What is TAC?
The Apprenticeship Center (TAC) is an innovative workforce development initiative of American Children’s Campaign and its affiliate, Voices for Florida. Its goal is to bridge the gap between academic learning and the workforce, while providing college students with the opportunity to learn the importance of civic engagement.
Ready to Work, Ready to Lead, Ready to Serve, is the motto of The Apprenticeship Center.
The TAC experience provides apprentices with the necessary “leg-up” in order to compete in the global job market. While completing their apprenticeship, students not only gain practical workforce and leadership skills, but also an understanding of their responsibility to the next generation by advocating for the improvement of Florida’s children.
The United States now trails many nations in achievement and attainment in secondary and post-secondary learning. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence of a mismatch between employer needs and the knowledge and skills of the future workforce. Simultaneously for the last several decades, nonprofit organizations have faced growing challenges in nearly all areas of their operations. Increased complexities of their work and service delivery are demanding access to a workforce that can perform mission-critical services such as technology/web support and new media outreach, public/media relations, public policy development and research and finance and accounting services.
Forward-thinking leaders in both the public and private sectors must embrace business models that leverage the benefits of volunteerism to enhance the job skills of young workers, while also giving them a sense of civic pride and responsibility. TAC leverages 75 years of producing talented workers through American apprenticeships to answer the unique workforce needs of the 21st century.
TAC has transformed how American Children’s Campaign and its affiliate, Voices for Florida, support and operate mission-critical “back room” support services. Apprentices play a key role in how the two organizations accomplish their core missions. For over the past twelve years, American Children’s Campaign has invested in supporting and expanding TAC and actively works to engage professional experts, volunteers and college students in the program. The results of this investment are growing the next greatest generation rooted in a culture of service, providing the market with workforce innovation and excellence and bringing awareness to the importance of civic engagement.
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The apprentices work in one of four teams based on their desired career path. Although each team operates separately, cross-functional teams are often created to meet the desired outcomes of a project. This cross-functional team approach to learning allows apprentices to be exposed to many new areas, increasing their marketability to employers after graduation. By performing work vital to both American Children’s Campaign and Voices for Florida, apprentices also learn how to add value to the mission and vision of an organization.
TAC apprentices work side-by-side with seasoned professionals known as Knowledge Navigators, who assist apprentices in all aspects of their work. Although Knowledge Navigators assign the apprentices their projects, they allow the students to drive the work and gain as much experience possible. Knowledge Navigators are unique to The Apprenticeship Center and give students the opportunity to be mentored and make lasting connections in their field.
The Communications Team is responsible for presenting the works of the three company model to the public. Communication apprentices are given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with event planning, graphic design, public relations, digital media campaigns, fundraising, social media, grant writing, journalism and more under the guidance of Communications Knowledge Navigator, seasoned public relations professional, Karen Bonsignori. Apprentices interested in public policy can also learn more about legislation through the development of collateral materials that the public policy team then takes to the Capitol to give legislators a better understanding of key children’s issues. The Communications Team offers apprentices the chance to explore many types of multimedia communications and make lasting connections to prepare them for a successful career in their field.
The Policy and Legislative Analysis Team is responsible for tracking and studying policy and best practices that affect Florida’s children, as well as conducting research relating to American Children’s Campaign’s key issues. Policy apprentices will assist in providing American Children’s Campaign input on legislation, and assist in creating public awareness and advocacy materials such as bill analyses, one-pagers for meetings with key stakeholders, action alerts, bill amendments, and American Children’s Campaign Legislative Connection, an online publication that tracks Florida Legislature in real time under the supervision and guidance of the Policy Knowledge Navigator, Amanda Ostrander. The Policy Team will give hardworking apprentices the opportunity to delve into the inner workings of policy making and the legislative process, and to leave The Apprenticeship Center with transferable skills in advocacy.
The Technology Team is primarily responsible for database management, web development and system administration. Typical assignments include creating Microsoft Access databases and recording analytics; performing website updates through WordPress CMS and Adobe Photoshop; and maintaining the server and office hardware to ensure all technology is running smoothly. Technology apprentices also have the opportunity to learn about public policy and visual communication through collaboration with other teams on technology related projects.
The Apprenticeship Center not only creates opportunities for apprentices to gain valuable workforce development skills, but also allows them to flourish as leaders. Each apprentice will gain experience in leading meetings and managing a variety of projects to ensure that they graduate the program with the ability to handle any situation. These opportunities expand the apprentice’s exposure to critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolutions and teamwork.
Most students begin their apprenticeships as an unpaid Protégé. However, students who demonstrate a superior ability will be given the opportunity to be promoted to a paid position as Resident. Residents help the Knowledge Navigators manage the work of the other apprentices on their team, and participate in recruiting efforts.
During their time at The Apprenticeship Center, students also develop an appreciation for civic engagement and serving the community. By advocating for children’s issues, apprentices learn about the importance of public policy and its impact on quality of life and economic opportunity. They also learn fundamental elements of our government and democratic process through a trip to the Florida Capitol each semester.
In addition, apprentices meet outside of TAC to participate in activities that benefit local nonprofit organizations within the community. For example, every summer The Apprenticeship Center sponsors a water stop for Ride for Hope, a fundraising event that benefits the Cancer Center at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Volunteering at these types of events allows the students to cultivate a positive attitude and heart for service.