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Getting into an apprenticeship/internship

I recently had a great question pop-up in my new designer forum. "What are some tips on getting some volunteer or internship experiences?" It's a great question but not a simple answer.

To start off I should clarify that volunteer positions within ID (Instructional Design) aren't normally a thing. Mainly because you will have a body of work, SMEs (Subject matter experts), and usually a tight budget that can't be left to the whims of a volunteer. However, internships and apprenticeships are very viable. Getting into an internship/apprenticeship in Instructional Design usually requires you to be aware of the world and how it works, that good ol' catch 22. This means there will be work on you to search and identify what these things are. Generally speaking, you will need to make a portfolio and the work here DOES NOT need to come from on the job experience. Would it be nice? Sure. But the need for the portfolio is to demonstrate that you have the ability and drive to learn and create on your own.

To build a successful portfolio you will need to understand how the industry and its tools connect with the adult theory and learning design, you should pick up a few books (see my recommended reads for links). The best two to start off with are 'Map It' by Cathy Moore and 'Design for How People Learn' by Julie Dirksen. These two books will set you up with all the introductory (and later reference material) that you will need for an apprenticeship. If you throw in 'Evidence-Informed Learning Design' by Mirjam Neelen, then you'll be flying. As a new starter, you won't have all the kit, so I recommend downloading a trial version of Articulate 360 and following their training and looking through storyline heroes. Some of the best pieces in the industry are showcased in these weekly challenges and you can gain huge insight (free templates to learn from) and understand how and why things get developed. Their forums are full of questions from IDs in the field with real-life problems that would be amazing for you to make mock products off of to showcase overcoming a problem.

Outside of basic eLearning you will need to showcase the ability to use other development tools to develop other digital learning products; podcasts, illustrations/infographics, gifs, videos, animations, flow charts, etc... and to make these you need other bits of software. There are tons of free versions of software out there if you can't afford adobe right now; gimp, canva, hitfilm express, audacity, adobe express, figma, genially, miro and gravit are all available to you right now. There are also tons of places to find guidance on how to work with these tools (or those similar to them). Check the youtube section of my resources for lots on visual design, 3d development in blender, and video editing. Adobe themselves have incredible channels on youtube and live challenge groups on discord where you can watch pros live and then submit your own work and get reviewed.

After making pieces and getting them reviewed on a host of different sites, you'll want to gather the portfolio and host it somewhere. This can be done in too many places to list but a free website (square space, wix, word press), social media (face book page, Instagram, linked in, blogs), or a proxy server like Amazon s3, google or cloud scorm are all great starting options. Once you have the portfolio (and if you have a linked/social presence) I would join a professional body related to ID. You can see a list of these in the resources section but there are many more for other countries around the world. These professional bodies are excellent places to meet mentors, find apprenticeships, land junior roles and where being able to showcase some industry knowledge and a portfolio can be your ticket in.

There are also two slightly more difficult routes in; networking and job hunting. Linked In and these professional sites will allow you to flex your new muscles and catch some attention. Make it known what you're looking for and there will be people (especially in the UK as apprenticeships are covered by the government) that will look to snatch you up. Likewise, junior roles and apprenticeships are listed all over the web but please be sure you research the company before joining. You SHOULD be paid and not all experience is good experience if it wastes your time and teaches you nothing (or bad practice). If you have any questions about learning design or the industry, share them on the forums!

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