Digital Apprenticeships

As the digital media industry explodes, the Meredith Apprentice Program is working to match that growth.

A partnership between the Greenlee School and Meredith Corporation, the program has been sending Iowa State students to the Des Moines publishing company to complete yearlong apprenticeships for the past 13 years. In 2016, two digital media positions were created to keep pace with an increasing demand for online content.

Bethany Lozier, a 2016-2017 apprentice and a Greenlee advertising major, became interested in the program when the digital opportunities opened up. Now working for More.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com and occasionally BHG.com, she has added over 100 clips to her portfolio, writing 2-3 stories per day. This quick pace sets the digital apprenticeship apart from the editorial positions.

“The deadlines I work on are really tight, which is unusual, I think, for a lot of the other apprentices,” she said. “While they have weeks ahead of time to do something, I have to get something done within 24 hours or it’s over.”

Lozier creates branded content tailored specifically to each website’s audience. By checking web analytics, she can gauge the popularity and reactions to each article, video or slideshow.

When she’s not producing content, Lozier conducts interviews, communicates with public relations representatives, researches trending content and pitches stories to her editors.

Kaili Meyer, the other 2016-2017 digital media apprentice, works for Diabetic Living brand. Blending editorial and digital work, she writes articles for the print publication, manages their social media accounts and creates online content.

Although Meyer wasn’t sure what to expect at first, her supervisors helped ease her transition into the company, she said. At the beginning of her apprenticeship, she was trained on how to use Meredith’s online sources, including their Creative Library and Recipe Index, and how to run Diabetic Living’s social media accounts.

Afterward, her supervisors asked what she felt ready to take on, and Meyer jumped right in.

“After the first couple weeks, they just let you branch out and do what you feel you’re capable of doing,” she said.

Meyer is now involved in planning meetings and photo shoots, and one of her main responsibilities is calling in and reviewing new fitness products.

With expectations of professionalism and independence, the Meredith Apprentice Program offers students a glimpse of the real world, said Deb Gibson, the program’s coordinator at the Greenlee School.

Part of the apprenticeship experience is learning to navigate a corporate setting, which can contain obstacles like budget cuts and changing staffs. Gibson said apprentices leave Meredith better prepared to take on the workplace.

Lozier has experienced a few switches in supervisors throughout her apprenticeship. As an added challenge, her current supervisor for More.com is based in Canada, so they communicate purely through digital contact.

“Even though we have supervisors, we work very much independently,” Lozier said. “They don’t hold your hand at all; they expect you to do the work you’re doing.”

This allows students to learn skills and build their confidence in a professional environment before they receive their diplomas. Especially with leading media company like Meredith, this experience can set students apart as they prepare to enter the workplace.

“I think working for a corporation under the age of 25 is a huge resume builder,” Lozier said.

Back at Iowa State, Greenlee instructors are trying to incorporate more digital media coursework into their classes to better train students in areas like social media creation and SEO writing, Gibson said. She hopes additional digital opportunities at Meredith will emerge in the future.

“To me, it’s encouraging that as they continue to grow and change, they’re pulling more students into the operation,” Gibson said.

By Jessica Bennett