships to other areas of the country.

Interested in learning more about CTWS, contact us!

Michael Specchierla is Executive Director of SLO Partners and San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and Dan Weeks is the Entrepreneur in Residence for Cal Poly’s new business incubator and Business Liaison for SLO Partners. Learn more at slopartners.org and hellocareers.org.