Jennifer Carlson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Apprenti, recently sat down with Maurice Jones, Chief…
Seattle has never needed skilled tech professionals more than it does now. Tapping into local tech talent, however, brings on multiple challenges. The number of junior-level job seekers is so high here that determining the most qualified person for the job requires an inordinate amount of time and resources. Finding the right talent also requires that you wade through a quite homogenous candidate pool in which women, racial minorities, and people with nontraditional educational backgrounds are drastically underrepresented; an issue that only exacerbates over time. Underrepresentation is not only a human rights issue, it’s bad for business too: evidence supports the claim that diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones.
At Avvo, we want our workforce to reflect our customer base, which requires diversity of thought, experience, and background among our staff. That’s why for us, the Apprenti program has been a game-changer. Thanks to Apprenti, candidates who identify with groups that are underrepresented in tech now come to us pre-vetted, having been selected for grit and growth potential – just the type of candidates we would have searched far and wide for. That’s a huge savings in cost before the apprentices even enter the door for the interview process.
But Apprenti is doing so much more than saving companies money. The program is at the forefront of a cultural shift that is overdue in the tech world. After all these years, most of our industry’s best interview processes are still not much better than a coin flip; something that has an impact long after the interview is over. If you want to increase your odds of a successful hire, you need a culture of shared learning and mentorship. Apprenticeship is a formalized structure that works well in that culture. It’s also filling an important educational gap in our society as the costs of a traditional education continue to rise in tandem with rates of economic disparity, causing the industry to miss out on valuable diverse perspectives.
While coding schools and alternative education institutions can be a viable option for those who can’t afford an expensive university education, these institutions are only half the solution. They tackle the skills gap but not the experience or opportunity gaps. Apprenticeship provides the necessary on-the-job training and mentorship for skilled workers to transition into the tech industry. “One thing that made me hesitant to go with a bootcamp was the uncertainty of acquiring a job and ending up in debt. I very much appreciated both the free training and job placement for the apprenticeship year that Apprenti provided. It was exactly what I was looking for to pursue a coding career,” said Yana Radenska, who apprenticed at Avvo.
We had a very positive experience with our apprentices, Yana Radenska and Shawn Farrow. We converted both of them to full-time employees after only seven months of apprenticeship. They have brought a valuable diversity of thought and experience into our organization. Developers who mentor apprentices are highly engaged, report extremely positive experiences with mentorship and fostering a growth culture, and report increased job satisfaction.
“There is no difference between Shawn and any other junior developer on the team,” said Brian Roberts, tech lead for Shawn. “He’s a great asset to the team, flexible and open-minded…He might be missing little pieces from computer science schooling, but he has more real work skills knowledge. This gives him a lower job (non-technical) ramp up time than other juniors.”
Apprenticeship is a very real and proven way to increase the odds of success for an entry-level hire, and there are so many more benefits than merely performance. It’s an opportunity to solidify your teaching and learning culture, or jump-start your cultural transformation; one that could contribute to changing the industry as a whole. Consider the Apprenti program and watch the transformation happen.