The Importance of Apprenticeships

by Jess Nolte-Cerchio

When I started working at Differential about 3 months ago, there were 5 apprentices working amongst the full-time employees and contractors. As with any first day on the job, I got introduced to a lot of people whose names and roles I tried my hardest to stash away into my memory bank. Needless to say, some of these names and roles got lost and I relearned them in their entirety over the next 2 weeks or so.

During this time, I sometimes had no idea who the apprentices were and who the full time employees and contractors were. Aside from getting acclimated to my new environment, there were a couple of other things contributing to this lack of differentiation:

  1. Everyone at Differential sits in the same area(s). There are no offices or cubicles, just communal desks and sitting areas.

  2. The apprentices were working hard, and on a variety of things – a large portion of which was client work.

Because of these things, I was able to see with a clear lens how valuable and capable Differential’s apprentices were.

From a student’s end of things, apprenticeships are crucial. Melissa, one of our former apprentices, recently retweeted one of Santa Ono’s (the current president of the University of Cincinnati) tweets:


This tweet resonated with me personally, as I view my college apprenticeships as being just as valuable as any of the course work I did while at the University of Cincinnati. Of course, this tweet could refer to a number of things: apprenticeships, community service, travel, etc. – making your voice heard and talents seen. The point being: importance should be placed on what you do in college outside of your classes. Are you making connections? Are you getting outside of your comfort zone? Are you engaging with your (or any) community? An apprenticeship is, in an ideal situation, one way to do all of these things.

And from a company’s end of things? Apprentices are often pooh-poohed. Employees may become impatient with them for things they don’t yet know, or companies may just view hiring an apprentice as “doing the student a favor.” In reality, the hiring of an apprentice is a company’s chance to build relationships with potential future hires. By seeing what value these students bring in the short term, companies can make confident hiring choices once the students graduate from college. If a student isn’t a fit? It’s an opportunity to recommend them to a place in your network that might be better for them (and a win for another company).

Of course, after being at Differential for a few months now, I know who everyone is and the important role they each play. But the fresh perspective I gained from those couple of weeks at the beginning is something that I’m grateful for.

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