The Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) trade group is laying off 11 employees, or 14% of its workforce, with cuts mostly affecting positions in its non-profit tech worker apprenticeship program Apprenti.
Launched in 2016, Apprenti provides free training and apprenticeships for candidates looking to work in the tech sector. It mostly targets underrepresented groups, with 85% of its participants being women, underrepresented racial minorities, military veterans or a combination of these categories.
Apprenti expanded alongside the tech sector’s massive growth over the last decade. In 2021, the program helped springboard the tech careers of about 420 people. It more than doubled that number in 2022, helping about 890 people get jobs, said WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler. Since its launch, nearly 3,000 people have landed a tech job through the program.
But as the broader tech job market cools, many large employers are looking to cut costs by freezing hiring and reducing headcount. Schutzler said many of Apprenti’s biggest partners, including Amazon Web Services and Boeing, have said they are limiting hiring plans in 2023.
Apprenti, which started in Washington state and expanded nationally, receives support from participating businesses, federal and state grants, and philanthropic organizations. In August, it was awarded a $23.5 million federal grant to help train tech workers across 11 states.
Schutzler said the federal funds resemble a “cost reimbursement program,” meaning WTIA only gets paid if its apprentices land jobs.
WTIA, which will employ 65 people after the cuts, joins a growing list of Seattle tech companies reducing headcount in response to the economic downturn. Amazon, Washington state’s biggest employer, confirmed this month that it’s slashing 18,000 corporate and tech employees; Salesforce is cutting 10% of its workforce, impacting Seattle-based Tableau; Rad Power Bikes, Meta, OfferUp, Flyhomes, Redfin and others have also announced layoffs.
Schutzler predicts the tech job market will begin to recover in the latter half of 2023. Many of the companies in Apprenti’s pipeline that are slowing hiring are simultaneously investing in other areas, he said, making it difficult to forecast whether or not “we’re looking at a recession or just a temporary setback.”
“We’re still very optimistic about the future,” he said. “It’s just going to be a tough moment for us.”
Founded four decades ago, WTIA describes itself as a “consortium” that includes its nonprofit trade association with more than 1,000 local member companies, the Apprenti program, and the for-profit insurance agency HR Benefits. It also offers companies business, personal, and health insurance plans, in addition to 401(k).