Association For Talent Development | An Apprenticeship From the Ground Up




The following story was told by John Pollard, regional director of Tech Knowledge Associates.


Tech Knowledge Associates, a national biomedical engineering firm


Tech Knowledge Associates helps hospitals efficiently maintain equipment and run smoothly 24/7, using a scalable, streamlined method that saves them money. The company realized that there was a dearth of talent that could fill technical positions in northern California. Traditional methods of finding new employees failed; after trying long-term advertisements in trade publications, head hunters, and trade schools, TKA decided to train and grow its own staff.


In response to the lack of available talent for technical positions, the clinical engineering group working for St. Joseph Health—Sonoma County created an apprenticeship program for TKA. The program combines formal schooling with on-the-job training and intensive mentoring. It began with a single apprentice—Jeremy Westkamper, an admin with a mechanical background.


The program began with Westkamper’s training. Three senior staff members trained him on the various equipment in a hospital setting, and he also attended external supplier training sessions. When he became able to troubleshoot and diagnose equipment issues, as well as follow manufacturers’ procedures without the help of senior technicians, he was allowed to fix equipment without direct supervision.

Later, he became director of the program and now uses similar techniques to train budding technicians about the ins and outs of equipment. The most important thing for prospective technicians is their attitude—while personal skills, such as a willingness to work with others, are tough to teach, TKA believes it can teach the technical side of the job easily (though a strong computer background helps, so does a curiosity to learn how things work). A TKA apprenticeship lasts up to two years, as technicians prepare to work on equipment without direct supervision.


Since its inception, the apprentice program has been a success for TKA. The company has consistently hit its staffing needs. But beyond just filling the numbers, it has done so with an engaged, motivated, team-focused staff. Seven have completed the program so far, with five more technicians currently making their way through it. There has been zero turnover to date; in fact, three former apprentices are now site directors.

Lessons learned

Investing time and resources in people—especially those who are curious and willing to work together—truly creates a success story.


Excerpt from Association for Talent Development