Dec 212014

I predict that more software companies will adapt and adopt the vocational training model that’s used successfully in Germany. The idea is to directly connect software education to a job. German companies hire students right out of high school for work-study programs. Those apprenticeships often lead to full-time positions with the company once the student graduates.

In the U.S., carpenters and a number of other important craftsman trades have used an apprenticeship system to teach and build expertise for hundreds of years. So far, few U.S. companies are even familiar with such a system for software professionals. With more press attention, we’ll see a tailored German model gain momentum in the U.S.  Once employers gain a better understanding, they’ll be lining up for apprenticeship programs.

While businesses are just beginning to grasp the program, a growing portion of the academic community is already pulling together. A number of community colleges have lined up to offer software courses as part of trailblazer apprenticeship programs. More and more software education will be geared toward applied subjects, which have a direct bearing on the career being pursued by the apprenticeship. New partnerships will be established between universities, schools, and business which will enable U.S. citizens to be more successful, especially in their early formative and competitive ages of 16 to 23, an age that for many presents a prolonged and problematic transition from school to career.

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]


Scott Stribrny

Scott Stribrny is a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Business Technology Strategies practice and a leading figure in the world of process improvement. He is currently advising on techniques for effective product requirement specification and risk management.


  4 Responses to “The Apprentice: An American Reality Game Show Or The Ultimate Job Interview For Entry-Level Software Professionals?”

  1. avatar

    This apprenticeship approach has a lot of merit particularly for smaller companies who find it difficult competing with the Googles of the world for top talent. Merely having a college degree is no longer a good predictor of a useful professional level skill set. The proliferation of professional IT certifications is due in part to the wide variation in quality of education at the college level. An apprenticeship program would allow a company to effectively groom talent tailored to its specific needs.

  2. avatar

    A colleague pointed out that the ability to communicate effectively between professional disciplines is essential (e.g. the bio-medical industry). A broader college education may foster that ability whereas the narrow focus of an apprentice program may not.

  3. avatar

    Hi Scott,

    I had an opportunity to review the blog post titled “The Apprentice” and I do have some comments to share about the article from my own personal experience. Although programs may have different names at different schools, like Work-Study, there are already many school programs which provide business engagement opportunities.

    During my Engineering undergraduate studies I was part of my school’s Co-operative Engineering program (Co-Op). In the program, work was done each Summer quarter along with a Fall, Winter, and Spring quarter. Consequently the student delays graduation by 1 year in order to get the experience of working in a business environment.

    Rather than being a job interview, I feel the Co-Op program is a symbiotic relationship between the student and the employer. The student learns not only how to practice the materials they are studying, but also, how work gets done in in a professional environment. In return, a business gets access to talent which can help staff projects and provides insights from a different perspective. As such, both businesses and students benefit from this type of engagement.

    Rather than functioning as an extended interview process, I feel the strength of this type of engagement is the benefit the programs provide to both parties. Businesses that are willing to commit to developing closer connections with academic institutions will find an ample pool of available talent to meet their needs.


  4. avatar

    The problem with this method is that the skill of teaching is hard.

    It is often easier for a teacher to learn a new skill and have them teach it, then to have a skilled person learn to teach and become the instructor.

    Most skilled labor apprenticeship programs that I am familiar with have four days in the field and one day in a classroom. This can continue for four or five years prior to raising their ticket, and becoming journey men.

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