Next week is National Apprenticeship Week (Nov 14-20), a designation that aims to highlight how apprenticeships, a proven and industry-driven training model, provide a critical talent pipeline that can help to address some of our nation’s pressing workforce challenges. Increasingly employers, community colleges and university degree programs are recognizing the value of apprenticeship programs. The Department of Labor runs a registered apprenticeship program, as do many state and local agencies.

Accenture’s North America Apprenticeship Program has been a success story since its establishment in 2016. With more than 2,000 apprentices and program graduates across North America, the apprenticeship program places the company at the forefront of the national movement for professional apprenticeship programs. 

We spoke with Accenture leaders about the impact of the apprenticeship program on creating meaningful momentum within the company and the communities where people live and work. Joining the conversation are Pallavi Verma, senior managing director and executive sponsor of the firm’s apprentice program; Wendy Myers Cambor, managing director and North America head of Future Talent; and Kara Gooch, an apprenticeship program graduate now in a thriving career at Accenture. 

Wendy, why do you think apprenticeship programs are needed now more than ever before?

WENDY MYERS CAMBOR: Put simply, professional apprenticeships help to address opportunity gaps for workers and talent gaps for employers. When it comes to skilled workers for current jobs, companies are facing a dire and increasing supply-demand imbalance: Employers are short-staffed and struggling to fill roles, projects are delayed, new products are on hold and employee retention is challenged. Our study with the Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work found that millions of people are eager to work and have the ability to participate in the workforce, if only employers could find them. We’ve got to work together to solve this – now. Professional apprenticeships can be part of the solution: they provide companies with access to a diverse, talented and motivated talent pool, while creating new opportunities, sustainable career growth and real economic opportunity for workers.   

Pallavi, how does the Accenture apprenticeship program work… for example, what type of jobs do apprentices do?

PALLAVI VERMA: We have a “learn and earn” model, which means apprentices receive market-based wages and benefits as they prepare to take on roles at our organization. These range from digital and data analytics to cloud migration to cyber-security work – all areas, as you can see, are likely to be in demand for some time. Apprentices have the option to train in various career tracks ranging from client-facing roles to our internal IT group (which we call our CIO group) and within our corporate functions.  

Since launching our program in 2016, Accenture has brought on more than 2,000 apprentices in 40 cities across North America.

Kara, you’re an apprentice “graduate” and current Accenture employee, tell us about your journey.

KARA GOOCH: Before I joined Accenture, I was a digital marketer. And I had dreams of other roles: Could I build my own website? Could I make an app? I didn’t have the technical skills and I didn’t have a degree to get me in the door at a company that might teach me how to do that. At the same time, I had ambition and responsibilities – young girls to raise, bills to pay, choices to make: do I pay the electric bill or get internet?

I took my first steps towards my dream career when I applied to an IT support certification program sponsored by Google and Goodwill – that kickstarted everything – it helped me build the confidence I needed to start applying for roles at the tech companies I always aspired to work at. And the very day I finished the Google/Goodwill certificate program, I received a phone call from Accenture to join the apprenticeship program. I worked hard. A year later, I was offered a full-time role.

Pallavi, is offering a job always on the table?

PALLAVI: Our apprenticeship program typically lasts 12 months and culminates in an ongoing career opportunity at Accenture. We’ve hired an overwhelming majority of individuals who completed the apprenticeship program into full-time roles. This is possible because the apprenticeship program is embedded in our talent and business strategy. As part of our commitment to growing and scaling professional apprenticeships, we set a goal to fill 20% of our entry-level roles in North America through the Apprenticeship Program for the fiscal year 2022. We are proud to share that we have met that goal and look to continue maintaining that goal going forward.

We also recognize that the impact of the apprenticeship program extends beyond the individuals who participate in it; their families’ lives are often positively impacted. It’s even more relevant today than ever as COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect those without college and high school degrees.  

What advice would you give incoming apprentices to ensure they thrive?

KARA: Advocate for yourself. Look beyond your current network and branch out! Do your own research. Accenture has countless resources for countless topics. If you can think of it, there’s a high percentage someone else has as well. There are more resources than are given on an onboarding slide. Be willing to look. And when you find them, share them! That’s where the network grows, and you begin to build your personal brand.

Accenture is helping other companies set up similar programs, tell us about that.

WENDY: We are indeed helping other employers – including our clients – create professional apprenticeship programs based on the best practices we’ve established through our own successful model. We have launched nine local Apprentice Networks bringing together more than 130 employers along with government agencies, talent organizations and community colleges in Chicago, Detroit, Greater Washington DC, Houston, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Northern California, Philadelphia – and in NYC through integrated efforts with OneTen and the NY Jobs CEO Council.  We published a national professional apprenticeship playbook to help companies jumpstart and inform their own programs. 

What advice do you give other organizations to ensure they set up programs to enable success?

PALLAVI: Successful apprenticeship programs have unambiguous support from the top. Your CEO and C-suite need to buy into the program and send clear signals that the apprenticeship program is important. For example, take our 20% target – we committed to hiring 20% of our entry-level roles in 2022 from the apprenticeship program. We set the same goal again this year. Making this a company-wide goal sets the tone. This supports the effort to pursue alternative strategies for identifying and developing talent.

WENDY: Skills are skills, regardless of how they are acquired. A “skills-first” talent strategy can enable companies to reach, recruit and retain more diverse talent pools efficiently and effectively while reducing the reliance on a college degree as a proxy to assess if a candidate has – or is motivated to learn – the skills to do a job. 

KARA: I’m an example of that – and I would say identifying people who are truly interested, passionate, about work matters.

PALLAVI: I agree. Also, companies need to remember when recruiting, we are always our own best advertisers, networkers and advocates. I can talk about the program endlessly, but Kara lived it.

To that end, Kara, any parting pieces of advice?

KARA: Yes, give yourself grace. If you join an apprenticeship program like Accenture’s at a company of more than 700,000 people, you’re entering a company that’s bigger than you realize. Accenture touches almost every corner of the world. It’s okay to feel lost at times but don’t stay there for long! Get help when you need it! So, for example, at Accenture, you can lean into your Mental Health Allies and seek resources. If you’re at an apprenticeship program in another company that doesn’t have Mental Health Allies – look externally to organizations like Thrive. This world needs you more than it needs your production.


  • Pallavi Verma

    Senior Managing Director of Quality and Risk

    Accenture North America

    With over 30 years of consulting experience, Pallavi Verma is the Quality & Risk Lead for Accenture in North America. In this role she is responsible for working with clients and client teams to solve business problems and innovate for clients by driving quality programs across all businesses and industries, while also monitoring and managing the risk profile of the overall business. In addition, she serves as the Boston Office Managing Director, leading a 1700 employee office and generating revenue growth for all of Accenture's business offerings. She represents the Accenture brand in the Boston community and helps Accenture engage with innovators, business leaders, and academia throughout the region. As the Executive Sponsor for Accenture’s Apprentice program, she is passionate about providing equal opportunities for a broader based set of talent, including those that do not have four-year college degrees. Under her leadership, apprentices are now 20% of all entry level hiring in North America. Pallavi serves on the board of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the WE CAN organization. She is also a trustee of the Rush University Medical Center and a trustee of the Boston Museum of Science.
  • Wendy Myers Cambor

    Managing Director of HR Strategy

    Accenture North America

    Wendy is a Managing Director at Accenture, the global professional services company with 700,000 people in 120 countries, serving Fortune 500 clients with human ingenuity and technology to improve the way the world works and lives. Currently leading Future Talent, she is responsible for talent strategies and workforce development initiatives that cultivate diversity, strengthen communities and increase economic opportunity. She has also led Human Resources Northeast, supporting 10,000+ people and advised the CHRO and CEO. Before returning to Accenture, Wendy was the Founder and President of Dolphin Lane and previously held leadership positions at Morgan Stanley and Fidelity Investments. Wendy holds a BS in Engineering from Cornell University and is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Board and the President’s Council of Cornell Women. She and her husband of 29 years live on the Upper West Side of NYC with their rescue animals and children when they are home from college.
  • Kara Gooch

    Human Performance Analyst

    Accenture North America

    Kara Gooch always wanted to break into the technology industry, but without a college degree or formal training, her options were limited. After moving to Nashville in 2010, the Los Angeles native found work as a digital marketing specialist. But when her marriage ended, leaving her to be a single parent to three young daughters, Kara needed a more stable and lucrative job. In 2019, a friend showed Kara a story in the local newspaper about another single mom who had taken a course on IT support from Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee and wound up in a successful career at Google. Committed to completing her IT support studies, Kara turned her circumstance into fuel. Before graduating from the program in 2020, began her tech career as a technology apprenticeship with Accenture. She has since graduated from the program and recently transferred to the Brandon Hall Award-winning Journey & Change Management Center of Excellence and humbly serves on the National Leadership Team for the Interfaith Employee Resource Group. Kara has successfully referred candidates to the apprenticeship program, including her husband William, who graduated this year.