AT&T is expanding an IT apprenticeship program that trains entry-level talent in support of federal national security agencies, the company announced Tuesday.
Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry joined the AT&T Catapult program that sees students receive top secret-level security clearances for contractors while they’re trained.
The program helps meet a talent need with IT positions expected to increase at twice the rate of overall U.S. employment, and an estimated 11,000 jobs in need of filling every year in Northern Virginia alone, through 2030.
National security agencies including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as well as the Office of Management and Budget, have made strengthening the IT and cybersecurity talent pool a priority. This is especially true following the issuance of an executive order to boost diversity across government and OMB reaffirming its commitment to new talent pipelines for roles like cloud technology experts.
“Identifying and hiring qualified information technology talent continues to be a challenge for federal agencies,” said Jill Singer, vice president of defense and national security at AT&T Public Sector and FirstNet, in the announcement. “In particular, national security agencies face challenges such as high-level security clearances and a need for specific IT skill sets, which can make it even harder for them to grow their talent base.”
Students will train at NOVA’s Reston complex and work as part-time AT&T employees in person and virtually at AT&T’s Oakton facility.
Security clearances follow the standard vetting process for contract personnel and will likely take the two years of training to be processed, although students who receive theirs sooner will move to full-time employment at AT&T — with the understanding they must successfully complete their training to remain employed. AT&T declined to comment on which national security agencies were sponsoring clearances or benefitting from the influx of talent.
Program graduates earn 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in technical, soft and lab skills and obtain five industry certifications in A+, Network+, Security+, CCNA and ITIL.
AT&T Catapult began in Maryland at Howard County Community College in 2019 to share talent development costs with government, reduce churn, lower the cost of entry-level positions and limit the need for four-year degrees. NOVA and AT&T will access the success of the program annually based on participation and completion rates before adjusting or discontinuing.
Interested students have between Aug. 26 and Sept. 23 to apply for the program and will hear back by late October, before classes begin in January. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, U.S. citizens and Virginia residents, with other qualifications to be addressed during virtual, informational sessions on Aug. 26 and 30 and Sept. 1.