Advancing Apprenticeships Through Altruism

Discover how Markel Foundation helped Apprentix's founder build a job description generator for apprenticeship programs.

February 11, 2024

Making Apprentix happen was not an easy lift – particularly because of the red tape and general gatekeeping from others in the apprenticeship space. Fortunately, organizations like the Markle Foundation exist. Here is the story of how Markle’s people generously gave me their time and resources and helped make an important component of Apprentix come to life. 

Markle Foundation’s system of solutions

When I was designing an apprenticeship program for my marketing company, Flow, I discovered a skills-based job description generator from the nonprofit Markle Foundation. My friend and colleague, Shannon Block, is its Executive Director. 

Markle’s mission is to create tools that advance solutions toward a labor market that enables workers to move into good jobs in the digital economy. They have multiple focus areas, but the one that caught my eye was their initiative for skills-based hiring practices. Their free tool, the Skillful Job Posting Generator, helps hiring managers write job descriptions that focuses on skills and competencies rather than education and experience. By adopting these practices, businesses can reduce hiring bias and vastly open up the talent pool.

This tool was such an asset for my Flow apprenticeship program I decided to reach out to Shannon for a conversation when I began building out Apprentix.

Making the connections

My goal was to create my own job description generator that would live inside Apprentix. I knew first-hand how difficult it was to stare at a blank piece of paper and try to write a skills-based job description, and I wanted to take away that pain point for other businesses. 

So I asked Shannon if she could give me some guidance on how to scope the project, and she was more than happy to oblige. I learned through our meetings that Markle hired the software developer AirDev to create their job description generator. While she couldn’t hand over the code for the software, she did put me in touch with the project lead. 

As it turned out – I was already familiar with AirDev. I was teaching myself to code at the time and was using coding templates from their product, Canvas. I also hired a Canvas coach to guide me through building out Apprentix’s other functionalities.

After connecting the dots, I realized I was on the right track to creating a badass job description generator of my own. Everything was lining up – all thanks to Shannon and Markle being so open and helpful. (Plus, saving $50k+ on a code by building it myself was a nice bonus.)

Edit Job Description page for Apprentix

Open-source and doors

Had I never been introduced to Markle or the Skillful Job Posting Generator, my path to designing this critical component of Apprentix would have looked much different. Not only did Markle introduce me to the concept of skills-based hiring, but they also opened doors for me that turned my brainchild into a real piece of technology. 

While many people were happy to stop my progress in building Apprentix, Markle gave me as many tools as possible to make my vision come to life. This partnership is an excellent example of why open-sourcing is so great – because when you have different minds all building on top of one another, you can create something pretty remarkable. Especially when it’s used to create tools for the greater good.

And they didn’t stop there. Markle continued to connect me with resources and people who could advance the development of Apprentix. Because they’re well established in this space, their introductions had weight – and I’ve been fortunate to be the beneficiary of their kindness. 

Related: Here is an interview I did with Skillful in 2018.

Advancing equitable hiring through apprenticeships

As I said, many people have been eager to thwart my efforts to build Apprentix. I’ve lost track of how many individuals from the government and nonprofits have completely ghosted me – even when I’ve received warm introductions. These are the same people who attend conferences and webinars to discuss the future of apprenticeships and talk about how important it is to do this work. This is the difference between Markle and many others I’ve encountered. While others gatekeep, Markle opens doors. 

The struggles I endured trying to hire people before discovering the Skillful Job Generator now all make sense. Of course it’s difficult to find good people when you’re using generic descriptions looking for a “rockstar” or “self-starter.” By stripping jobs down to the nuts and bolts (AKA the skills needed to perform job functions), you’re much more likely to get a candidate who actually knows what they’re doing. I’m grateful to Markle for introducing me to this concept and helping me advance it in the world of apprenticeships.

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