In November, our most recent apprentice, Maria St Louis-Sanchez, completed her apprenticeship. She shared her thoughts in a post earlier this month. I feel Maria’s story captures the true purpose of an apprenticeship well.
Is this the right path?
How do you know you’re going to enjoy being a developer? School can’t give you the true taste of what your job will entail. It might be able to get close with project-based work where you interact with a team. Many times during 1on1s with our apprentices, I’ve heard them say they had no idea how much more involved the actual work was from what they experienced in school. While you may have thrived and enjoyed all the interactions in a school setting, that doesn’t mean you will enjoy it the same in a professional setting.
Even having an entry-level developer job may not give you a good sense. There are plenty of teams and projects that may be dysfunctional or uninspiring. Or, you may not be sufficiently challenged since you’re brand new to the industry.
You may also lack healthy team involvement or not feel that your work has purpose. Any of those elements could create doubt that this line of work was the right decision for you.
What do you want to do?
An apprenticeship should be a place for someone to explore a potential vocation and maximize their learning along the way. Everything during the apprenticeship should expose the apprentice to the way we do our job and give them the experience to grow their skills. This involves technical skills as well as non-technical skills that are so vital to doing well in our industry.
With our approach, simply having a personal project isn’t enough. You need to be involved, in a safe and controlled manner, to the realities of professional work. Though our apprenticeship program can’t prepare the apprentice for the entire variety of options in our field, it does expose you to more than a typical job would.
Satisfying the purpose
One of the great rewards of running an apprenticeship program is seeing the transformation in each of our apprentices. The personal, professional, and technical growth of each individual is visible over the course of six months. Sometimes the apprentice doesn’t get 100% clarity about what they would like to do in our expansive field. In Maria’s case, she did. When all these elements come together, it satisfies the purpose of what I think an apprenticeship should be.
There is one more thing that I feel is important for an apprenticeship program to cultivate. That the apprentice goes on with gratitude and the desire to give back and share what they’ve learned with others. For me, I continue to run an apprenticeship program even though it’s not for financial or business gain. It’s one way I can repay our industry with kindness and love for all the good things it has done for me.