Thoughtbot: How to Set Up Your Company's Apprenticeship


We’ve run, a three-month apprenticeship for designers and developers, for the past four years. We’ve talked with other organizations, most recently through YesWeCode, about how to set up their own apprenticeships.

This article shares what we’ve learned. We’ve also made material from our apprenticeship available on GitHub. Fork and change it as you find what works for your organization.

People love to mentor

A concern we’ve heard is “who will mentor?” Our experience has been that this is the easiest part. Designers and developers love to share their knowledge, tools, and techniques. It’s very satisfying to help someone else acquire new skills.

Put the word out within your organization. You might be surprised at how many people respond enthusiastically.

Prepare the mentors

Your people have product design, software engineering, and a variety of other soft and hard skills. They’re less likely to have formally mentored others before.

So before your mentors get an apprentice, put them through some kind of basic training.

For example, have them read Apprenticeship Patterns or Search Inside Yourself. Have them watch Emotional Intelligence and Feedback. Require that they’ve previously pair programmed for at least 100 hours. Share your Mentor Handbook on GitHub.

Those ideas are geared toward attuning the mentor to the needs of their future apprentice. Beyond technical skills, empathy and creating a cycle of open, honest feedback are the most important skills for a mentor.

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"Diversity brings so much more to the table - and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech - we can only make it better. #YesWeCode is doing exactly that."
- Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple