The benefits of software development apprenticeships

Since 2010, the number of apprentices in the United States increased by 64% and should increase. For software developers, apprenticeships are good for the learner, the mentor, and the business. They are an investment in everyone’s future. Entry-level entrants gain skills and exposure to a potential career as the company develops its talent pool to fill vacancies.

At the same time, the demand for engineers and software developers continues to climb. Barring unforeseen circumstances that even exceed the COVID-19 pandemic, this demand for software technology expertise will also increase for the foreseeable future. The popularity of cutting-edge tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation in the daily workflows of growing businesses will factor into this demand.

Talent Demand

The demand for software engineers is currently huge. Business leaders, their personnel departments and recruiters make it a priority to attract and retain talent for their companies. At the same time, the number of new technology companies continues to grow.

It’s to the point where the main bottleneck to scaling among organizations of all sizes is simply hiring talented people fast enough to meet business needs.

This demand is not going to wane anytime soon. Frankly, this talent shortage will remain a priority for the next three to five years. That’s why leveraging learning as a way to attract, develop and retain current and future talent makes more sense today than ever.

Developing by nature

Today’s generation of potential talent—those in college or soon to leave—have, for the most part, never lived in a world without access to cutting-edge modern technology. Because of this, they approach problem solving from a very different perspective than their predecessors, who had very different influences. Systematically, the points of view of these pre- and post-smartphone groups are simply different.

For this reason, the new generation of developers and software engineers feel capable of creating solutions on their own or in intimate groups. Likewise, designing apps, features, and workflows that solve the problems they see is in their nature.

With more industrious developers identifying all sorts of different things they want to build, the future for our industry is great while, at the same time, the barrier to entry remains high. All of this burgeoning talent must find its place in our growing technology business market.

Commit to diversity

By their very nature, apprenticeships reflect a commitment to young people. Broadening recruitment to intentionally seek out traditionally underrepresented groups, first-generation immigrants, non-traditional students, or other subsets among available prospects expands the industry’s talent pool while broadening the views of organizations on how to operate. This accelerates inclusiveness and, over time, makes our industry more diverse and representative of our customers and the public.

At the start of COVID, there were early concerns about freefalling markets and a resulting massive layoff of talent. However, what we have experienced is quite the opposite: an ever-increasing demand for talented software developers and engineers. Which makes the fight against this shortage even more vital.

The reality today is that wherever there is a shortage of developers, there is a shortage of underrepresented communities, and that cannot be overlooked or ignored.

Instead, implementing apprenticeships now, attracting and accepting underrepresented people as protected, and then hiring them will close the gaps in inclusivity in the future. Filling this void will demonstrate how businesses operate in a leadership role, creating and benefiting from a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Seed culture

Diversity and inclusiveness are at the heart of the company culture, just as characteristics such as environmental stewardship, loyalty and a communicative and trusting atmosphere create a workplace that is more than just a employer.

Experiencing the corporate culture first hand provides valuable insights to the apprentice. It allows apprentices to see how their individual characteristics align with those of companies. Likewise, they learn if and how to work with authority, autonomy in various contexts and varying responsibilities that make up modern workflows.

This experience, combined with their increased technical knowledge and skills, helps reveal where the apprentice will be best suited as a full-time employee or in a different role or organization.

The rise in skill is unlimited

As many organizations are discovering, departments outside of IT benefit from the software skills of their staff. For example, a sales team may ask an operations manager to automate their software and improve department productivity. This could include connecting customer complaints directly to the project management tool so staff can resolve and reduce issues faster. Likewise, marketing can use a web developer for many effective website modifications on a daily basis.

While these are not primary reasons for having an apprenticeship program in software engineering or software development, they are examples of ancillary benefits. These are secondary successes of apprentices with diverse interests who identify and excel in other areas of the company after learning its culture and honing their skills to bring great value to the workplace.

Software boot camps are another example where developers can accelerate their software aptitude toward engineering skills that meet business needs and help meet future demands.

For example, young natural science researchers are often tasked with creating simple computer programs that digest field data that lead to new research results. Software development boot camps can fertilize these skills and create new talent pipelines for tech companies.

Talent development and skills enhancement in our industry must continue because the future is bright: demand for our products continues to grow and innovation continues to thrive. We need to invest energy in identification, development and training, as great thinkers with even more varied backgrounds than those already running companies are eager to prove their worth to the company. We are at a time when new and expanded apprenticeship programs will help fill the vacancies we know and predict to come.

Gordon K. Morehouse