Pub. 11 2021-2022 Issue 5


Banking Needs Apprenticeships

I enjoy listening to Mike Rowe. In addition to his captivating narrative voice, he has a personality that comes through in how he tells a story. From the star of Dirty Jobs to the voice for Deadliest Catch and his Returning the Favor series, his voice pulls you into what is happening. It’s just fun to listen.

In 2008, Mike started the mikeroweWORKS Foundation (, which focuses on filling skilled labor gaps. I love that concept. In the case of American trades, there are plenty of jobs and a limited number of skilled workers.

Talented workers, in all professions, are extremely valuable resources. If you have an army of them working for you, the outcomes are limitless.

Since 2020 many industries have experienced challenging staffing gaps and talent deficiencies. Talented workers, in all professions, are extremely valuable resources. If you have an army of them working for you, the outcomes are limitless.

Identify, Recruit, Train

The challenge is figuring out the most effective way to identify, recruit, train, and employ their talents. In vocational trades, such as electrical, plumbing, ironwork, and carpentry, an apprenticeship often provides the education required to become a professional. It’s a wonderful model. To learn a skill, new workers spend time with a talented professional who has honed their skills through years of experience. That seasoned professional is then challenged to teach those experience-based skills to an incoming worker. On-the-job training in action.

Now, consider the banking industry for a second. How do incoming workers learn their trade? How do they learn about the business of banking? How do they learn to solve customer problems? How do they learn to manage their projects or time? How do they learn skills that improve their productivity and work product? In many cases, it is on-the-job training without the structure and purpose embedded in the apprenticeship model.

Banking Apprenticeship

Perhaps it is time to take a tool out of the vocational education toolbox and apply it in banking. If banking wants to develop a highly-skilled labor force, why not commit to creating an effective apprenticeship program? The quick answer would be, “Because the experienced professionals don’t have time to do the training.” Why? Because they are busy doing their job every day. But, wait, isn’t that how an apprenticeship works? The skilled professional is doing work that the apprentice gets to observe. And, when appropriate, the apprentice actually does the work. Fully supervised and evaluated through the entire process. If the worker is responsible for installing a new electrical box, the mentor watches them complete the work and assesses their finished task.

Here’s our chance, bankers. What can we do to create apprenticeships for incoming workers? The number of areas the new professionals can pursue in banking is similar to virtually every other business. Maybe banking should have an apprenticeship program for technology, customer care, finance, human resource management, facilities management, marketing, retirement planning, operations, even community service. The list goes on.

Bring It With You

As part of the mikeroweWORKS scholarship program, committed students sign a S.W.E.A.T Pledge. It stands for Skill and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo. One of the statements in the pledge says, “I do not follow my passion. I bring it with me.” What a great statement. Young professionals are entering the banking industry with passion in their backpacks. Help them focus that energy on professional skills they can learn in a hands-on, supervised environment with a highly skilled professional at your organization. Create performance expectations for the mentor that hold them accountable for the development of their apprentice. The end result will be an exceptional contributor to your organization.

Tom Hershberger is the chairman and founder of Cross Financial (, Lincoln, Nebraska, which offers financial institutions sales and marketing development services. Tom is also on the faculty of the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin, as well as the GSB Sales and Marketing School; see for details.