Chicago startup is using apprenticeships to create job opportunities in tech


As many of us could attest, finding a job is no easy task. Even for the college-educated populous, finding a job can prove to be a daunting endeavor.

For those without a college-level education, though, the problem remains even more difficult. And finding a job without experience? Good luck.

Such barriers have traditionally proven difficult to overcome, but Chicago-based startup Alliance Labs hopes to change that by relying on an age-old alternative education system — apprenticeships.

Alliance Labs, founded in 2014, provides affordable digital marketing, communication, and web development solutions to clients without Fortune 500 budgets, while simultaneously training and building a workforce of developers without previous experience.

The idea was born out of the need for companies to access high quality digital work without the $200 per hour price tag, in addition to the ever-growing interest of breaking into the industry as a freelancer or employee.

chicago apprenticeships job

Jon Schickedanz, Founder at Alliance Labs

Founder and Senior Producer at Alliance Labs, Jon Schickedanz, saw the opportunity to put the puzzle pieces together and fill a niche commonly overlooked by larger agencies and freelancers by using apprentices to help tackle smaller budget projects.

The Chicago-based startup comes at an important time in the development and growth of the city’s startup environment. Given the attractiveness of the city for startup companies, there will likely be a demand for cost-effective solutions like those offered by Alliance Labs moving forward. Moreover, the company’s objective could help improve the city’s educational landscape which is currently characterized by lower educational attainment relative to the state as a whole.

As such, Alliance has partnered with i.c.stars, a workforce and leadership development program for low-income young adults without access to education and employment who demonstrate great potential in their field of work.

Alliance takes on five new graduates from i.c.stars three times per year for a four-month apprenticeship training program, where the apprentices, or “residents,” are able to dabble in client work after having grasped the fundamental skills necessary for the job.

chicago apprenticeships job

Alain Dehaze, Chairman of the Global Apprenticeship Network and CEO of the Adecco Group

According to Alain Dehaze, Chairman of the Global Apprenticeship Network and CEO of the Adecco Group, “Data shows that a lack of work experience is a principal barrier for young people seeking to reach the first rungs of the careers ladder and that countries with established systems of work-based vocational training, such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria, have been most successful in tackling youth unemployment.”

Unfortunately, vocational training has yet to take a strong foothold in the United States, but ideas such as that of Alliance Labs have begun to help workers overcome the fundamental problem of finding employment without concrete work experience. Accordingly, alumni of the apprenticeship program have gone on to take on independent projects, open a business, or return to school for additional advanced training.

Apprenticeship programs such as these ultimately have the ability to solve a variety of problems for both employers and employees (or prospective employees), and demonstrate that a traditional college-level education is not absolutely necessary to succeed in tech.

Rather, vocational programs can help train individuals to fill specific and immediate needs in the tech sector while earning a higher income and providing a valuable service at a reasonable cost to their clients.

Alliance Labs is one example of the growing movement to transform traditional education. Another example is Qubed Education — a company that utilizes online courses and certificates to create “accessible and open-access learning experiences that help tomorrow’s leaders discover and pursue career paths in growing, global industries that align to their passions.”

Together, examples such as Alliance Labs and Qubed Education demonstrate that education within the United States is changing, and that finding your dream job may just become a bit easier.

Zac Laval

An explorer of the ambiguous and the uncertain, Zac is driven by technology's role in shaping the future.

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