College Students Get Real-Life Experience through a Software Developer Apprenticeship Program

Patricia Ubina’s workday looks like most software developers’ days: she attends daily team meetings to update her peers on projects, she adds new features, and she researches solutions for coding projects.

But Patricia isn’t a software developer – yet.

She’s the first of an initial cohort of Western Governors University students to participate in the Southern Nevada Software Developer Registered Apprenticeship Program, a first of its kind program in Nevada that provides students with an ‘earn and learn’ approach at no cost to them.

“This apprenticeship allows me to get a lot of real-life and hands-on experience,” said Ubina. “The alternative would be doing projects for school, but the apprenticeship is beneficial for me to see what it will really be like to work at a software development company.”

WGU Student Patricia Ubina

In 2022, a regional partnership led by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA) released an updated Workforce Blueprint, identifying software developers as the most in-demand job in Southern Nevada. WGU’s apprenticeship program was developed to help address that gap between supply and demand.

“This program is a groundbreaking initiative that bridges the education-industry gap in Southern Nevada,” said Rick Benbow, WGU’s Regional Vice President for the West Region. “Students like Patricia gain real-world experience and essential skills, empowering them to succeed in software development. This program addresses the region’s demand for skilled developers and contributes to Southern Nevada’s economic growth.”

WGU collaborated with the LVGEA, College of Southern Nevada, Workforce Connections, and IONnovate to create and accredit the program with the Nevada State Apprenticeship Council.

“There is a misconception that Nevada lacks a technology workforce when the state is home to talented junior software developers,” said Joshua Leavitt, CEO and Founder of IONnovate, the apprenticeship program sponsor. “These gifted developers are often overlooked because they lack years of on-the-job experience and a bachelor’s degree. The apprenticeship program is designed to connect employers with that talent.”

Patricia, who also has a bachelor’s degree in nursing, says she had been looking to get another degree in computer science or technology when she found WGU’s online software development program. She started the program in 2021 and later heard about the apprenticeship opportunity through a family friend who attended a local tech bootcamp.

“With my background in healthcare, I was really interested in getting a job in healthcare technology, something related to electronic medical records,” said Ubina. “But I was flexible and was willing to take any opportunity I could get!”

IONnovate paired Patricia with Concierge Software Design, a local boutique custom software development company, where she works daily with a senior software developer who also acts as her apprenticeship mentor. Company officials say programs such as this are needed to bridge the worker shortage in tech.

“By bringing on an apprentice, the company gets an opportunity to support education, have the person grow with the company, and hopefully give them a full-time permanent opportunity upon completion of the program,” said Rick Duggan, CEO of Concierge Software Design. “Plus, these apprentices are often non-traditional students of diverse backgrounds, so we get to help expand diversity in tech.”

Patricia, who is originally from the Philippines but has lived in Las Vegas most of her life, plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in software development this summer, and says she hopes to transition to a full-time position with the client she is working with if there is an opening.

“This program has opened the door for new developers who want to pursue a career in the tech industry,” said Ubina. “This is a great way to ease your way into it. It opens more doors for more people.”

The program is supported by the Accelerating Nevada Apprenticeships for All (ANAA) grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and managed by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation (GOWINN).

For additional information or to apply to the Software Developer Apprenticeship Program, click here.

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