Howard Community College (HCC) saw National Apprenticeship Week as an opportunity to highlight its newest nontraditional registered apprenticeship programs. HCC has three IT registered apprenticeship programs in partnership with AT&T: IT Field Support Specialist, Network Field Support Specialist, and Information Systems Security Specialist. On November 13, 2019, Howard Community College hosted an interview day as the culmination of the registered apprenticeship screening process, which had already included an electronic application review and in-person interview.
Invitations to the event were extended through our local and statewide networks. The event was also listed on the National Apprenticeship Week website. In attendance were U.S. Department of Labor representatives, AACC representatives, assistant deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, MD Department of Labor staff, local Workforce Board staff, AT&T client executive associate vice president, AT&T staff, and 20 AT&T mentors. The event featured remarks and a special certificate of proclamation presentation from the governor of Maryland.
The National Apprenticeship Week event allowed AT&T to observe how prospective registered apprentices interacted with a team and move throughout the day, which required utilization of interpersonal skills and other essential skills to be successful in the AT&T work environment. For prospective registered apprentices, the interview day consisted of group work where they worked together to solve a complex puzzle, with each group being observed by one to two mentors who took notes on their performance. Following that, the prospective registered apprentices went through a speed interview, moving through stations where two to three mentors sat. The purpose behind the speed interview was for the mentors to meet all the students to allow the program to make a better match with the registered apprentices when hired. It also allowed the students to meet AT&T employees and ask questions, get to know the company and the positions better, and solidify their interest in pursuing this career.
The success of the National Apprenticeship Week event is attributed to several factors:
Relationships: First and foremost, it is important to build a strong relationship with the industry partner. This does not happen overnight. It requires building mutual trust and respect, holding many listening sessions to understand their need, and conducting multiple collaborative meetings to build the program together.
Community partnerships: Although registered apprenticeships require a close partnership between the educational institution and the industry partner, one of the reasons for HCC’s success in building registered apprenticeships and the National Apprenticeship Week event is the close partnership with partners throughout the community and state, which include Maryland Department of Labor, county government, local Workforce Board, local Chamber of Commerce, and local Economic Development Authority. They attend all our events, provide the necessary support, and advocate our programs in their networks.
Internal partnerships: Registered apprenticeship programs are administered out of the college’s division of continuing education and workforce development. However, the whole college community supports and is an active participant in the development, launching, and implementation of the programs and events. For example, the related instruction for IT registered apprenticeships is provided by the credit division of business and computer systems and works closely to develop and offer instruction with the apprenticeship team. Other critical internal partners are public relations and marketing, office of admissions and advising, test center, career services, and administrative information systems.
Howard Community College continues to rely on the same partners and incorporates the same model to scale up registered apprenticeship programs at the college. When HCC applied for the AACC ECCA grant, the college had just been approved to be a registered apprenticeship sponsor and had only one registered apprenticeship program. Since then, the college has added eight additional programs, which all award college credits, certificates or degrees.
The interview day cemented the desire for both AT&T and prospective registered apprentices to remain committed to the registered apprenticeship program. Most importantly, the National Apprenticeship Week allowed HCC to celebrate its brand-new registered apprenticeship with the larger community.