Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroiter Magazine > Employer-Led Talent Solutions: Apprenticeships, Career Ladders, and Building a Culture of Learning

Employer-Led Talent Solutions: Apprenticeships, Career Ladders, and Building a Culture of Learning

December 20, 2022 James Martinez

James Martinez | Metro Detroit Freelance Writer

Employers that develop their own talent solutions not only nurture the highly skilled and specialized talent to help them compete, they play a key role in increasing postsecondary attainment to 60% and cutting the racial equity educational attainment gap in half by 2030. Many employers are already stepping up in support of Chamber initiatives such as Detroit Drives Degrees and the Detroit Regional Talent Compact.

Accenture: Identifying ‘Untapped Talent’ and the Earn and Learn Model

Since launching its apprenticeship program in 2016, Accenture has brought on more than 2,000 apprentices in 40 cities across North America. In fact, in 2022, it reached its goal of hiring 20% of its entry-level positions in North America directly from its own apprenticeships.

Accenture’s apprenticeship program is an “earn and learn” model that provides apprentices with market competitive wages and benefits, and a pathway to an ongoing career with the company. The apprenticeships typically last 12 months and include formal learning, on-the-job training and coaching to help apprentices build their skills and advance their careers.

The program takes into account candidates’ different backgrounds and life experiences and is racially and ethnically diverse, with nearly half being women.

The apprenticeships are prime avenues to bring in talented individuals who may not have a four-year degree. Apprentices at Accenture work across a variety of areas within Accenture and fill many indemand roles in cybersecurity, digital, data analytics and cloud migration.

Butzel: Creating a Culture of Learning, Career Advancement

As the competition for top tier talent wages on, longtime Detroit law firm Butzel Long focuses on building a culture of learning designed to help its lawyers stay at the forefront of their field while giving ambitious employees a way to advance up the company ranks.

“We’ve had people start here as legal assistants and work their way up to paralegal, work their way up to lawyer by going to school while they’re working for us,” said Paul Mersino, a shareholder and member of board of directors at Butzel.

Butzel’s initiatives include student debt reimbursement, flex scheduling that allow for night classes, monthly professional development lunch and learns, and a fulltime onsite trainer that guides employees seeking additional certifications and professional development.

“People are growing as attorneys, as people, as citizens in our community, and it’s all intertwined,” he added.

Ajax Paving: Building Talent to Build the Roads

For Ajax Paving Industries, the largest asphalt and concrete paving public contractor in Southeast Michigan, internships and multi-year apprenticeships are critical to fielding the laborers, operating engineers, and cement masons it needs to build highways.

Ajax’s internship program partners with local high schools to connect with students taking skilled construction or trade-based classes offering them paid positions during peak construction season between May and August. It allows students to rotate between divisions as they are transitioning out of high school to college or directly into a career.

Ajax also provides paths four- or five-year apprenticeships that help employees earn critical industry-specific certifications such as their CDL or lab tech or heavy equipment credentials, allowing them to advance their career while working.

Emagine: Promoting Academic Performance

Across its 11 Southeast Michigan locations, Emagine Entertainment employs about a 1,000 people, most of whom are students in high school or early years of college, giving it the opportunity to play a key role in helping younger students pursue postsecondary credentials.

The company is rolling out its “Emagine Pays for Good Grades” program, which rewards employees who maintain a 3.25 GPA with an annual bonus for their academic performance. Emagine developed the program as part of its participation in the Chamber’s Detroit Regional Talent Compact.

“This is a good incentivizing method to get people into the whole idea of learning and furthering their education and their careers,” said Shelby Langenstein, CPO of Emagine, who noted the company’s broader initiatives to promote a culture of learning also include tuition reimbursement and internships.


Accenture’s apprenticeship efforts culminated locally with the launching of the Detroit New Apprentice Network, a collective of Michigan-based employers and training providers, including the Detroit Regional Chamber, working to raise awareness of apprenticeships as a talent solution, the Network aims to provide 500 pathways for apprentices who bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives to pursue meaningful careers at leading companies.

“Many times you have programs that are run out of educational facilities, and they do a phenomenal job, but you need that business voice in the conversation.”

-Pam Sands, Vice President of Partnerships, Kelly


Kelly: Removing Barriers Through Customized Apprenticeships

Kelly uniquely sits at the intersection of job seekers and companies looking for talent. They’ve developed a customized apprenticeship program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor that is creating a direct path between students at Oakland Community College and careers with its clients.

“Community colleges are an incredible partner because they’re plugged into the insights and resources needed to put  together a good apprenticeship program,” said Pam Sands, Kelly’s vice president of partnerships. Since its 2021 launch, 118 apprentices have completed the program, which serves specific disciplines like CNC machining and other manufacturing roles.

“Many times you have programs that are run out of educational facilities, and they do a phenomenal job, but you need that business voice in the conversation,” Sands said.

Customized apprenticeships are helpful in removing barriers to employment for individuals whose life circumstances prevented them from earning postsecondary education, but can help them secure better paying, meaningful work after earning certifications.

Rocket Companies: Adding Detroit ‘Rock’ Stars Through Internships

As senior university relations manager for Rocket Companies, Jade Ortiz is looking for “Rock Stars” for a variety of internships that offer career pathways.

“You can see students’ eyes get really bright when they see the vast amount of opportunities we have,” said Ortiz. She guides students to recruiters serving the various brands that make up Rocket Companies, which annually hires about 500 interns in roles ranging from marketing to sales to business operations.

The eight- to twelve-week paid summer internship program engages highly talented students from colleges and universities across the country. The company also welcomes those from programs such as the Detroit Promise Scholarship, Give Merit, and Midnight Golf – which all help increase access to postsecondary education and careers for underserved Detroiters.

Henry Ford Health: Using Career Ladders and Pre-Apprenticeships to Build Talent Pipeline

Henry Ford Health (HFH), which employs about 33,000, proactively looks within to fill mission critical roles while embracing opportunities to grow its talent pipeline and workforce for the future.

The health system uses career ladders for current employees at entry level positions who are interested in advancing their careers to fill critical positions within the health system, according to Kathy Macki, HFH’s vice president of human resources.

Those efforts include providing scholarships and career guidance for medical assistants looking to earn their nursing degrees. Similarly it includes expanding tuition reimbursement beyond degrees to include certifications allows current staff to pursue specialties like radiology and fill additional openings.

Certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, HFH also partners with local high schools offering a five-year pre-apprenticeship program where students graduate with both a high school diploma and associate degree in allied health, with many hiring on with HFH where they can further advance their careers and education.