By Carole Sheridan
NKU Marketing + Communications intern
Northern Kentucky University students have no shortage of opportunities to gain on-the-job experience while earning their degrees. Now, the Center for Applied Informatics (CAI) Apprenticeship program is offering students a major jumpstart to one of the most sought-after careers in tech: website and mobile app creation and design.
The new CAI apprenticeship in the College of Informatics began in the fall 2016 semester with the help of a generous anonymous donation. “The donor wanted this to give students a chance to shine and have real world experience,” said Mike Sames, a project manager in the CAI who supervises the apprentices.
The apprenticeship is a one-year program in which the students help real businesses develop and create their websites, apps, and more. During the first semester, students work on testing these digital products to ensure that everything is running smoothly. By the second semester, the apprentice will be assigned a project specifically catered to him or her. The apprentices are matched with a senior mentor to help guide them through their year.
“As a freshman, the apprentice program has helped me get a foothold in my career and have projects in my portfolio when I graduate,” said freshman computer information technology major Andrew Hicks. “It is also a great step into CAI, as I am in a lab with juniors and seniors who are willing to help.”
Hicks, along with senior media informatics major Kierstyn Oldham, and senior computer science major Trong Le were the first three to enter the program. Trong, who will be the first graduating apprentice, recently landed a job as a web developer at Zoozler in Cincinnati.
Computer science majors Zain Raza and Logan Brown, computer information technology major Jarret Venneman, media informatics major Alison Kilvington and business informatics major Clay Verst also recently joined the program.
Students who have gone through the apprenticeship will be given priority when they apply for a student worker position for the CAI. Of course, as Andrew pointed out, being an apprentice—and being able to point to websites and app that he helped create—is invaluable experience for a new graduate entering the tech workforce.
“This helps them to become more marketable and allows us to hire more students to get experience,” Sames said.
So far this real-world experience includes assisting with Cincinnati's Lumenocity 2016 Re-Imagine exhibition at Taft Theatre. CAI apprentices were able to help in the VR dome exhibit by demoing the virtual reality. The apprentices also were able to assist with the new College of Informatics website, according to Sames.
All majors throughout the College of Informatics are able to apply to become an apprentice. To do so, students must apply through the jobs.nku.edu portal where they will find the apprenticeship position posted. After applying, an interview process follows. This is a paid apprenticeship with opportunities to be a new apprentice each semester.