Technology companies in the region have been saying for years that they cannot find enough qualified local candidates. Many of the training programs funded by public initiatives are too basic for enterprise-level technical-services providers. And there just are not enough potential workers getting the more advanced training that is taking place.
One Rhode Island employer realized the status quo was not acceptable. That employer is Atrion Networking Corp., the Warwick-based IT services company. Atrion finds itself in the enviable position of growing, both organically and through acquisitions, and it needs more staff to keep up.
Long a supporter of internships for students in the region, Atrion CEO Tim Hebert developed a six-month apprenticeship program that takes candidates with some technical and soft skills and pays them to go to “school” while receiving $12,000 to $15,000 worth of training (nearly all of it done by Atrion personnel). At the end of the six months, the apprentice is offered an entry-level job, and as Hebert points out, within a few years, the employee could be earning six figures.
Atrion is not alone among tech employers in spending time and money training its work force. But it may have the most robust program, one that has been noticed by other employers, who have asked Atrion if it would consider taking on their recruits as well.
Atrion’s first class of 13 employees “graduated” about two months ago, and the company is looking to start its next session of 10 to 20 in January. When the business community celebrates innovation in Rhode Island, it should remember this initiative by Atrion. •