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How apprentice programs can close skills gap and empower next-gen workers

Have you recently heard people talking about the “skills gap”? If you haven’t already, you probably will soon. The term “skills gap” describes the difference between the skills employers want and the skills potential employees actually have. According to McKinsey, 40 percent of American employers say they can’t find workers with the skills they need.

McKinsey describes the skills gap as twofold: 1) youth struggle to enter the workforce, and 2) mid-career workers are forced to adapt after leaving or losing a job. 

Two programs in Birmingham are poised to tackle these issues through apprenticeship programs, and Protective is proud to provide support.

Birmingham Promise Apprentice Program

Protective welcomed its first Birmingham Promise apprentice on June 10. Cameron Humes is a graduate of Huffman High School where he was valedictorian and a student athlete. He is a Bryant-Jordan Scholarship winner and took home the 2019 Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Achievement Award. 

Humes will attend The University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship in the fall. He wants to pursue a degree in business administration and plans to attend law school after he graduates. 

At Protective, he is working in the life and annuity claims department learning about claims administration. He says he hopes to build connections and learn more about his career options after college.

“I would tell other students to go outside their comfort zone and connect with different people,” Humes says. “I would tell them to open their minds to experiences that will help you be successful in the future.”

During the selection process, students interviewed with multiple employers. The employers and students then ranked their top choices. Humes ranked Protective as his first choice, and the feeling was mutual.

Chris Green, a director in claims administration at Protective, serves as Humes’ mentor and supervisor. He says Humes communicated well and shared a story that made it clear he would be a good fit.

“He told us about his dad’s store and how he had the opportunity to work with customers and see his dad work with customers. He exuded what Protective looks for – doing the right thing and treating your customers with respect. I was touched that he had learned that and was already looking outside of himself into what customers are about and making sure we take care of them,” Green says.

Humes says he made the right choice.

“Just shadowing some of the employees and seeing what they do, I didn’t know this much went into life insurance,” he says. “I’m glad I made the decision to come to Protective.” 

What is Birmingham Promise? 

The Birmingham Promise Apprentice Program facilitates 7-week, entry-level summer apprenticeships for 20 Birmingham City School scholars in four of the city’s high-growth industries: business and finance, healthcare and life sciences, energy and engineering, and information technology. 

The City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office invited members of the corporate and civic community to join in its mission to provide high quality, work-based learning experiences that will help students on their path to postsecondary opportunities. The experiences emphasize skill and knowledge development to ensure that apprentices are ultimately positioned to fill critical demand gaps.

In addition to work experience, apprentices are paired with mentors and take part in professional development activities. 

Benefits of Apprenticeships

According to the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office, apprenticeships have been shown to:

  • Streamline hiring processes and reduce hiring costs
  • Reduce attrition and the costs associated with turnover
  • Increase lifetime earnings for participants
  • Contribute to the development of workplace and foundational skills
  • Increase student GPAs, school attendance, and graduation rates

The U.S. Department of Labor agrees, stating that apprenticeships are beneficial to both employers and workers. Apprenticeship programs reduce turnover rates, increase productivity and lower the cost of recruitment for employers, while providing job-related instruction and hands-on training to employees. 
Read more: Don’t Neglect to Invest In Your Professional Development

Central Six AlabamaWorks IT Apprenticeship 

Protective has also partnered with Innovate Birmingham and Central Six AlabamaWorks on its first federally-recognized IT apprenticeship, which aims to meet the growing employer need for software developers. Protective will employ an apprentice from the program after they complete the 14-week pre-apprenticeship software engineering bootcamp. 

Protective hosted the program’s employer signing day on May 17 at its campus in Birmingham. Sigao Studios, an Agile Coaching and Business Application Development company with offices in Birmingham and Atlanta, has also pledged to employ apprentices from the program. 

Protective has worked with Innovate Birmingham in the past by providing internships to graduates of the organization’s IT training programs. Similar to past Innovate Birmingham trainees, participants in the IT apprenticeship program come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are unemployed or underemployed while others may have gone to college for something unrelated to information technology. 

There is a significant gap of IT employees to openings. In a tight market, it's important to find ways to train the existing workforce in IT skills.

The boot camp kicked off May 20, with participants training Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn industry-level software development skills in Python, C#, React, JavaScript and SQL, as well as professional employability skills. Those who complete the program, go through the interview process and are selected for an apprenticeship will begin full-time work in the fall. The apprenticeship will last approximately 15 months, and apprentices receive a National Certificate of Apprenticeship at the completion of the program that is transferable to anywhere in the United States.  

In addition to working with its employer partners and Innovate Birmingham, Central Six worked with Apprenticeship Alabama and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship to develop the program.

Central Six AlabamaWorks and Innovate Birmingham

The mission of Central Six Development council, also known as Central Six AlabamaWorks, is to create a 21st century workforce that is proactive, responsive and results-driven; supports the region’s diverse population and employers; and provides quality job opportunities in support of a vibrant regional economy.

Innovate Birmingham launched in 2017 after receiving a $6 million America’s Promise Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to equip underemployed and unemployed young adults in the Greater Birmingham region with resources they need to advance into IT jobs.

Want to learn more about working at Protective? Visit for information on careers and internship opportunities.



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