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LaGuardia Community College students smile for a photo on a rooftop in Manhattan.

Twelve LaGuardia Community College students participated in a two-semester apprenticeship in tech roles at Mastercard. All the apprentices started with Mastercard full-time after graduating.

LaGuardia Community College

LaGuardia Community College trialed its first apprenticeship program with Mastercard this past year, providing 20 students with boot-camp preparation, 12 apprenticeships and 12 full-time jobs after graduation.

The experiential learning opportunity provided students with paid relevant work experience for their future careers, social capital at a Fortune 500 company and newfound confidence in their own talents and abilities.

The backstory: The City University of New York scaled apprenticeship offerings at a systemwide level this spring, adding 12 new programs to 10 campuses across the city. The apprenticeships are designed to diversify employers belonging to New York Jobs CEO Council, provide hands-on experiential learning and open doors to underrepresented minority students.

CUNY first partnered with New York Jobs CEO Council in 2020 with five pilot apprenticeship offerings, and $2 million investment from New York governor Kathy Hochul in April funded personnel costs related to scaling offerings.

Of the participating colleges, including LaGuardia, students enrolled in one of the 25 eligible associate of applied science degree programs can participate in a one- or two-semester apprenticeship.

The need: Apprenticeships are critical for job placement for two-year degree seekers, because employers often require a four-year degree.

“Especially in the tech field, many employers think you need a bachelor’s degree even for the most entry-level jobs,” shares Dionne Miller, associate dean for academic affairs at LaGuardia.

For internship placements, too, students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program can receive preference over their community college peers.

The program: LaGuardia partnered with Mastercard to offer a nine-month apprenticeship for students studying network administration and information security. Students who’d completed their first year of courses at LaGuardia in a related A.A.S. program were eligible to participate.

The apprentices were pulled from a pool of 20 students who completed a summer 2022 boot camp, with an accelerated curriculum in network administration, security, cyberintelligence and product development as well as professional development skills.  

The boot camp was open to all students enrolled at the college who were interested, because LaGuardia recognized the benefit of the curriculum to those not in the apprenticeship as well.

As a final project, students worked together in teams to complete a product challenge, finding a technical solution for a business scenario. LaGuardia faculty and Mastercard employees judged student projects and awarded apprenticeships based on technical talent and group participation.

Apprentices worked between 19 and 21 hours per week starting in September 2022 until graduating in May 2023 with their associate degrees. (Due to the nature of their work, Miller is unable to provide details on what kinds of tasks students were accomplishing.)

The impact: Originally, Mastercard promised to hire 10 apprentices, but the company took 12, two of whom were women. Four were first-generation college students, five were immigrants and two were first-generation Americans.

Upon graduation, all 12 apprentices were hired for full-time roles, continuing their work from their apprenticeships.

Students who participated in the program gained confidence in themselves and in their future job opportunities, Miller shares. Having an apprenticeship with a Fortune 500 company served as a leap forward in their career opportunities and expanded their thinking beyond just the opportunities available in their local communities.

Having paid tech work experience was also critical to the apprentices, because many were between 25 and 33 years old. “Most of our students come from families making less than $30,000 a year,” Miller explains. “Most of our students work and are juggling classes.”

The apprentices also provided students with social capital. The college placed students in specialized courses with faculty mentors, and Mastercard employees were “hands-on and invested partners,” providing mentorship in the boot camp and apprenticeship settings.

Scaling up: New this fall, LaGuardia students can also participate in an apprenticeship at Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo hosted its first boot camp at LaGuardia and selected five apprentices to work at the company for the year starting Sept. 11. Mastercard will bring on another five apprentices this fall, as well.

In the future, LaGuardia and CUNY will continue to identify ways for their students to work in roles at New York Jobs CEO Council organizations, but the college also hopes to provide additional tech apprenticeships with smaller companies.

LaGuardia has scholarship dollars set aside to kick-start paid internship experiences with companies that might not have the funds to do so, Miller says. “The joy about tech jobs is not only tech companies need tech expertise.”

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