Digital Apprenticeships: Get out what you put into it
Starting an apprenticeship isn’t a one and done deal. Mentors can’t just click a button to make the perfect apprentice magically appear and apprentices can't just check a box and say that they now have experience on their resumés.
What is digital apprenticeship?
Digital apprenticeships are relatively new, but the model of apprenticeships is not. Apprenticeships are common in certain trade industries. An electrician, for example, will work under a more experienced electrician for a period of time with the expectation that they will learn trade secrets and become professionals in that role, too.
This model has been adapted to fit non-trade roles in the form of internship programs. These roles are a way for college students, recent graduates, or less experienced professionals to gain the necessary experience and skillsets for future roles.
It is a lot of administrative work and planning to start an internship program. The business will need to dedicate individuals and resources to making the internship program a success.
On top of all the business planning that needs to be done the business also has to navigate legal structures that govern internship programs. With all the work it takes to set up an internship program you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many small and medium-sized businesses don’t consider starting one.
This is where Acadium digital apprenticeships come in.
Small to medium-sized business owners come to Acadium to connect with apprentices who are looking for experience in areas of digital marketing, like social media, web design, e-commerce, and more.
After connecting and determining that they’re a great fit, the apprentice and business owner form a mutually beneficial relationship and start working together. The business owner gets support from their apprentice and the apprentice gains mentorship and necessary experience for a future career in digital marketing.
It takes work however to make sure that the apprentice and business have a beneficial relationship while working together. Read on to learn how to make the most of your next digital apprenticeship.
How to make the most of a digital apprenticeship
Now that you understand what a digital apprenticeship is, let’s talk about what makes the relationship between an apprentice and a mentor truly beneficial for both parties. Like any relationship, it takes both parties to commit to working together, having clear and regular communication, and putting effort into the relationship.
Starting an apprenticeship isn’t a one and done deal. Mentors can’t just click a button to make the perfect apprentice magically appear and apprentices can’t just check a box and say that they now have experience on their resumés.
Instead, there needs to be an onboarding process where the mentor brings their new apprentice into their business and introduces them to what they will be working on for the next three months. If the apprentice finds the projects interesting and informative then they can commit to investing 10 hours a week for three months to working with and learning from the mentors and their business.
If you are on Acadium’s platform and find a mentor that you like, make sure that they are able to provide you with the proper training and onboarding before you commit. Consider it a two-sided interview and know what you want before signing the contract with them.
Next, let’s go over how digital apprenticeships are different from a regular or freelance job, the importance of accountability during an apprenticeship, and how both mentors and apprentices benefit from the experience, so long as they stay committed.
How digital apprenticeships differ from a regular or freelance job
Digital apprenticeships are entirely different from regular and freelance jobs. The relationship between a mentor and their apprentice is not like a boss-employee relationship where the employee is managed by the boss. Instead, mentors work closely with their apprentices to make sure that projects are completed correctly and provide valuable feedback throughout the process.
This way, the apprentice doesn’t just learn how to do projects but also learns how to use specific tools, understand the strategy behind what was done, and to use those skills in the future, with confidence.
Having consistent communication
Because a successful apprenticeship requires more feedback, both mentors and apprentices need to commit to having regular one-on-one meetings. By creating open lines of communication and establishing availability, things won’t slip through the cracks and the projects will progress more smoothly, with fewer bottlenecks.
Eathan Janney, the founder of Floating Piano Factory, is a great example of how working closely with his apprentices led to better outcomes and learning for himself, his business, and his apprentices.
When the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down his brick-and-mortar piano tuning business, Eathan adjusted the way he mentored his apprentices and moved them to his digital businesses. Instead of meeting once a week to go over what was completed the previous week and planning out the coming week, they decided to briefly meet every day during the uncertain times they were in.
This led to tighter feedback loops by having questions answered quickly and problems being solved actively during their daily meetings.
The projects are geared towards building specific skills
Another difference between digital apprenticeships and regular jobs is that all projects should be geared towards building certain skills. This way apprentices can have a clear idea of the skills and experience they will have developed by the time they complete their apprenticeships.
This also provides more meaning to the work that the apprentice is working on because they can point to the specific skills they develop with each project they complete.
Having a mentor provides apprentices with a way to measure how much they are growing through the feedback that they receive. It’s not just adding something to your resume, but also gaining confidence in marketable skills that will land you future roles.
How important is feedback to a digital apprentices development?
The importance of feedback in the apprenticeship has already been mentioned, but it’s worth noting that without feedback apprentices will not be able to learn as much as they want to. Likewise, mentors will wonder why they aren’t seeing the outcomes in their business that they were expecting.
By meeting regularly, as Eathan did with his apprentices, both the mentor and apprentice can consistently be on the same page about tasks, projects, outcomes, and goals.
An additional benefit that Eathan found was that his apprentices kept him accountable. Having apprentices working on high value but lower priority projects, like a website redesign, forced him to get that project done despite his other priorities. After all, he had to fulfill his obligations to his apprentices.
As an apprentice, make sure that you are asking for feedback from your mentor and providing them with feedback as well. Without the consistent communication and an openness to continually learning you’ll hinder your ability to learn as much as you can over the three months.
Having an apprentice keeps mentors accountable
Oftentimes, mentors that come to Acadium are founders or business owners and are wearing several hats at any given time. They have to manage the day-to-day operations, keep track of finances, and on top of it all, maintain a high-level, strategic view of the business.
This leads to low priority projects, like website redesigns or experimentation, getting neglected, and never completed.
By onboarding an apprentice, mentors can have someone focused on those projects and keep them on track. An apprentice keeps their mentor accountable for these valuable projects and makes sure they get completed. Additionally, it helps the mentors take a step back from the details to consider their business from a more strategic perspective.
Apprentices can become their mentors’ trusted advisors
Working so closely can build a strong relationship between the mentor and apprentice, the apprentice can become a trusted advisor. This is another incredible learning opportunity for both parties.
If an apprentice becomes immersed in business operations, the apprenticeship can potentially lead to a paid opportunity after the three months.
The apprentice brings a fresh, new perspective
Connecting with an apprentice every day keeps mentors thinking about their experience, what they are learning, and how they can contribute more to the business.
For Eathan, the consistency of meeting with his apprentices lead to a compound effect on learning. This revelation led Eathan to organize a team of four apprentices to work in different areas across his various business ventures. This helped him maximize the collaboration and learning experiences for all of his apprentices.
Investing in a digital apprenticeship
Many business owners see Acadium as a way to get extra help in a more financially sustainable way, compared to hiring a full-time employee. It’s also a lower risk because oftentimes they know they need help with certain aspects of their businesses, but they don’t know how to delegate that responsibility. An apprenticeship is a way for them to experiment with that. In most cases, mentors are learning just as much as their apprentices.
Eathan originally decided to try Acadium because of the reasons mentioned above. He wanted to experiment with taking on an apprentice. After completing his first apprenticeship he discovered that apprentices have the potential to really help him in his business. Additionally, he learned that an apprentice needed guidance and consistent feedback from him so that the projects they worked on were in line with what he wanted for his business.
By taking what he learned about how to mentor his apprentices for success, Eathan decided to build a team of four apprentices. By placing them in four different areas of his businesses, while also providing areas for them to work together, he hypothesized they would keep each other accountable and help each other learn more. He was right.
Choosing good mentors pays off
By creating an environment of accountability and regular communication, Eathan was able to give all of his apprentices’ incredible experiences. In turn, the work the apprentices completed led to amazing outcomes for his businesses.
This took some work on Eathan’s end—he knew that he had to invest time and energy to make sure that his apprentices were well equipped to succeed. The effort paid off, though, and Eathan has continued to provide great learning opportunities for apprentices to gain marketable skills while also driving business growth.
Eathan has even hired some of his apprentices as freelancers after the three months had ended.
Digital apprenticeships and kickstarting your career
Digital apprenticeships are the future of gaining experience and kickstarting your career. Acadium is making that happen while also providing anyone, from anywhere access to global opportunities, no matter what level of skill or experience they’re at.
It takes effort though to be a successful apprentice and mentor. Both parties have to commit to working together regularly and keeping each other accountable for the outcomes they decided on before they signed the contract.
Three months goes by very quickly when you’re working on great projects that accelerate your learning and build your experience, but it can be difficult as well. With proper communication and the commitment on both ends to put in the work that will produce great outcomes, both sides will benefit from the three-month-long experience.
Starting your career in digital marketing can be a daunting and overwhelming journey. Don’t let that stop you from joining an industry that offers variety, excitement, and endless growth opportunities. Check out The complete guide to starting a career in digital marketing if you want to get everything you’ll need for your journey.
If you’re ready to start your digital apprenticeship with Acadium you can learn more about how a mentor can help to kickstart your career. You can also explore active apprenticeship opportunities or learn more about how other apprentices transformed their job paths through completing digital apprenticeships.
Ryan Carruthers is the Content Marketing Manager at Together Software, a company that builds software to help enterprise companies run effective mentorship programs within their organizations. Ryan was an Acadium apprentice and leveraged his apprenticeship experience to get a job at Together.
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