Apprentice Program Helps a Small Company Recruit Talent
To compete for top IT workers, Atrion Networking Corporation in Rhode Island identifies up-and-coming IT “rock stars” through an innovative and competitive apprentice program working with the Cisco Networking Academy program. By investing in the future of their employees, Atrion is creating a culture of quality.
Matching New Talent to Opportunities
Angel Gavidia was a Cisco Networking Academy student at Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) when a classmate told him about Atrion. He knew he wanted to do “something with Cisco,” but did not have a clear idea of his career trajectory.
“Students graduating from community colleges or technical schools often need a bridge from classroom learning to work experience,” said Patrick Halpin, talent recruiter at Atrion. “They have invested time and money in a technology education to build a successful career. But after graduation, they may find that a lack of experience makes it hard for them to get job interviews.”
Investing in Human Capital
Atrion launched its Apprentice Program in 2011 out of necessity. “We were on a steep growth curve,” said Patrick. “We needed to find talent fast.” Atrion realized that new graduates were an untapped source of top employees, but needed a way to find people with the perseverance and personality to thrive in an IT consulting environment.
The Atrion Apprentice Program works with local universities and community colleges to identify promising Cisco Networking Academy students. A competitive interview process narrows the field to 10 candidates who are offered a full-time salary and benefits to learn the business. The 6-month, intensive training program prepares new hires to be outstanding engineers and committed employees.
An IT Talent Accelerator
Apprentices spend 6 months in technology “bootcamps” run by a dedicated program manager and partners such as VMware. Senior engineers mentor apprentices to develop the high level of customer service that distinguishes Atrion. Apprentices are expected to study on their own to complete technical challenges, labs, and homework.
Atrion makes a big, up-front investment in less-experienced employees, because the return on investment is significant. “We are a talent accelerator,” said Patrick. “We put people to work who might struggle to find jobs with a good academic record but no work experience. It may take someone 10 years to get to the level it takes people to get to in 2 at Atrion. Our goal is for a long-term relationship.”
Since the program began, Atrion’s staff has doubled from 125 to 250, with 40 new hires coming from the Apprentice Program. It was the first apprentice program recognized by the state of Rhode Island and gained the attention of the U.S. Labor Department. Angel was invited to represent the Cisco Networking Academy at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative on a panel about transformative tools to create a skilled workforce.