High School Apprenticeships: Dakota Felder Explores Real-world Web Design

High School Apprenticeships: Dakota Felder Explores Real-world Web Design

During his senior year at eStem High School and in the Noble Impact program, Dakota Felder spent his high school apprenticeship in web design and development at design and development agency, Few. He will tell you that his experience went beyond his wildest dreams, and it has also led him to become a freelance web designer while exploring a “gap year” before deciding which college to attend. Dakota has built credibility through his hard work, and the bond he formed with his apprenticeship host has proven to be the launching pad into a profession he loves.

“Working here at Few has definitely been a life-changer for me… it’s been the highlight of my high school career.”
Dakota Felder, Noble Impact Apprentice

Over the last year, the terminology of “computer science” or “coding” has been a hot topic for Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and rightfully so. Our world is changing at drastic paces, and the need for a computer-literate workforce is increasing faster than the valuations of some of the world’s biggest startups. Reading “Race Against the Machine” (2011) or listening to the a16z podcast will give you ample insight to understand, in the words of Marc Andreessen, why it may be so that “Software is Eating the World” (also in 2011).

On day one of the apprenticeship boot camp, Dakota made it known that his interest was in the technology field, and more specifically, web design and development. The “student-industry fit” with Few seemed perfect… and it turned out to be nothing less than the life-changer that Dakota references. Having the hard skills of web design and development were critical to Dakota’s apprenticeship, and the relationships he created and built will lead to long-term success.

“We did not take it easy on Dakota. We wanted Dakota to feel the pressure that everybody feels in this office.
David Hudson, CEO, Few

Dakota put in many hours of hard work that definitely exceeded the 2-hour-per-day commitment for an apprenticeship. There were many days he would participate in lunch meetings and after-school meetings, and he even volunteered for the Made by Few annual conference that took place over 3-days in Little Rock, including a coveted weekend, where he could have been doing anything else. These are just some of the commitments that Dakota made to his apprenticeship host, and they proved to be the most important relationship building opportunities.

“We provide real-world experience and real world experience is far more valuable than theory.”
David Hudson, CEO, Few

Understanding what makes a successful high school apprenticeship is also in direct relation to the hosts themselves. The team at Few is dedicated to its community and that shines through in so many different avenues, including the company’s willingness to participate in the inaugural Noble 301 Apprenticeship program. In addition, they set the bar high for Dakota and treated him like any other member of their team. This philosophy is paramount to the success of an apprenticeship, as we also believe that high expectations lead to high performance and accountability.

“The skills that I’ve been able to develop through the Noble Apprenticeship, those are things that’ll carry on the rest of my life.”
Dakota Felder, Noble Impact Apprentice

It’s great that we’re focused on computer science and coding, but it must go deeper. We must have programs in place that connect the classroom to community. We must treat our high school students like the young adults they are while holding them to high expectations. Content is the information grab, but credibility is the relationship grab… we have to connect both.

His apprenticeship has ended, but Dakota is just beginning the entrepreneurial journey. Imagine if all high school seniors were able to take part in high school apprenticeships that connected them more deeply to their interests. Imagine if these students became the next line of entrepreneurs in Arkansas. Why are we waiting?

“I started with nothing, right? Now I’m doing paid work for people.”
Dakota Felder, Noble Impact Apprentice

The Noble Impact Apprenticeship: Challenging Students To Be Creators

The Noble Impact Apprenticeship: Challenging Students To Be Creators

When we launched our inaugural apprenticeship program at the beginning of this school year, we started with the belief that high school seniors could add value to companies. Not knowing exactly what that value would be, we thought to create an apprenticeship that put students in the drivers seat. Meaning, we would coach up the professionalism and communication process but they had to create and cultivate connections in order to land an actual apprenticeship.

As you might imagine, the process of creating and cultivating relationships was not the easiest assignment. We emphatically took the position of coaches and not rescuers, which we do in all classes (see The Empowerment Dynamic for reference). However, we knew that some might require more guidance than others in regards to networking and connecting with the community.

Noble Impact Apprenticeship Partners

A look at some of Noble Impact’s inaugural apprenticeship partners.
The first person to sign on as a participating company was John David Pittman. His willingness became the catalyst to show students that apprenticeship opportunities were real. As the students began to reach out to different companies, we knew there would be challenges but also knew there would be success stories, and both would provide great insight about apprenticeships.

Dakota Felder Few ApprenticeshipOne of our success stories has been the apprenticeship between senior, Dakota Felder and Little Rock design and development firm, Few. Starting the relationship was not the easiest for Dakota and he actually blogged about the uneasiness he felt in his initial meeting. Since then, he has been in the trenches, experiencing everything from client relations to company culture to helping run the Made by Few design conference. His openness to learning and being coachable has given him opportunities to create products for clients.

In addition, he has challenged himself to step outside his comfort zone, which is difficult for everyone, especially high school students. His professional work can be summed up by a quote from a local CEO of a digital media company after seeing Dakota’s latest product, a brochure about Noble Impact (see embedded below):

“Tell that kid he’s HIRED. Nice work. That looks like it was produced by a full-service ad agency.”

Not knowing what to expect in the beginning of Noble 301 has not deterred us from responding with enthusiasm to student potential. We believe that apprenticeships have the ability to benefit the entire community as long as students are willing to commit to building their credibility, which is what we’re starting to see through tangible outcomes. The students are ready, it’s just up to us to provide them with access and opportunity.

If you’re interested in participating in the apprenticeship program as a for-profit company or non-profit organization, please feel free to contact chad@nobleimpact.org.

For an example of the type of work our apprentices produce, see Dakota Felder’s latest product, a Noble Impact brochure, embedded below.