Since 2010, the number of U.S. apprenticeships has risen 64 percent and is expected to increase. For software developers, apprenticeships are beneficial for the apprentice, the mentor, and the company. They are an investment in the future of each. Beginners gain skill and exposure toward a possible career while the company grows its talent pool for filling vacancies. 

Concurrently, the demand for software engineers and developers continues to climb. Barring unforeseen circumstances that surpass even the COVID-19 pandemic, this demand for software technology expertise will also increase in the foreseeable future. The popularity for weaving cutting-edge tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation into everyday workstreams for growing businesses will factor into this demand.

Demand for talent

Demand for software engineers right now is enormous. Business leaders, their people departments, and recruiters alike are prioritizing to attract and retain talent for their companies. At the same time, the number of new technology companies continues to rise. 

It’s to the point where the number one scaling bottleneck among any size organization is just trying to hire talented people fast enough to meet the business needs. 

This demand will not ease anytime soon. Frankly, this squeeze for talent will remain top of mind for the next three to five years. It’s why leveraging apprenticeships as a way to attract, develop, and retain current and future talent makes as much sense now as ever.

Developing by nature

The current crop of prospective talent–those in or will soon be exiting college–has, essentially, never lived in a world without access to cutting-edge, modern technology. Because of this, they think about problem-solving from a very different perspective than their predecessors, who had vastly different influences. Systematically, the viewpoints of these pre-and post-smartphone groups are simply different.

Because of this, the incoming generation of developers and software engineers feel the ability to create solutions on their own or in intimate groups. Likewise, devising applications, features, and workflows that solve problems that they see are in their nature. 

With more industrious developers identifying all sorts of different things that they want to build, the future of our industry is tremendous while, at the same time, the barrier to entry remains high. All that burgeoning talent must find its place within our expanding technology business marketplace.

Committing to diversity

By their nature, apprenticeships demonstrate a commitment to youth. Expanding recruitment to seek traditionally underrepresented groups intentionally, first-generation emigres, non-traditional students or other subsets within the available prospects broadens the breadth of industry talent at the same time that it expands organizations’ views on how to operate. This accelerates inclusivity, and over time makes our industry more diverse and representative of our customers and the public.

At the onset of COVID, there was early concern about markets entering freefall and a resulting mass layoff of talent. However, what we’ve experienced is just the opposite: a demand for talented developers and software engineers that keeps growing. Which makes addressing this shortage even more vital. 

Today’s reality is that wherever there’s a deficit of developers, there’s a shortage of underrepresented communities, and this cannot be overlooked or ignored. 

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

Seeding culture

Diversity and inclusivity cut to the core of the company culture just as characteristics like environmental stewardship, loyalty, and a communicative, trusting atmosphere create a workplace that’s more than just an employer.  

Experiencing the company culture firsthand provides valuable insight to the apprentice. It allows apprentices to see how their individual characteristics align with those of the companies. Similarly, they learn whether and how to work with authority, autonomy in diverse settings and varying responsibilities that comprise the modern workstreams. 

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

Upskilling is boundless

As many organizations are discovering, departments outside of IT benefit from having software skills on staff. For example, a sales team may have an operations person build out automation to their software and improve department productivity. It could be connecting customer complaints directly to the project management tool so staff can more promptly resolve and reduce issues. Similarly, marketing may utilize a web developer for numerous, effective website changes daily. 

While not core reasons for having a software engineering or developer apprenticeship program, these are examples of ancillary benefits. They are secondary success stories of apprentices with various interests identifying and excelling 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 fast-track their software aptitude into engineering skills that further the company’s needs and help fulfill future demands. 

For example, junior researchers in the natural sciences are often tasked with creating simple computer programs that digest field data that result in novel research outcomes. Software development boot camps can fertilize these skills and create new talent pipelines for tech firms.   

Talent development and upskilling in our industry must proceed because the future is bright: demand for our products continues to grow and innovation keeps thriving. We must invest energy in identification, development and training because terrific thinkers with even more diverse backgrounds than those already leading companies are eager to prove their value to the business. We are at the juncture where new and expanded apprenticeships will help address the talent vacancies we are experiencing and predict to come.