How does it work? First, let me explain our apprentice program. Because we know what you’re thinking: interns? You’re using interns to write MY software? No way.
Several years ago, Jason Beutler was teaching a college software engineering class at the same time as he was overseeing an outsourced team, when it struck him: his college students were producing better code than the outsourced professionals. That’s how the EduSource apprentice program came to be. Could we … we mused … “edu-source” software to local college students rather than outsourcing it overseas?
Over the next few years, we learned that we could, in fact, do that, but also that it wasn’t nearly as simple as it seemed. The junior- and senior-level computer science majors we were working with were plenty smart. They knew their stuff. They solved problems in new and creative ways. But they also were so very, very young. They were undependable, didn’t understand the sacredness of client deadlines, and sometimes lacked focus.
Over the years, we’ve modified and tried things and made changes and switched directions and tried again. We still have perfecting to do, but in the meantime, we’ve developed a realistic business model that makes so much sense. In short, students chosen through an elaborate application process work for EduSource as apprentices for up to two years while they’re in school. They work full-time on site in the summer, and we take advantage of that time to train them in our software process and get them ready to be able to work remotely. Then they head back to school and start working part-time for us, fitting their work schedule around their class schedule. Ideally, they come back again the next summer, ready to help start training the new generation of apprentices.
It works. Given plenty of guidance and set expectations, our apprentices write darn good, innovative code.
To get that answer, you really have to understand our agile pricing model. Our clients pay for a rate of EduPoint completion. Each project is broken into User Stories, which are given sizes. Sizes have a set number of EduPoints. For our base package – Cruise Mode – our clients pay to have 17 EduPoints completed per week. The price for this mode is $6,000 per week, which covers one full-time software engineer, plus the use of a software architect, a project manager, a tester, and a client relationship manager as needed. In addition to that, the cost covers at least one tech forum, in which your team presents their solution to your problem and defends it to a group of their peers.
But we throw in an apprentice or two for that price, too. Since our apprentices learn best by doing everything our software engineers do, we make sure they become experts on their assigned projects. And even when they’re away at school, they’ll be jumping on and helping as their schedules allow. At EduSource, apprentice work is always included in your price. That’s no small thing. And that’s why we complete more user stories for a smaller amount of money than other similar companies.
The win for the students is pretty huge, too. And the fact that this program’s reputation is growing by leaps and bounds is evidence of that fact. This five-year-old program had more than 80 applicants this year. We whittled those down to 10 student apprentices. The students get to participate in every stage of the software development life cycle, from the beginning stages of a project, to team status meetings, to Kanban replenishment meetings, occasionally even to client demos or meetings. Here are ways we make sure apprentices are getting an incredible experience:
Indianapolis continues to grow as a tech hub. And while that’s an incredible bonus for our local economy and the tech-friendly laws that continue to pass in the statehouse, resourcing will get to be a larger and larger problem. Human Resource employees’ jobs will get tougher as various tech companies fight for the same qualified employees.
By creating a selective process to find the most promising computer-science students early in their university careers, at EduSource, we’re growing our own employees. By the end of a two-year program, we have a darn good idea of who’s an ideal fit and who isn’t. And the students have a darn good idea if they want to join the group or not.