VFI Advisory Task Force member Frank Valdivieso is busy on several fronts. In addition to being a leading VFI advocate and advisor, he is President of the IAMCP Washington, DC, Chapter and the chair of IAMCP Americas’ Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee.
On top of all the work Frank does for the larger tech community, he is also President and CEO of Gryphon Consulting, a DC-area IT services company that specializes in helping small and medium-sized businesses effectively deploy and leverage technology in their organizations.
Frank recently shared his thoughts about diversity and inclusion in an IAMCP post. To support inclusion in his own business—and to help close the skills gap—Frank signed up Gryphon Consulting as a client of the Franklin Apprenticeships program. We wanted to follow up with him to learn more about this program and the role of apprenticeships in the IT sector.
VFI: How did you get involved with Franklin Apprenticeships?
Frank: The starting point was actually through Voices for Innovation. VFI has given me a chance to come together with like-minded Microsoft partners, learn about issues, and take steps to bring about needed policies. One of the challenges we face is a shortage of IT talent. At a VFI briefing, I learned about how IT apprenticeship programs in the UK had enabled thousands of people to get on-the-job training and fill positions with partners.
VFI: So, what happened next?
Frank: I got connected to the team in the UK and learned more. I then started to advocate for apprenticeship programs and workforce development. I met with my U.S. Rep., Anthony Brown, to highlight the value of apprenticeship programs. Eventually, working with apprenticeship experts from the UK, an organization called Franklin Apprenticeships launched in the U.S., starting with Maryland, my home state. Franklin’s goal is to replicate the successful UK apprenticeship model.
VFI: And now you’re an early client of the Franklin Apprenticeship program?
Frank: That’s right. My company’s first apprentice will be starting soon, working on our help desk. Franklin Apprenticeships is collaborating with the Maryland Department of Labor to connect Maryland job-seekers with state businesses. My company receives a tax break, and our apprentice’s salary increases as they move through the program. At the end of the one year apprenticeship our goal is to transition the apprentice into a permanent, full-time job.
VFI: What are the benefits of apprenticeship programs? How is it different from learning in college?
Frank: In today’s economy and with the cost of college, not everyone can pursue a four-year college degree. Apprenticeship programs are a great model for providing specialized education and training as well as job support. In addition to working, apprentices take classes and earn certifications. Apprentices are paid while they’re learning. When I was in high school, kids had a chance to learn trades like HVAC or auto repair through classroom work and on-the-job training. Franklin Apprenticeships is similar, but it prepares apprentices for careers in IT.
VFI: How do apprenticeship programs support diversity and inclusion in the tech sector?
Frank: Apprenticeship programs provide opportunities for people from all walks of life. You might be a young person without the financial resources to pay for college. Or you might be older and looking for a career change. In the past, IT businesses missed this community because we were focused on candidates with a college education. This shut out many people, but apprenticeships provide another path to enter the IT workforce.
VFI: What’s your advice to Microsoft partners who want to leverage apprenticeship programs in their home states?
Frank: If your state has an apprenticeship program, get your business involved. Franklin Apprenticeships is in Maryland and Missouri, and is expecting to expand. But there are many other apprenticeship programs around the country. You may need to advocate with state officials to create an apprenticeship program for IT careers. VFI helps you develop advocacy skills that you can put into practice. If you’re an IAMCP member, team up with your local IACMP chapter as well to support IT apprenticeships in your area.