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A Case Study with GW

GW University

George Washington University Leads Talent Innovation in Higher Ed With Tech Apprenticeships

Leading Talent Innovation in Higher Education

The Challenge: Filling Technology Jobs in a Tight Labor Market

Venture capital investor and academic researcher Jim Chung joined The George Washington University (GWU) in 2010 as founding director of its Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIE). The Washington, D.C.-based university counts on Jim and his team to support faculty and student entrepreneurship. Following COVID-19, Jim was struggling to fill two OIE job vacancies in web development and office operations. Conventional hiring tactics didn’t work in the tight labor market. 

Early in 2022, Jim discovered BuildWithin through its co-founder Ximena Hartsock, who he knew from the tech startup scene. Jim mentioned his hiring challenges, and Ximena proposed a solution: why not use registered tech apprenticeship to fill these roles quickly? Paid, full-time apprentices could “earn and learn” on the job.

Meanwhile, two D.C. locals felt stuck in their careers. Ryan Salandy, a self-taught web designer, suspected that his nontraditional background and lack of coding skills were leading employers to reject his job applications. Completing a coding camp in web development didn’t help. Mohammad Dembele, a former computer science student, had been forced to put college on hold during the pandemic. He became an assistant store manager for a fashion brand and felt that he wasn’t using his full potential. 

While Jim considered Ximena’s suggestion, Ryan and Mohammad each discovered BuildWithin and joined its pre-apprenticeship program, where participants learn new skills to prepare for their apprenticeships.

The Solution: Upskill Apprentices Using BuildWithin’s Workforce Management Platform 

Eight months after discovering BuildWithin, Jim still had the two job vacancies. What did he have to lose in trying an apprenticeship program with BuildWithin? 

Jim was able to move quickly because BuildWithin provides work-based learning software designed for registered apprenticeships. It minimizes the administrative burden on employers while ensuring that the programs meet U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) standards and qualify for wage reimbursements (in this case, from the D.C. Government). BuildWithin’s platform provides: 

  • Work management system for assigning, organizing, and tracking work assignments.

  • Tools for measuring proficiency and progress in job competencies.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) assistant to help apprentices with written tasks, research, and more.  

  • Online, on-demand coursework in technical knowledge and skills instruction. 

  • Compliance management to ensure apprenticeships meet DOL standards. 

While recruiters compete for candidates with traditional credentials, BuildWithin develops high-potential candidates who are overlooked by employers due to their age, disability, neurodiversity, race, socioeconomic status, and education. BuildWithin presented several candidates for the OIE, including Ryan and Mohammad. Both had transferrable skills and a natural aptitude for their target roles.  

As a self-taught web designer and coding bootcamp graduate, Ryan demonstrated sound technical skills, including competence in user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design. He would develop further web development skills on the job. As a store manager, Mohammed was highly organized, proficient at multitasking, and skilled at interacting with customers. He’d be an ideal fit for the office operations role.

In September 2022, Ryan and Mohammed were hired by GWU as tech apprentices in web development and office operations, respectively. 

The Outcome: Two Jobs Filled, Two Lives Transformed 

As of this writing, Ryan and Mohammad are eight months into their one-year apprenticeships—and thriving. Ryan maintains and updates the department websites. He has also upgraded the content management system (CMS), built the GW New Venture Competition website, and introduced the department to Airtable, a low-code platform for building apps. Mohammed assists Jim and the management team with scheduling, IT tasks, email correspondence, and travel logistics. He also provides administrative support for the whole office. Both are earning and learning on the job. Neither are taking on college debt or sacrificing their primary source of income to progress their careers. 

“BuildWithin made it easy to launch an apprenticeship program and manage every aspect of the experience. They offered expertise, technology, and processes in a package that we can scale from our one office to many departments at GWU,” said Jim Chung. “I’m thankful we hired Ryan and Mohammad rather than spending another year searching for traditional candidates. They are awesome”

Today, Ryan and Mohammed are in technology roles with potential for six-figure income. They have also made the OIE a more diverse team, which is important for work that supports entrepreneurs from all cultures and backgrounds. 

To learn more about BuildWithin’s platform, visit

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