Apprenticeships at IBM: Trading in Traditional Schooling for a 21st Century Apprenticeship

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There are a lot of ways to learn, and for some, like Josh Hannaford, traditional classroom learning isn’t the most effective. Josh always had a passion for technology and computer programming, as well as a curiosity that kept him learning and exploring, but when it came to classroom-style learning, something just didn’t click. Because of this, he never thought that he would find himself in the position he’s in today – a registered software engineering apprentice in IBM’s Research Triangle Park office.

In high school, Josh first remembers developing a passion for video game development, which combined his interests in programming and in art. While he found his area of interest, he struggled with staying focused in school programs that felt more esoteric than practical, and worried that this might impede his career prospects in technology.

He enrolled in North Carolina State University’s computer science program, but withdrew after two years. While knowing it was the right decision for him, Josh wondered it the lack of a four-year degree would make him ineligible to work at IBM or any other large tech company.

Although disappointed, he never stopped learning and looking for new opportunities. He transferred to Alamance Community College, one of IBM’s partner schools, and earned his associate’s degree in information technology and mobile application development. Outside of class, he honed additional skillsets in his spare time, dedicating hours to researching website and mobile app development frameworks.

While working in the Alamance Community College IT department, an advisor saw a listing for IBM’s apprenticeship program and urged him to apply.

“I first saw the new collar jobs slogan, ‘No Degree, No Problem,’” Josh said. “It blew my mind that a company like IBM was offering people like me the chance to work in this field, even without a four-year degree. I applied on the spot.”

As part of the apprenticeship program, which Josh started in October 2017, he has the opportunity to learn more about various technologies through hands-on practice and to work alongside professionals already employed in the field. He believes that he will gain skills from this experience that he wouldn’t have been able to learn in a classroom. To him, this is the unique benefit of apprenticeship programs.

“Apprenticeships let you see the industry day in and day out, and give you the opportunity to ask questions and have conversations about how and why things are done the way they are,” Josh said. “Through those conversations, I can get more understanding from people working in the industry, and I can bring insights from my background too, so we all grow together.”

With a year of hands-on work experience with an IBM mentor ahead of him, Josh believes his apprenticeship has been and will be “life-changing.” Where he saw a door closed to opportunity, he now sees hope and excitement.


To read more about apprentices at IBM, click here.
To get involved or apply for an apprenticeship click here.

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