Originally published: October 26, 2021
Pittsburgh Business Journal

ApprentiPGH welcomed its first 11 individuals into its cohort program on Monday, all of whom are now officially training and working at tech jobs in Pittsburgh to further their careers and learn skills in the tech industry. The initiative is the result of a partnership between national apprentice placement group Apprenti and the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s nonprofit arm, FortyX80, among other groups.

Apprentices will earn a “living wage” throughout the duration of the apprenticeship. According to Brian Kennedy, senior vice president for operations and government affairs at the Tech Council, that’s a marked difference from similar programs that can cost around $15,000 for a 12-14 week bootcamp session.

Kennedy also mentioned that the inaugural cohort is comprised of individuals who are often underrepresented in the tech industry.

As part of its efforts with its partners for the program, like the Hill Community Development Corp. and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, Kennedy said ApprentiPGH’s demographic makeup consists of 55% women, 45% African American and 9% Latin American. Another 9% indicated they had veteran status, as well. Geographic diversity was also important, Kennedy said, noting that some transit-disadvantaged individuals in the cohort are working remotely, like one from Monessen in Westmoreland County, while others are relocating from across the state and neighboring Ohio to take a placement with Pittsburgh-area companies.

Kennedy praised the efforts of other partnering organizations and businesses that allowed for the first wave of cohorts to launch, noting that some credit is also owed to political leaders who opened up grant funding opportunities that help pay for the apprenticeship program.

“Not to be political but (we) have to give the huge hats off to the Wolf administration because they’ve embraced apprenticeships, and they’ve specifically embraced apprenticeships for fields that are not traditional for apprentices,” Kennedy said. “We’ve done this for arguably hundreds of years for the trades, probably more than hundreds of years in the trades. And this is just taking that model and applying it into a place like tech where believe it or not, a four-year college degree in computer engineering is not required to be an incredibly skilled software engineer.”

While ApprentiPGH was only able to place 11 individuals into its first wave, Kennedy said the program is hoping to place the other 50 candidates who applied and meet eligibility requirements soon, and anticipates launching three to four cohorts consisting of a dozen or more people per year going forward.

“Our big message we want to get out there is we get 50 people ready to go right now, we just need some more CEOs to step up and take a leadership role,” Kennedy said. “Our hope is, long-term, to really scale this program. This 11-person cohort is really just a beta test. This is just the initial launch, but we plan to scale this very, very rapidly and to do many, many dozens per year.”