Solving Problems, Building The Future
Problem 1: Most free and paid UX internships and apprenticeships require previous work experience (often a year, sometimes more), a uni degree in a UX-related topic like HCI, or college coursework towards a degree. Companies want slightly experienced CX/UX practitioners to call them interns/apprentices so they can pay them less than a junior job (or pay them nothing). This immediately kills diversity and inclusion. It only includes people who had time and money for university. You’re missing out on some great talent who didn’t want to go to uni, didn’t have time, or couldn’t afford it.
Problem 2: Most bootcamps, programs, and even uni programs aren’t making people job-ready.
Problem 3: There are tens of thousands of people out there looking for their first junior CX/UX job. Since so many aren’t job-ready, companies adjusted for that by requiring that juniors already have 1+ years of experience. That’s the paradox: how do you get your first job when you can’t get your first job?
Problem 4: There are unfortunate voices out there saying that we should just give newbies “production designer” jobs, where they assist seniors and take grunt work off their plates.
- “Drowning in grunt work I wish I could give an assistant” isn’t a common problem for seniors and higher.
- Very few up-and-coming CX/UX practitioners want to do production or grunt work. They want to do real work.
- If we give newbies production or grunt work, what will they put in their portfolio? “The senior made these tablet wireframes in portrait mode, and I made these derivatives in landscape.” That doesn’t level anybody up and help them get their next job.
- Production work is often an order-taker job. CX/UX work focuses on problem-finding and problem-solving, and is far from order taking. Taking orders isn’t a stepping stone to being a critical thinker, deductive reasoner, and Low Ego Action Hero.
There are many talented and high-potential people out there who haven’t started or done a uni degree, have no work experience, don’t want to do production work, and are being ignored.
Who will be our Senior CX/UX practitioners in 5 years?
Giving Apprentices Time and Coaching
Part of coaching apprentices is staying on top of what they’re doing to help them keep leveling up. Here is our suggested schedule:
- 60 min 1:1 with each apprentice 2 times a week. 2 hours total for them individually. This could be Tuesday and Friday.
- 60 min team/peer meetings 2 times a week. Maybe one of these meetings is apprentices only, and one meeting has the Lead/mentor/coach to help. Let’s say we have 4 IA/IxDs on one team. They could each have 15 min to show their work (twice a week) and get peers’ suggestions or brainstorming. This could be Monday and Thursday.
- 60 min “Apprentice School” each week. This could be live or it could be video courses that you require everybody to view. These could be taught by your team, taught by outside experts you bring in, videos from our YouTube channel, or anything else that is high quality content.
Outside of “normal” work and other meetings like project planning, this would mean that each apprentice spends 5 hours per week in meetings related to the program.
We see too many companies clumping a group of interns together and giving them a project. They guess and stab mostly alone. Someone looks at them for a half hour every week, often telling them they’re doing great. At the end of the term, they present their wacky ideas, and are usually let go.
This doesn’t makes sense, especially in an industry where most of us agree you learn by doing, and expert coaching is invaluable to learning the right things the right ways from the right people. Let’s not do this with our apprenticeship program (and let’s not do this with internships either).
Your Lead is the center of this program.
They will probably be selecting who gets into the program. They will decide what they teach, how, and when. They will create standards and review work. This highlights the need for you to hire or have a highly-qualified Lead with at least 6 years of experience in CX/UX Architecture and/or Research.
If 4 apprentices need 2 hours each weekly plus an hour for the apprentice team meeting plus an hour for Apprentice School, then that’s 10 hours of your Lead’s time each week for an apprentice team of 4 people. A 40-hour week minus a meal and breaks becomes a 30-hour week. Allocate 35% of that worker’s time to the program. The other 65% can be to projects.
What if we don’t have Lead/Principal CX/UX staff to oversee apprentices?
Delta CX offers Fractional CX Leadership. We can quote you on a package where our expert mentors can oversee your apprentice team for a certain number of hours per week. We can assign as many coaches as you need for the number of weekly hours we agree on. It will cost a little more than a full time Lead position might cost you, but we’re available! Contact us for a free proposal.
What Does This Cost?
Let’s say your Lead makes $120,000 USD per year. Let’s say your apprentices each make around $35,000 USD per year ($16.83/hr before taxes are taken out). Thinking of the USA, let’s add 30% on those numbers for perks, benefits, and other costs companies incur for salaried employees. So that’s $156K and $45.5K respectively.
4 apprentices cost you approximately $182K per year in their salaries (4 x $45.5K). 35% of 1 Lead’s time = approximately $55K per year. Now we’re around $237K in human-power for one team for one year.
If you wanted someone from Delta CX to be your Fractional CX/UX Lead and devote 10 hours per week to a 4-person apprentice team, that’s $78K per year (corp to corp, $150 USD per hour). Add this to $182K in 4 apprentice salaries and that’s an annual budget of $260K.
Later on this page, I’ll examine the many reasons why this is financially worth it. There are many ways for this to pay off. Additionally, companies don’t always calculate the effects of improving CX/UX, but they should. Then things like this would be less of a mystery. It would be clearer what bringing on an apprentice team could improve at your company.
But Debbie, people aren’t loyal. They will get trained and quit!
If your workplace sucks, you’re right. People will seem disloyal, quitting as soon as they can. If people are flight risks or are quitting, or if your CX/UX department tends to have a CXodus, then you need to make improvements to what’s going on at your company. A great apprenticeship program can help attract people, but it can’t keep them for long if working there sucks. You’ll probably want to check out our Delta CX training program for HR, recruiters, and hiring managers. It teaches how to improve our department, teams, and jobs.
Don’t try to lock people into staying at your company with a work contract that keeps them there. That’s not legal in some places as it can be seen as “indentured servitude.” It’s better to retain people by having great jobs at a great workplace versus trying to contractually force them to stay there.
Yes, that means you’re going to have to improve jobs, culture, and working conditions there so that you are more likely to retain people. Happy people want to stay. Create the job where people want to stay.
FAQs Are Content Without Strategy
Can we combine or hybridize roles?
No, it’s too early to try to make people into mini Jacks-of-All-Unicorns. I suggest that you let researchers learn research and testing. Let architects learn information architecture, interaction design, and prototyping. The point of the program is for people to really dive into one area of CX/UX, level up, learn, practice, and get closer to an entry level job. They are more likely to be hired into your company or impress a future employer if they show some depth and true ability versus shallow but broader skills. Our work is mission critical. Shallow skills don’t usually cut it for long. People can always add specializations and more skills later. Let’s start them with focus and depth in one area
Can this be done remotely?
Absolutely. Mine was. Stop making people come into offices. Pick great people no matter where they are. We lived in Slack and Zoom since we were located in the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and Italy.
Do we have to pay these people?
Yes. In 2021, the going rate appears to be $15 USD (and it’s non-USD equivalents) per hour. $15/hr is now minimum wage in some US states. This doesn’t mean we pay minimum wage, but we can use it as a guide.
- Unpaid internships or apprenticeships might be illegal where you are based. Check labor laws.
- Unpaid work can be a signal that you don’t really value what they do.
- Unpaid internships and apprenticeships can run against diversity and inclusion. People who can not afford to work without payment will not be able to join the program.
Do we need Architects and Researchers on our apprentice team?
Totally up to you. Later in this document, I’ll go into the role of your Lead practitioner in this program. If you have a Lead Researcher who can oversee researchers, great. If you have a Lead Architect who can oversee architects, great. If you have a great Lead Architect who hasn’t done much research, they might not make the best apprentice team leader for researchers.
Match the program you can offer to the skills and expertise of the Leads who will oversee the apprentices.