ApprenticeOhio Site Provides Virtual Assistant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Among all the options to find a career path or to change careers, apprenticeships are one of the few that pay people as they learn.

ApprenticeOhio, a website through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, seeks to better explain this option to potential job seekers. This fall, ApprenticeOhio launched an additional tool, “Antonio,” so people can chat with a virtual assistant.

Built with artificial intelligence software, Antonio is prepared to answer questions about apprenticeship programs.

“Ohioans can now quickly and easily get answers to [questions] such as ‘Why should I be an apprentice?’ ‘What kind of career can I be trained in?’ and ‘How can I apply for an apprenticeship?’ ” said Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder as he announced the upgrade. “This feature will be helpful not only for job seekers interested in apprenticeships, but also parents, educators, employers, apprenticeship sponsors and others.”

Bill Teets, director of communications at JFS, said more people are used to seeing a chat or chatbot prepared to answer their questions and provide them with the next steps without searching the website.

By simply asking Antonio a question, users of the site receive not only answers but links to follow-up questions or a multitude of resources.

“One of the things we’ve tried to focus on from a workforce development standpoint is for people to understand that one pathway to a good-paying, rewarding job is through apprenticeship,” Teets said. “[ApprenticeOhio] is where we put a lot of our information for people who wonder if an apprenticeship will be the right career choice for them.”

Although the ApprenticeOhio website is useful for those just out of high school and seeking careers or for their parents and educators trying to help, Teets said the site also has resources for those considering a change of careers, such as those exploring options through OhioMeansJobs.

In addition, the website has information for restored citizens – his term for those just released from prison – to overcome legal challenges for future work and veterans making transitions after their military service ends.

“November is Hire a Vet month,” Teets noted, adding that those looking to employ veterans in their businesses can find resources on the ApprenticeOhio site.

Any employers struggling to find workers trained in their fields might consider starting an apprenticeship program. Antonio can point them to useful information on starting their training program, along with listing the benefits for the business.

Antonio also helps someone seeking an apprenticeship to find a list of available registered apprenticeships on the OhioMeansJobs site. The list points to 1,300 opportunities and is searchable by county or keyword. It has 37 programs listed in Mahoning, 32 in Trumbull and 17 in Columbiana counties.

Each ApprenticeOhio program is operated by a sponsor – an employer, group of employers or a labor or management committee, that provides at least 2,000 hours of structured training to the apprentice. Apprentices also receive 144 hours of related instruction, typically through a local college or university.

 Ohio ranks third in the nation with more than 21,000 registered apprentices training in more than 200 occupational programs.