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The Red Volkswagen and Professional Apprenticeships

Yes, Professional Apprenticeships Are on the Rise!

Have you ever experienced a colleague mentioning something to you, say all the features of the red Volkswagen they just bought, and suddenly you start noticing red Volkswagens on the road?  It’s called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or the frequency bias. The theory behind it is that your brain is excited by the new information and pays selective attention to it. And confirmation bias reinforces that indeed you are seeing more red Volkswagens around town.

The most vivid example of this experience that I have had recently is all the discussion and energy around professional apprenticeships in the United States. One year ago, I knew little about the “learn while you earn” model of launching or advancing a professional career in the US.  Now, over the past year, during which AICPA launched its own Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners, it seems to me that the concept of professional apprenticeships has caught fire. Now that I’m more aware, I’m seeing a great increase in new programs and opportunities appearing across professional industry sectors. I think it will be the same for you.

Truth be told, this is National Apprenticeship Week (Nov. 14-20), a nationwide celebration where industry, labor, equity, workforce, education, and government leaders host events to showcase the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeships for re-building the economy, advancing racial and gender equity, and supporting underserved communities.

It’s also the 85th anniversary of the National Apprenticeship Act, which established the Registered Apprenticeship system in the US. Apprenticeships have been around for a long time, working successfully.

Apprenticeships are a proven recruiting and retention model, that combines a paid position with learning and on-the-job instruction. More white-collar occupations are beginning to embrace “work-based learning” or apprenticeships as a common sense, effective solution to the recruiting crunch and upskilling issues.

AICPA’s apprenticeship is the first professional one in finance and accounting in the US at the level of Finance Business Partner, registered with the Department of Labor.

The apprenticeship utilizes AICPA’s Finance Leadership Program and leads to the globally recognized Chartered Global Management Accountant, or CGMA, designation. The apprenticeship is versatile and available for employers to offer to students still in college, graduates, and incumbent employees.

In a signing ceremony with the US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh this week, AICPA celebrated the first three employers from three different industries that have signed on apprentices under AICPA’s program: Liberty Bank, Aon and HP.

“The Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program will help ensure diverse, skilled teams are ready to fill financial jobs now and, in the future,” said U.S. Secretary Walsh.

The event took place during NAW celebrations at the Aon Center in Chicago that attracted FLOTUS, the Secretaries of Commerce and Education, along with the Mayor of Chicago and members of Congress (See video of that ceremony here).  Aon, Chubb and Accenture have built a network of employers in seven regions around the country sharing best practices and supporting the growth of apprentices. AICPA has joined several of the Aon-Chubb-Accenture Networks, including the Greater Washington Apprenticeship Network. And, in September, Maryland Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson announced a grant of up to $125k to cover the costs of AICPA’s Finance Leadership Program for Maryland employers and apprentices.

The impact that apprenticeships can have on driving more inclusive hiring has been front of mind, as noted by Marie Myers, Chief Financial Officer at HP Inc.

“Diversity is a business imperative; when we attract and nurture people from diverse backgrounds and increase their representation in the workplace, we strengthen a company’s business objectives,” said Myers.  “We look forward to being a part of this Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program as an offering in our Finance Cohort Program launching in 2023 with hiring from graduates of historically black colleges and universities /HBCUs to drive more diverse and equitable talent across our team.”

Apprenticeships are also an attractive option for learners that want to start their career while pursuing a two-year degree. And because AICPA’s learning program allows apprentices to enter the program at different points based on education level, it is also available to upskill incumbent workers.

So, there’s lots of reasons professional apprentices are gaining traction among untraditional professions.

In addition to the frequency illusion there’s the recency illusion, in which you perceive ideas new to you, as new in general. So, while apprenticeships aren’t new, their growth in the white-collar professions certainly is.

Keep your eye out for this red VW. And reach out to ApprenticesUS@aicpa-cima.com if you want to know more.

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Note: This blog published by Joanne E. Fiore, J.D., Vice-President, Pipeline and Apprenticeships, CGMA Americas

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Thomas Hood