How can American employers better tap into the talents of students in our nation’s community colleges? Accenture, a global professional services firm, believes that enhanced use of apprenticeships offers an important, but much underutilized pathway.

Accenture just released a report entitled, “Apprenticeships: Building Pathways from Community College to Promising Tech Career.” The report presents findings based on surveys of 1,000 community college students and 200 community college counselors. It concludes that students are eager for the earn-and-learn opportunities that apprenticeships can provide. But it points out that, in a world where jobs increasingly involve technology and automation, far too few that involve tech-related skills exist.

Eighty percent of the students surveyed said they believed they would need training beyond their community college degree or certificate to get the job they wanted. But only 8 percent had participated in an apprenticeship program.

When asked about potential hurdles to signing up for apprenticeship, 32 percent said they were worried about their ability to balance school and work; 30 percent feared they wouldn’t be paid enough; and 29 percent said they were concerned they wouldn’t be hired at the end of the apprenticeship.

In fact, almost 9 out of 10 students who had taken part in an apprenticeship program said it had led to a job offer at the company where they apprenticed, according to the report.

Awareness of apprenticeships is low among community college students, but once students learn about these opportunities they tend to be eager to participate. Almost two-thirds of students not currently in apprenticeships said they would likely apply if one were available to them.

Accenture is now spearheading a national movement to encourage companies across America to embrace professional apprenticeship programs. The company has partnered with Chicago-based Aon to co-found the Chicago Apprenticeship Network, which—according to the report—”demonstrates that these programs work, benefiting employers and employees alike.”

Based on its experience in Chicago, and in collaboration with the Business Roundtable, Accenture has created an apprenticeship playbook that “focuses on key steps, considerations, examples and case studies for apprenticeship in professional positions.”

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