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3 inspiring Drupal intern training programs

By Heather James

If you're responsible for building and skilling up a team to develop Drupal sites, I'm going to introduce you to three inspiring internship programs you should know about. I'm also going to show you what is working in those programs to give you some ideas of how you can build your own team and give someone a great chance to change their lives.

A baffling situation

Most tech fields are struggling to hire skilled employees, and turnover is high. Start-ups attract employees with generous benefits (free beer! massages! yoga!) to try and pull in those who can bring experience to their workforce. And yet, it’s utterly baffling to me that entire industries in IT claim they can’t find a skilled workforce when unemployment, and specifically, youth unemployment is at an all time high in most countries.

What employees really need is mentoring and training; professional development that has true value to give them the skills and experience that companies value so much. Now that is an incentive that will attract talent. It's something that has kept me in my job at Acquia: the chance to continue to learn and stretch my skills.

Ideas for Drupal Internship programs

A few companies and organizations in the Drupal community have come up with creative ways of hiring those without experience and giving them the chance to learn on the job. I wanted to highlight these programs to give you some ideas of how you might be able to grow your own team by giving someone a leg-up.

At Acquia, I’m also in a position to help companies like this. We can advise on how to manage your internship program, we also place our professional services team on-site to mentor and guide your teams. We can also provide tested learning materials from our training program to get you up and running quickly.

If you’re running a program like this, I’d love to speak with you.

DrupalEasy Career Starter Program

As Florida’s space tech industry imploded, many skilled people were left without work opportunities. The forward thinking local government funded a plan to keep those people in their community by providing them training to develop opportunities. The DrupalEasy Career Starter Program (DCSP) brings IT professionals from the Aerospace Workforce Transition Program into a new industry of web development. Mike Anello, of Drupal Easy, who runs the program, was recently interviewed on the Lullabot Podcast along with an intern, Tom Kehoe from their program who is now working with Lullabot. For Tom, the great thing about Drupal is that it opens his potential field of work to a world-wide market. Lullabot themselves are a distributed team with employees all over the world.

The truly heart-warming part is that Drupal offers a much larger job market that can keep people like Tom happily employed but still part of his community in Brevard County, Florida. Further details and background here.

My Planet Digital Fellowships

The Fellows on the My Planet Fellowship program are students. They work 7-10 hours per week during one semester while they are studying, with the opportunity to get a full time job at My Planet Digital upon completion. Over 3 months, the 25 participants will get in-depth experience working on their own self-directed projects.

Steph Brown is giving periodic updates about this year's crop of fellows. Her blog posts highlight that they are learning all aspects of developing and thinking on the web, with Drupal as just one component.

  • Week 1: Discovery
  • Week 2: User Research
  • Week 3: Design Studio, Art Boards, Key Archetypes
  • Week 4: Intro to Web Development & Drupal Phase
  • Week 5: Collaborative Programming: Git, GitHub & Drush
  • Week 6: Views & Nodes
  • ... keep an eye out for Steph's blog to get updates

Agile Collective’s Drupal Apprenticeship Scheme

Agile Collective, based in England, are giving young adults a chance to get valuable training and work experience. It just happens that the center of London’s tech boom is nestled in the heart of a disadvantaged community in East London, which brings the economic disparity to light. INCUBE8 is a unique industry preparation program which aims to address that problem.

They are still in the phase of starting up, but already Agile Collective has the seeds of a collaborative open source curriculum for apprentice schemes. Currently they have a call out for companies in London who are accepting apprentices.

You can join the "OpenDrupal" group to help build a collaborative curriculum for apprenticeships. http://groups.drupal.org/opendrupal

Ideas that are working

I'd certainly like to conduct a more in-depth investigation, but there are some early patterns starting to emerge.

Public training helps identify potential hires

Our training partners who run our public Drupal training events certainly know this as well. Public training is a great way to meet potential hires.

To hire our Acquia U intern team, we identified many of the applicants when we ran free public training for students and job-seekers. This helped us reach people who were highly motivated, but maybe didn't have the prior experience to jump into a job with us. Jacob Singh emphasized that we hired for their personal qualities over technical skills.

Mike Anello of the DrupalEasy Career Starter Program was bowled over with nearly 200 applicants, which he was able to filter down to 70 prospective participants. By running classroom training, and monitoring the progress of all the individuals closely, they were able to whittle down to the 20 students. In the classroom you can see how someone deals with challenges, how they help others, how they approach something new.

Scrum & Agile methods

By looking at the various programs, we can start to see some useful patterns. In her article on the evolution of the program, Steph refers to the change to having the groups work in scrum teams. At Acquia U, Kay and Jacob who ran the program also applied the scrum methodology to the program.

Community involvement

Mike Anello of DCSP matched 20 students with 20 community mentors. The participants worked for a minimum of 5 hours a week on issue queue triage, testing patches, or writing documentation. This kind of legitimate peripheral participation is a key to how a newcomer becomes a member of a community of practice.

Drupal itself

As a community of practice, once you do find your place, Drupal is an incredibly welcoming and absorbing professional network. The software as well opens up powerful tools to those who don’t have years of programming experience, and levels the playing field somewhat. For those who are seeking transferable skills and meaningful work, it's a great place to start your career. I can't imagine the same happening if these programs ran on Java, for example.

I'd like to do a more in-depth review of internship programs to see how Acquia might be able to help and develop toolkits to make this easier. If you're running an internship program and you have some time, I'd love to talk with you. Email me at training at acquia com

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