New Washtenaw County program to offer paid tech apprenticeships, emphasizing underrepresented groups

A new $1.5 million pilot program will focus on placing Washtenaw County residents in paid tech apprenticeships, with an emphasis on underrepresented groups like women, people of color, and veterans.


The Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) will begin offering Apprenti, a registered apprenticeship program of the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA). A $1.5 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation will cover training expenses for the first 100 apprentices trained in Washtenaw County over three years.


David Palmer, senior director for strategies and partnerships at WIN, says the partnership and the Washtenaw pilot are in response to a "looming challenge around workforce and talent," especially in the mobility industry and other high-tech fields.


"Apprenticeships are a valuable post-secondary credential," Palmer says.


He says apprenticeships don't replace a bachelor's degree, but rather add to the options for employees looking for ways to gain experience and augment their professional credentials.


Palmer says employers are keenly aware of lost opportunities and profits when they can't fill high-tech jobs. He says creating more density of high-tech talent will help keep those high-tech, well-paying jobs in southeast Michigan.


"Throughout the southeast Michigan region, we need a skilled workforce to make sure we control our destiny as a mobility capital," Palmer says.


The Apprenti program uses a screening tool to identify individuals with talents and skills that could be a good match for high-tech jobs, whether or not the individual has the "right" degree or has attended a prestigious university.


The pilot program will help retrain individuals to gain skills in information technology and the mobility industry, while also helping companies identify talent they might not have found on their own.


Apprenti's successful pilot program in Seattle significantly "leveled the playing field" and created more opportunities for military veterans, women, and people of color, Palmer says. Although white men are also welcome in the program, Apprenti uses targeted campaigns on social and traditional media to recruit for those groups who are far less represented in the tech industry.


"Apprentices who had applied through local hiring streams never heard back," Palmer says. "Now, through Apprenti, they are on these teams at these organizations, and the organizations are admitting, 'We really missed out on talented individuals.'"


Those interested in the program must go through a three- to five-month unpaid bootcamp to fine-tune their skill sets. However, once hired into apprenticeships, participants will have full benefits and make 60 percent of the average entry-level wage, which still works out to about $47,000 per year, Palmer says. At six months, apprentices receive a 10 percent pay bump. After 2,000 hours or about one year on the job, they begin making a market-rate salary.


More information about Apprenti in southeast Michigan is available at


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at


Photo courtesy of WIN.

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