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Apprenticeships for the digital age

05.07.2013
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The tv reality game show The Apprentice hits UK screens again this week, with initial indications being that the show will contain its usual mixture of egotists and delusionists.  As entertainment it is strangely addictive, but as viable career path somewhat less useful.  The majority of apprenticeships in Britain occur in non-knowledge based industries, but with university fees very high, there are undoubtably many that would like to find an alternative route to employment.

Step forward Enstitute.  It aims to teach many of the key skills required by the digital industry not through classroom based tuition but via on the job experience.

“Our long-term vision is that this becomes an acceptable alternative to college,” says Kane Sarhan, one of Enstitute’s founders. “Our big recruitment effort is at high schools and universities. We are targeting people who are not interested in going to school, school is not the right fit for them, or they can’t afford school.”

It forms part of a wider discussion over the merits of university education, with MOOCs providing university standard education to people around the world for free.  Enstitute taps into this zeitgeist, although many employers in the digital world still require new recruits to have a university degree.

Hopefully projects such as Enstitute will provide an alternative route into the industry.  The site matches up participating employers with a market of cheap but talented labour.  Companies gain good quality skills for a longer period than the typical internship, whilst the budding recruits get to hone their skills and networks in the marketplace.

In addition to the workplace learning, Enstitute ‘students’ are offered eight hours a week of semi-formal tuition on topics such as finance and computer programming.  The tuition is delivered online, with assignments given every six weeks or so.

With youth unemployment rampant throughout the developed world, projects such as Enstitute can provide young people with a valid alternative route into employment by giving them marketable skills and experiences, not to mention key contacts.  The value of the project will only really emerge after the students graduate into the workplace, but it’s certainly a nice project to follow.