Listen: How Koch Is Removing Barriers for Talented, yet Overlooked People To Further Their Careers

The Koch Accounting Apprenticeship Program gives talented and contribution-motivated individuals like Derly Apaza access to education and a fast-tracked opportunity for on-the-job training and employment at one of Koch's many companies.
Jan 25, 2024 8:35 AM ET
Derly Apaza profile surrounded with abstract images of a lightbulb, charts, an office building.

Audio File

Listen to Derly's story above and hear the details about how the Koch Accounting Apprenticeship Program helped remove barriers and provide an opportunity to find and develop his talents and skills. Follow "Koch News" on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify to hear more Koch audio stories.

The Koch Accounting Apprenticeship Program aims to remove barriers for contribution-motivated individuals and provide them with an opportunity to apply their gifts and talents to benefit themselves and society. 

"We've realized that we were leaving a lot of people on the sidelines," says Koch's Chief Financial Officer Richard Dinkel.

The program, which is now available in Wichita, Atlanta and Dallas, is a collaboration between Koch, WSU Tech and Wichita State University. During the first six months of the accelerated 18-month program, Koch covers the educational expenses for students to learn accounting and tax fundamentals through classwork at WSU Tech. After that, students will be given an opportunity for paid employment with Koch working alongside accountants and tax professionals while finishing their remaining coursework.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for somebody to come in and understand whether or not they have the sort of natural curiosity, aptitudes and ability to be a good professional accountant, but they can do it in a much quicker timeframe,” Richard says.

For 33-year-old Derly Apaza, the program was exactly what he needed to prepare for and find the kind of work he was passionate about.

Derly tried going to college right after high school, but it just wasn't for him. He loved to learn, but staying on top of homework assignments and traveling to and from the local community college he attended wasn't enjoyable. So, he stopped going and got a job instead. For a while, life was great.

Eventually, he took a job working at a local health clinic. His curiosity and desire to learn drove him to work his way into the billing and coding departments. He learned that not only did he like working with numbers but he was pretty good at it, too. He wanted to keep learning more and take on a greater responsibility within the clinic’s accounting department, but discovered without more formal education, he'd hit a ceiling, and the clinic wasn’t interested in giving him the kind of jobs he really wanted.

That's when he discovered Koch's new Accounting Apprenticeship Program, which launched in late 2021. Rather than looking for degrees and certificates, Koch was looking for people who are willing to ask questions and solve problems, who are energized by continuously trying to improve, and who are willing to learn and help others along the way.

Derly applied for the program and was accepted. He says he never would have felt qualified enough to just apply for a job at Koch, but the program removed that barrier. He can now see a bright future here.

Continuous Development

Even though Derly arrived with a lot of skills and talent, his supervisor, Kate Smith, has continued to work with him to grow his knowledge and skills. Kate built her relationship with Derly through open and honest communication and by setting clear expectations. This included many conversations with Derly about what he's good at, what he isn't and what he does and doesn't like.

“If we have an expectation for everyone to be a lifelong learner and a principled entrepreneur," Kate says, "then we have to expect that they're not going to know everything at first. But that if they're willing to learn and are contribution motivated, they'll be able to reach that next level of knowledge or expertise."

By creating the Koch Accounting Apprenticeship Program and removing barriers, Koch hopes to find many more Derlys out there and give them an opportunity to apply their often overlooked gifts and talents to benefit themselves and society – and hopefully inspire other companies and institutions to do the same.

“Perhaps we don't have the education," Derly says. "But we have the knowledge and skills and we are capable of doing a lot of jobs that typically might not be open for somebody without a degree.”

Learn more about the program and apply.