The idea that a talented tech worker might not have a traditional four-year degree in computer science was not foreign to Dave Edwards, director of Engineering Programs for CTA member Pandora. Some of his software development colleagues built successful careers with poetry degrees as their foundation.
When Pandora was struggling to meet its hiring demands, Edwards looked to apprenticeships to find new talent. Pandora hired an intermediary, CTA member Onramp, to create and run its apprenticeship program. From this relationship grew Demo Tape, Pandora’s unregistered apprenticeship program.
Onramp’s talent acquisition strategy aims to find applicants — many who are career changers — with some related software development experience gained from bootcamps or self-learning. Selected applicants first attend an initial training, before joining a Java services or Android app development team at Pandora.
“What companies don’t understand is, they’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when they use the same assessment tools that they use for computer science grads or people who are in the industry to assess those career changers and they’re largely filtering them out of their process,” said Lateesha Thomas, CEO, Onramp.
Alexandra Wright was an apprentice in one of the first Demo Tape cohorts in Oakland. She has a degree in psychology but was drawn to coding. She learned multiple coding languages on her own and through online bootcamps, yet struggled to find work in the tech field. Time and again, she was overlooked because she lacked a computer science degree.
As a Demo Tape apprentice, Wright impressed members of the team with her ability to learn new material quickly and is now a full-time software engineer at Pandora.
Pandora’s approach expanded and diversified its talent pool and helped the organization address its critical hiring needs.