How an Apprenticeship is Different from a Programming Internship
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How an Apprenticeship is Different from a Programming Internship

April 5, 2017

At EduSource, we don’t offer internships. Instead we offer apprenticeships.

To us, it’s an important distinction. The expectations for an EduSource apprentice are:

Expected Work = Real Programming

There are a lot of bad internships out there. Even in a good internship, students may spend the majority of their time testing software or helping customers with problems. Most companies will group interns together under one leader and give them special projects to work on.

Why? Because for most companies, hiring interns is something they do for goodwill. They want to help student programmers, so they hire interns. Or they have a certain job they need completed that they don’t want to waste regular employees’ time on, so they hire a few interns. Maybe they are using internships as a screening for full-time employees, but that’s the best possible motivation.

For us, that motivation is completely different. We hire apprentices because it’s what we do — we “edusource” software to local college students rather than “outsourcing” it overseas. It’s built right into our business model. Which means we better get it right — our company’s success is counting on it.

A traditional “apprenticeship” includes working under an experienced individual to learn a trade. That’s why our EduSource apprentices work right on our software development teams. They work on real programming projects on our development teams, under the leadership of our senior engineers and alongside our other engineers. Our apprentices are never stuffed back into a dusty room and forgotten about. Instead, our students are an intricate part of our development process — and we treat them like it. They take stories, just like other developers, and work to solve their part of the project problem.

That’s not typical of an internship.

In fact, in an online forum asking what companies are looking for in potential interns, one respondent says, “Ability to go for coffee is often a bit plus.”

In another forum with a similar topic, the following advice is given: “Expect to be doing a lot of grunt work. Your coworkers are going to use you as a ‘gopher.’ … A lot of people are going to be afraid to give you an in-depth look at what they do; they are afraid if someone else knows their job, they’ll be fired. There’s not much you can do about it, besides just pick up what you can from the sidelines.

The first way we define apprenticeship differently than internship is that we expect our apprentices to be able to complete real coding work on real projects. That’s the EduSource way.

Expected Timeline = Ongoing

Traditional internships last for one summer. We are just getting started in the first summer.

Our apprentices ideally work for us for two years. That’s full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. We’re passionate about educating and mentoring students anyway, but having students for longer makes it worth our time financially to really invest in training those students. Since they are around for that longer time period, they often transition seamlessly from part-time apprentice to full-time employee.

And these are no typical entry-level employees. Instead, they’ve already worked a professional job for two years, juggling professional work and school. These are employees that other employers are lucky to get — they are ready to jump right in to professional work.

There are great benefits to the students for working longer, too. Of course, there are financial benefits. But during their two years with us, students move from one project to another. Perhaps a year down the road, when a client comes back to EduSource for an update to a project, a student apprentice might be one of the most experienced employees for that particular project. Because they sometimes get to come back to code they’ve worked on years earlier, apprentices are often exposed to their own legacy code. This is a practical way to teach best coding practices — something students usually only learn from a text book.

So How Does the Apprenticeship Program Work?
  • Students undergo a rigorous interview process during their sophomore year for employment the following summer.
  • New apprentices participate in training days at the beginning of summer. They include team and strengths training, an interactive field trip, and explanations of our processes (and what it means to be an EduSource employee).
  • In the summer, apprentices work out of our offices on the northside of Indianapolis. They work in small teams to complete custom software development projects. Each project has at least one full-time developer and a senior developer, so students can always ask questions and get help.
  • During the school year, apprentices work remotely from their various colleges and universities. We work with students to plan time for EduSource work right into their schedules. Students spend some hours working in groups and some hours on their own, working remotely. Our students are in constant communication with our full-time employees through professional chatting software.
  • Students are paid an hourly rate that depends on their Apprentice Level. All students come in at Level I, but there are chances for moving up (and getting subsequent raises) after that. Being an EduSource apprentice is a great way to pay for school before bills start piling up.
Are You Interested? Here's What We're Looking for:

We open applications for summer apprenticeships in the fall, generally deciding on our summer class by early December. If you’re interested, watch for the “apprentice” job opening to show up on our website — usually in September. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • We generally accept students that are in the beginning of their sophomore year in a software-related field at a 4-year accredited college.
  • We prefer for students to have taken a class that emphasizes data structures. Most computer science programs offer a 200-level class with these kinds of themes.
  • We are looking for creative problem solvers who are self motivated and people who aren’t afraid to fail.
  • Being a full-time student and also being able to handle EduSource work takes some juggling. Our apprentices have to be dependable and mature beyond their years.
  • Culture fit is a big deal at EduSource. To that end, we are constantly on the lookout for students that exhibit traits of faith, hope, love, and excellence. EduSource is an uplifting, encouraging place to work. It stays that way because of the people we hire.

Our new class of apprentices will be starting at the end of May. In the coming months, watch for information about them. For the first time this summer, you’ll be able to follow along with our apprentices through a weekly vlog.

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