The tech industry isn’t just a job market for programmers — technology companies offer opportunities in many fields, from sales to marketing, human resources and more. But currently, there’s a large barrier of entry for those interested in non-programming tech industry jobs, as technical bootcamps often don’t cater to these other areas.
Praxis aims to fill this gap by providing students — and we use that word loosely, as they can include anyone from high school grads to mid-career professionals — with a year-long apprenticeship program. The program is divided into two sections: a 6-month professional development bootcamp and a 6-month paid apprenticeship at a startup with one of their partner companies.
“First, we train them how to market and sell themselves as young professionals in the world, and then we match them with an apprenticeship at a startup where they can learn on the job to become valuable employees for that company,” says Derek Magill, director of marketing at South Carolina-based Praxis. “We figured there would be a great marketplace for that and so far it’s been proven true.”
Founded in 2013, CEO Isaac Morehouse had the idea while working with students at a non-profit. He continuously saw discrepancies between students unable to find jobs due to having no prior experience and business owners that were hiring, but couldn’t find skilled workers. He created Praxis to fill that gap in knowledge.
Their participants range from 18-30 with college alternative, post-college training, and seeking a career change as notable reasons for participating.
“Students might want to go into a technical role, but this bootcamp is more focused on soft business skills — special communication, personal branding, etc.,” says Magill. “A lot of those skills have to be learned on the job, a lot of them you really just can’t learn in the classroom. With coding, you mostly can, but with roles like marketing, sales, and customer service, it’s really hard to study those and learn those in a classroom environment.”
That’s where the first 6-month module comes in. Following an application process where the Praxis team looks beyond GPA and traditional accolades and more at a student’s drive and coachability, participants jump head first into building their personal brand, learning how to market themselves, establishing an online presence, improving communication skills, and more. The module can also be tailored to the current skills of the students to help them improve beyond their experience.
“They need to know how to market and sell themselves — how to go to a company and convince them that you’re worth hiring, that you’re worth taking a risk on, that you’re the kind of person who’s going to take more value than you take out as a salary,” says Magill. “That’s something that young people don’t know how to do.”
Once the professional foundation is built, the students move on to phase two — a 6-month paid apprenticeship. Based on their skills, the student can move to one of Praxis’ 100+ national partner startups like Bitpay, Fee, UpOut, Cloud Jumper, and more.
The industries range from cryptocurrency, to eCommerce, manufacturing and software with positions in operations, sales, marketing, customer service, and more. While the first 6 months are remote, apprenticeships are available across the country.
While at the apprenticeships, students shadow founders, complete ongoing projects, learn real-life experience on how to build a company from the ground up, and provide value for the team. The student also still has access to the support and advisory system provided by Praxis in case they have to tap into the knowledge of the staff.
“The goal is to get them transferable skills and experiences that they can take to any role that they want to get later on, once they start to figure out what they want to do with their lives,” says Magill.
At this time, about 200 people have graduated from the program, which accepts new participants on a rolling basis. Currently, Praxis has a graduate employment rate of 98 percent with an average starting salary of $50K and an aim of helping their students be debt-free. The program is net zero, Magill explains — full tuition is $11K, $1,000 per month. At your apprenticeship, you’ll be paid a minimum of $15/hour, with a minimum salary of around $14K.
“We want our participants to be able to really be creative about the role that they’re moving into and to be able to jump around in their career as they want,” says Magill. “That’s becoming more and more valuable as the nature of the workplace changes.”