A half green and gray image that says "The Apprenticeship Report."

Lonnie Emard,
ACDS Apprenticeship Director

IN OUR DEBUT newsletter back in March, we featured an article by Charles Morgan, the renowned longtime CEO of Acxiom Corporation and current CEO of First Orion, in which Morgan shared a great explanation of the value of registered apprenticeships. That “tip of the spear” article sets the stage for “The Apprenticeship Report,” which we envision as an ongoing series telling the exciting, rapidly unfolding story of apprenticeship expansion here in Arkansas.

If you saw last month’s newsletter, you know that ACDS has been named a Registered Apprenticeship Sponsor by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. This is a vital step in the expansion and diversification of registered apprenticeships both in Arkansas and across the United States. Research indicates that in states where intermediary organizations implement apprenticeship programs on behalf of large groups of employers, they are much more successful, efficient, and cost-effective in their implementation than when individual employers do it themselves. This is especially true in the information technology occupations. ACDS will be serving that intermediary role in Arkansas.

In this introductory article, I want to provide a little background for our readers. The demand for skilled tech talent in Arkansas is well documented, and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (ADWS) is in a great position to capitalize on three recent key events:

  1. ADWS has received three Department of Labor grants providing funds to support expansion and diversification of registered apprenticeships.
  2. ADWS has performed a SWOT analysis of their apprenticeship activity to date and has compared Arkansas to four other states. This revealed a number of opportunities for Arkansas to learn from best practices and also to recognize our own existing strengths, which can now be developed further.
  3. ADWS has engaged key organizations and representatives from across the state to complete an asset-mapping project, providing information in six categories encompassing significant workforce attributes that combine to result in successful expansion of registered apprenticeships.

The statewide collaborative asset-mapping team was able to identify and map the true workforce demand according to industry, occupation, company, and geography. Connections have now been created between ADWS and each major source of workforce populations, which offers a great deal of efficiency and leverage for the state’s employers.

Now to the subject of training: Through both a statewide and national inventory of standards, processes, curriculum, and providers, a deep understanding of best practices in apprenticeship training is available to us. These components are part of a proven model of apprenticeship implementation that includes providing employers with a set of questions to be answered about the outcomes they are looking for. The questions touch on the depth of the apprenticeship candidate pool, the skills that can be trained, how those skills are applied at the employer’s company, and how to use the community ecosystem for funding, project management, and candidate recruiting support.

Apprenticeship as a workforce hiring strategy offers a number of unique advantages over other hiring channels, such as traditional campus recruiting and contract conversion. The most important advantage is the relatively near-instant growth in the size of the available talent pool. By opening the doors to potential capability wherever we might find it—including among veterans, women, underrepresented minorities, incumbents, and career changers—we have a great chance to expand the existing workforce. The key is how productive these people become in the midst of the apprenticeship “learn and earn” model.

If we have an obstacle to the success of apprenticeship programs in Arkansas, it is the obstacle of commitment—commitment to provide the necessary resources to accomplish two crucial objectives. The first objective is the effective communication between ACDS and employers—that is, engaging business leaders as they decide if apprenticeship makes sense for them. The second objective, and by far the most vital in the long run, is the credible consultation and project management required to get employer apprenticeships funded and implemented.

We at ACDS are making apprenticeships our Number One priority. We are adding the necessary expertise and skilled talent to our team as we gear up to lead this campaign for IT apprenticeship expansion. For the next few months we’ll be publishing updates on our progress, continuing the ongoing dialog around the value and ROI of apprenticeships. Each article in our “Apprenticeship Report” series will focus on a key aspect of the program and point to current activities that our readers will want to be aware of—and hopefully to participate in.

Next month we’ll talk about such events as the IT Apprenticeship Accelerator, to be held in late July. And looking farther ahead, we’ll be writing about the first Cyber Security Apprenticeship Program, set to begin this fall. For more information about how to participate, check out the websites of ACDS ( and the American Cyber Alliance ( And join us again here in this newsletter next month!