A one-year apprenticeship program that encourages women, minorities and veterans to work in technology is launching in Central Oregon.

The Technology Association of Oregon hopes to begin training the first 10 to 12 people in software development in February, said Teri Hockett, Central Oregon coordinator for the technology association. The program, created by Apprenti in Seattle, is supported by federal and state grants and participating companies, which agree to accept apprentices and pay them 60 percent of the average local wage.

“We have a huge gap in our pipeline, especially for technology workers,” Hockett said.

Apprenti aims to increase diversity in the technology industry while also addressing a labor shortage. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be more than 1.3 million new programming and computer support specialist jobs by 2022, and Apprenti notes less than 20 percent of the tech workforce is female, less than 5 percent is Hispanic or African-American, and the veteran population is even smaller.

The Washington Technology Industry Association Workforce Institute, a nonprofit, created Apprenti. It’s expanding to other states with the help of local organizations and a $7.5 million ApprenticeshipUSA contract from the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenti announced Tuesday that it’s expanding into Oregon, Michigan, California and Ohio. In Oregon, that technology association is focused on launching Apprenti first in Lane County and Central Oregon, Hockett said.

Several key details — including participating companies and the training provider — are yet to be worked out in Bend, Hockett said. Nine companies and one local government agency have been invited to participate by hiring apprentices, she said, but commitments aren’t set.

The East Cascades Workforce Investment Board will be issuing a request for qualifications for companies to carry out the software development training, which is expected to cost about $10,000 per person, said Heather Ficht, executive director of the East Cascades Workforce Investment Board.

Over the next two months, people interested in training will be encouraged to take the skills assessment on the Apprenti website, Hockett said. Applicants are selected for interviews based on their aptitude scores, and they’re accepted into the training program based on a company interview. The training program is full-time and lasts 22 weeks.

“They’re expected not to work at that time because it is really an intense training,” Hockett said.

Trainees aren’t compensated, but as full-time apprentices they are paid at least 60 percent of the average local wage for their position. In Seattle, apprentices are working at Amazon, Microsoft, Avvo, Comtech, F5 Networks and Silicon Mechanics, earning at least $42,000 a year, according to a press release from Apprenti. The program, which received 3,000 applications, has placed 100 apprentices in the state of Washington so far, according to Apprenti. The apprentices’ jobs include web developer, software developer, network security administrator, Windows system administrator, Linux system administrator, cloud support specialist, data center technician and IT support professional.

Companies aren’t required to hire apprentices after the first year, but Apprenti promises to help participants with their job searches.

While the program promotes hiring people from underrepresented populations, it’s open to anyone who is at least 18 and has a high school diploma or equivalent and is eligible to work in the United States. “Those with a strong determination to complete the rigorous training are encouraged to apply,” Apprenti stated in a press release.

—Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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