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author's profile photo Susan Keohan

Have you ever heard of apprenticeships for IT?

This blog has been percolating in my head for a week, but I am inspired to finally put fingers to keyboard by this tweet by Matthias Wild

This really struck me, because just last week I had an experience with apprenticeships. And I was *impressed*. Let me explain...

I had been invited to participate in 4 Zoom interviews and I will be the first to tell you, I was not looking forward to it. FOUR HOURS in Zoom! Plus, the candidates were *not* in the SAP space. I was invited in part because I've been at my current employer for a good long time, so I could talk to the candidates on that basis, plus I could give my colleagues my overall feedback on the candidates. So I was steeling myself for a long afternoon last week.

All I knew was that these candidates were being interviewed as 'apprentices' which has absolutely nothing to do with a reality show. They previously had little to no experience in Technology. The program they would enter would, if they were hired as an apprentice, provide the 'hiree' with some months of intensive training, and in return they would be employed for at least a year. I'm sure the apprentice company would 'take something off the top' to recoup their investment in the hiree.

The day rolled around, and guess what?

All four candidates were women. None of them had previous job experience in technology. All of them had taken a course or courses (either in real life, or online) and found a passion for developing technology! They were bright, thoughtful, intelligent, engaging. They were an absolute joy to me!

I don't know which candidate(s) will be selected. I am out of the loop at this point. But I was feeling so *inspired* by them, I started to think... Why doesn't the 'industry' have SAP apprenticeships? Or have I just been hiding out in my cave for so long that I don't know about it?

I'm reminded slightly of a large consulting company in the US in the early 80s. When they hired you, they'd send you off for 8 weeks of programming boot camp. I can't even recall the languages. However, at the end of that boot camp, you were bound by some agreement to work for them for 5 years....

Image Credit: World Reference Forums

(GASP!!!)

That would be unheard of today, thank goodness.

But this particular type of apprenticeship seems like a win-win-win for all. Or am I just having #pandemicdreams that in the near future, young people could build and grow their careers with the help of an apprentice program?

At any rate, I thank Matthias, and now I will look with great interest at what happens in April.

(https://www.girls-day.de/@/Show/sap-se.5/virtueller-girlsday-bei-sap-st-leon-rot-2021) – there is still time for me to up my German skills, stimmt das?

Oh, and here's the link to the US version... https://girlswhocode.com/programs

PS: I am not just about girls who code, I am all about people who code.

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11 Comments

  • Feb 04 at 04:52 PM

    Hi Sue,

    I haven't just heard about it but have actually mentored IT apprentices in Germany where this is a very common type of training for young people. IT apprentices are just one type of vocational training we have in Germany within a "dual education system" which caters to many different types of jobs. I myself did such a training in the 1980s just not for IT specifically (wasn't available and back then I didn't know that I'd end up in IT) but for clerical work in almost any kind of industry. During not quite 2 years, I alternated between 4 weeks at school and 4 to 6 weeks on assignment in various departments like purchasing, HR, finance, sales and - because I became interested - IT. Apprentices do get a salary and are often even guaranteed a job offer once done with the 2 to 3 years long apprenticeship (but that varies by industry, company and overall economic situation).

    Some of the curriculum is set by the state to make the training and exams comparable and some is rather flexible. It has been quite successful and has been copied by many other countries, including China as far as I know.

    Cheers

    Bärbel

    • Feb 05 at 01:18 PM

      I should have known the US was way behind Germany in terms of education.

      Image result for sad face

      Honestly, what thrilled me was seeing four young women who were so *interested* in a career in Tech.

    • Feb 11 at 08:52 AM

      Same here, Bärbel and Sue, I was an apprentice for "industrial business management assistant". The advantage is that you got to know the company you are working for in detail, you passed through all the different departments Bärbel mentioned including stock management, production, quality center and product development. I was employed in a food production company and it was so interesting! It's a great base for everything you want to do afterwards, you can either study or work further in the same or different companies. But it definitely helps you to understand how companies "work".

      At SAP we are offering also "dual studies" so there are a lot of interns and it's also a great starting point after school to combine the theoretical with the practical.

  • Feb 04 at 07:38 PM

    Girls Who Code is not necessarily an apprenticeship program - it's more about providing an opportunity for girls in Middle School/Jr. High and High School to learn about various topics in the IT world, including programming, and gain some experience with them in hopes that they might decide they want to further their educations in those areas. My employer has been involved with the group and the office that I work out of was lined up to work with them to provide a 2-week program in our office last summer....but... COVID. :-{

    Another group that works helps to teach coding skills to any child is Hour of Code (their US site is https://hourofcode.com/us). It uses games to introduces kids in all grades to various coding concepts. We have worked with them as well, both in a local middle school and through some virtual sessions with employees' kids (or grandkids!)

    -Dell

    • Feb 05 at 01:23 PM

      Hi Dell,

      I understand Girls Who Code is not an apprenticeship program - but perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding getting women into technology via this apprentice program in the US. What I know of apprenticeships is, admittedly, very little - that there are usually apprenticeships for the 'trades' (electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc). Except for that company that I mentioned in the 80s (and I do *not* believe they were ahead of the times) I have not heard of this type of apprenticeship. Internships, and co-op students, yes. These are similar ideas probably.

      Again, it was all about being elevated in spirit by the amazing young women I saw.

      • Feb 05 at 02:12 PM

        Hi Susan,

        My comment was not meant as a criticism, but more as an explanation to others about GWC. I'm sorry if it came off that way.

        -Dell

        • Feb 05 at 02:55 PM

          Hi Dell, no worries! I keep telling people that information is knowledge, and you got me to reclick and re-read what GWC does... for that, you get my thanks!
          :-)

          Sue

  • Feb 05 at 04:52 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Sue! Sadly, apprenticeship is not as common in the US, especially in IT. And I think it hurts both younger and older demographics, as well as industry in general. The employers are focused on the candidates in their prime years but how one is supposed to get the experience is not clear. At the same time, teaching new generation would be a great opportunity for the older workers but instead we are supposed to go into management or just disappear.

    If you listen to the middle management, they'll always scream how "ain't nobody got time for that" but it couldn't be farther from the truth. I've always been interested myself in helping newcomers and seen many others in the same position. But there always seems to be some corporate hurdle to create an apprentice position.

    Great minds think alike, this is exactly what I mentioned in my recent blog, under Resilient Workforce. I think SAP space will be particularly affected here.

    • Feb 06 at 11:44 AM

      Hi Jelena,

      Great minds, indeed. Loved the blog, too!

      I have no idea where things will go with these candidates and even if I did, of course I couldn't say anything. One of the candidates was *very* excited to hear I am on the 'SAP team', although she pivoted well when she discovered the actual job was in the web services team. Interesting...

      Image result for very interesting emoji

  • Feb 11 at 08:36 PM

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you so much for your nice words! I strongly believe such events are so important for kids - girls and boys - to stay engaged with STEM and to meet role models. A key part of the event will be to chat with some amazing women about their work at SAP. We will have Sonja Lienard for ABAP Development, Katja Geiselhart for User Assistance, our Svea Becker for Community and Anja Rosker for SAP IT. And of course we will do really cool Scratch coding ... if everything works as planned the girls will write code to run a Lego Boost robot remotly and will see the movement live in the Zoom meeting. (I really hope that will work!)

    Stay tuned, we will share the pics and stories from the event.

    Stay safe
    Matthias

  • Feb 26 at 03:27 PM

    Switzerland has a well developed apprenticeship program. It's part of the education system. My youngest daughter did three years at a big pharmaceutical company as a pharma-technician (think "chemical engineer apprentice"). At the end the apprenticeship, they have a recognised qualification. One of her colleagues went into a job, though that's rare. She completed her education to a level where she's now studying to be a pharmaceutical engineers - like a chemical engineer but focussed on pharma.

    If the apprentices don't like that career, they can apply to do another, or go to a college and get more qualificaitons and go into another area altogether. I know one lad who did a finance apprenticeship and now works as a social worker. You can do apprenticeships even up to 30 years old.

    Of course there are IT apprenticeships as well. We had a few on my departmental floor. Only a handful of women though. Around here, life sciences are more popular!

    I understand the UK has in recent years started up more apprenticeships.

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