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Software Apprenticeship: Opportunities and Challenges


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Apprentice programs are definitely are a hot topic now, but it's hard to find stories of sustainable success with them. How do you begin to implement an apprentice program, and even decide if you should? What do you need to know, and be willing to commit to accurately measure it's success and impact?

In 2015 Clique Studios launched The Modern Apprentice Program (MAP) as part of a larger initiative called Clique University. We learned very quickly that a successful apprentice program touches multiple functions so each stakeholder will share the challenges they faced, including our Director of Education, a Senior Engineer/Mentor and an Apprentice. To wrap up we'll discuss what challenges we've overcome and others that we still face.

Published in: Software
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Software Apprenticeship: Opportunities and Challenges

  1. 1. Orientation fds Apprenticeship Opportunities and Risks
  2. 2. 1. Intro 2. State of Engineering Talent 3. Is Apprenticeship a Solution For You? 4. MAP 5. Learnings 6. Resources Outline
  3. 3. A leading Chicago design and engineering agency. 10 straight years of growth 40+ people 400 clients 60+ launches/yr 16.3M unique users in 2015
  4. 4. Chicago focus
  5. 5. State of Engineering Talent Ecosystem: 1. What is a junior engineer? a. CS degree, Bootcamp grad, 1 yr of experience, 2 years of experience? 1. Supply: Huge increase in pre-first job engineers a. Chicago bootcamps alone produce 200+ a year b. Big 10 schools graduating 100’s, but few know web-development 1. Demand: Increasing for all engineers w/ at least 1 year of experience a. Greater gap means more linkedin stalking from recruiters :( b. Also means a continued lack of mid-level engineers
  6. 6. What is an Apprenticeship? Guided mentorship in skilled profession, based on belief that the journeyman shows potential • Started in 1600’s • Strong history in Chicago • Varying skill levels • For people who have selected this work as a career • Paid a stipend • Set end date or skill goal
  7. 7. Is Apprenticeship A Solution For You? Should you? 1. Are you having trouble finding and hiring qualified juniors? 2. Do you require some hard to find skills, have lots of proprietary engineering process? 3. Is your team willing to use and pay recruiters, hire more internal hr resources, use job boards etc? Can you? 1. Do you have engineer bandwidth? 2. Are your engineers interested in mentoring? 3. Do you have space and work for apprentices?
  8. 8. Benefits and Costs Benefits • Increased clarity around hiring needs • Able to hire more diverse talent pool coming from non-CS programs • Junior Engineer loyalty • For existing team: – Deepened understanding of craft – Mentorship opps – Improved communication Costs • Time commitment: – For mentor (2-3 hours per apprentice per week) – Person organizing (up to 10 hours per week) • Cost if you pay apprentices • Difficult hiring decisions • If doing real work, mistakes could cause problems
  9. 9. Goal: Can we imagine this person being a great full-time hire three months from now? 1. Recruitment - 6 weeks prior a. Tested HTML/CSS/JS, MVC knowledge b. High Demand from applicants from bootcamps 2. Onboarding - 2 weeks prior a. Markup, CSS pre-work 3. Program w/ Individual mentor throughout - 10 Weeks a. Engineer led sessions to intro technology b. Week long projects to explore, learn, and get feedback c. Day long challenges to gauge progress d. More apprentice autonomy over time 4. Hiring - Week 11: a. Based on assessments, project evaluations, and mentor feedback Clique’s Modern Apprentice Program
  10. 10. Mentorship (Skill, Time) • Set time expectations as early as possible for mentors and mentees • Mentoring of juniors should be opt-in Appropriate content • Don’t assume knowledge: Our apprentices didn’t come in knowing enough front-end • Prioritize what you need an apprentice to learn vs. what would be nice for them to learn Evaluation and definition • Give 1 on 1 feedback consistently • Assessment skills at least every 2 weeks to make sure people are on track Takeaways from MAP 1.0
  11. 11. Any Questions? Resources: • Apprentice Patterns • Chicago Apprentice Series • Chicago Apprentice Meetup • • Thoughtbot’s Retrospective • Thoughtbot’s Apprentice Packet • White Paper on Apprentice Programs