September 23

What should you teach?

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The most common question that I get is “what do you teach?” and then some variation of “what is your curriculum like?” Spoiler alert, what we do might not work for you.

Creating Coding Careers‘ coursework is a combination of existing curricula that is open source or free to the public as well as our own content that we have battle tested. We teach full-stack software engineering with an emphasis on web development skills first. Apprentices gain more specialized skills later in the program based on employer demand. We have our own proprietary C#, Java, Python, and NodeJS curriculum. We also have front end curriculum for HTML/CSS and JavaScript.

Because the employers we work with have unique demands, what works for us may not work well for another tech apprenticeship program. Moreover, when designing a tech apprenticeship program it’s very important for you to listen to your customers. Find what works with your targeted population and creates the outcomes that your employers are seeking.

Listening to your customers means not only acknowledging the people you are impacting by upskilling but also the people who are the “product” (highly skilled humans) that are needed by business customers. A tech apprenticeship could be thought of as a B2C and B2B endeavor. You must listen to and serve two very different customers to make your apprenticeship program successful.

The way that I typically start assessing what training might be needed in a region and what we can successfully put together for career pathways is to talk to folks in the industry that are hiring. The key there is actually “hiring”. We never train or accept what the government or philanthropy wants to fund if it doesn’t align with getting people hired. The harsh reality is there is a gap here and funding is not matching what employers need. There are pockets of alignment, but hiring is hard, and apprenticeships even harder to pull off.

A great example of similar work that was well aligned has been the Advancing San Diego initiative that began in 2019. A broad consortium of local employers came together and helped describe talent needs. They then asked training providers to demonstrate that they had those aspects in their training programs through an application process. Creating Coding Careers applied and was designated by the industry as a preferred provider of talent. We accomplished this because we had already taken the time to be responsive to the industry demand and had been listening to our corporate customers. Although the focus of Advancing San Diego was the more familiar internship process, we have still been able to increase public awareness about tech apprenticeships via our participation.

Pro Tip: Design programs around skills needed in the industry will help to prevent training people and then struggling to find long-term placement opportunities.

Pro Tip: Competency based curriculum, especially project based curriculum tends to do better in terms of upskilling folks for software and data engineering roles in a short period of time.

What should you teach with?

You have to make the business decision to build your our own curriculum or buy curriculum. Fortunately, there are a lot of options and the internet has tons of free resources as well. Using available curriculum including things that are in the creative commons or developed by industry vendors that are available to the public to really shorten the amount of time it takes for us to develop robust training pathways. A pro tip is to think of these resources as building blocks and you are curating a set of resources rather than creating. As long as the content is high quality and will help an individual gain the skills that they need, I see it as a responsible way to provide affordability and accessibility to tech programs. There’s no point to reinventing the wheel when there are a lot of really great resources out there that you can leverage to be able to quickly provide learning material and follow up with practice. Where apprenticeships add the most value is in the mentorship and work experience, not developing more lectures and videos.

A lot of folks don’t realize just how much time and effort it takes to develop high-quality curriculum. And you may not be a subject matter expert yourself in all of the areas, but the ones that you are, then fill in the gaps.

Where gaps exist is where I would say it makes the most sense to author new learning material. Please make it available to the public so we can help more people access #newcollar careers. There are a lot of good resources out there. But they’re not always easy to find or understand. The key is to make them accessible and understandable for everyone.

In areas where your team does not have a Subject Matter Expert (SME), go out and buy or leverage existing materials that will help you deliver world-class training at economical costs.

Organizations out there doing amazing work in the space include: Google who’s opened up a lot of their certificate programs and a lot of free training for end users. There’s a great amount of content on the IBM SkillBuild platform, and Microsoft has a similar skills training platform. ServiceNow, Salesforce, CompTIA, and many others vendors are getting in the game with great content and industry recognized certifications. One of the best free resources for software engineering to date has been FreeCodeCamp.org, which we leverage in our pre-apprenticeship.

In addition, there’s amazing curricula that App Academy has made available. Although App Academy is a for-profit immersive coding boot camp, they have opened up their curriculum to allow a much greater number of people access to world class software engineering training. Users can register on their website and go through almost the same curriculum online that others pay thousands to do in person.

What will you leverage to start helping others? If you are looking for help getting a tech apprenticeship off the ground please reach out to me. I would love to get involved. And if you know of more great training resources for tech that I have not yet mentioned please drop a comment below.

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