Christine Misali, Apprenti Cincinnati Program Director

The field of IT is expanding so rapidly, there is a need to be creative about finding talent. Apprenti Cincinnati is a registered apprenticeship program that takes people from different backgrounds and helps them move into careers in technology. The program works to remove financial barriers and follows a blind screening process based on candidate aptitude, tenacity, and grit.

Cincinnati Future spoke with Christina Misali, the Apprenti Cincinnati Program Director at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber about how the program is different.

Tell us about your experience working with Apprenti.

Misali: I’ve been working with Apprenti since 2019 when we launched the Cincinnati region. We have facilitated over 60 hires for 12 different local employers. We’ve trained people and placed them into a variety of roles from software developers to IT business analysts to cybersecurity analysts. We work really hand in hand with our employers to determine what their needs are, what they’re looking for, and then be able to fulfill that with a pipeline of diverse talent.

What does the apprenticeship program look like?

Misali: First, there is a proprietary candidate assessment, which measures math, soft skills, and critical thinking abilities. The entire program is set up to reduce bias in the screening process. So we do not ask for a resume, where you went to school, etc. While all are welcome to apply, we have a hyper focus on groups that are underrepresented — women, minorities, veterans, etc. If people are interested in applying, the first step is to visit the website and take the assessment. Employers can connect with a member of the Apprenti team to determine if the program is the right fit to build their tech talent pipeline.

Apprenti is a national program.

Misali: Correct. People can pick from a variety of locations. It could be, for example, Cincinnati, Columbus, Kansas City, or Nashville. We have locations all across the U.S. and will hopefully have additional cities in Ohio coming on board soon.

Can you give us a specific example of a success story?

Misali: One of our apprentices, Kait Matthey, was actually featured on PBS. Kait’s background included chronic of health problems, housing insecurity and having her college career derailed twice. She went through a tech bootcamp with one of our partners (MAX Technical Training) and then to a one-year-long apprenticeship program at Kroger Technology and Digital. After that, she was hired full-time as a software developer and is doing great work!

Are you approached by companies looking for talent?

Misali: Yes – everything Apprenti does is driven by the employer and their need. Apprenti activates the candidate pipeline when there’s a open role. We’re able to move quickly and collaborate with employers based on their unique needs. It’s very much an iterative process. We review our curriculum partner with one of our six local training providers to deliver the instructional content. It’s about figuring out what’s best for the hiring partner and piecing something together that makes sense for them– and something that will be a positive experience for our apprentices.

It’s an alternative to hiring someone who has experience in that particular area.

Misali: Right – we can train an individual in the classroom and then have them apply that very intensive training to the real world. It’s a way for employers to really build a robust pipeline. = They’re able to take advantage of the benefits of apprenticeship without having to do the paperwork and worry about compliance. The candidates go through a multi-step interview process, in addition to the assessment, before they ever meet with an employer. So employers able to look at that pipeline after we’ve already evaluated them. After they are hired, the Apprenti team handles all of the required surveys, hours tracking, etc. so the employer is able to focus on training the individual on their systems and processes.

Plus with the focus on women, minorities and veterans, we’re able to build more of a diverse and inclusive pipeline of talent for them than they might get just hiring directly out of college or following traditional practices of resume review. They’re also able to take advantage of state and federal funding with apprenticeships to support training and on-the-job wage costs. The employers are able to hire diverse and qualified talent, and it’s also fiscally responsible for them to participate.

From the candidate standpoint, their technical training is paid for. It’s an opportunity for people to train in a technical role while not taking on any debt in the process. After the technical training, they log 2,000 hours of work with that employer. While 95 percent of our apprentices are retained, even if they aren’t hired permanently, theystill have on their resume, that they worked for a year at, for example, Procter & Gamble. That helps set a candidate apart from other professionals, when they are able to say they have a year of work experience under their belt. It’s really a win all around!