The New Normal

A dearth in practical technology skills calls for an online boot camp approach.

GUEST COLUMN | by Melinda Barlow

CREDIT Career FoundryCareer pathways today are almost unrecognizable from those of twenty or even ten years ago. For many people, the conventional route of education makes less sense now as traditional learning systems are leaving them wanting more. The investment of years of time and thousands of dollars is no longer a commitment people are willing to make, especially when there are much more cost effective and tailored solutions on the market that train them specifically for the work they want to do. Online learning, through platforms, can offer a much more flexible approach, enabling people to value add what’s needed to their skillset in an efficient and focused way.

The ‘boot camp’ style learning approach has been one of the keys to bridging the technology skills gap.

It seems like over the last decade, progress got bored with just ‘marching on’ so broke into a light jog and is now running at such a rapid pace, we can barely keep up with it, or in fact ourselves. Much of that is due to technology. Business now must embrace change, not just to keep up, but also to survive. The skills gap widens and tech skills are an essential requirement of employees rather than an added bonus.

The ecosystems of many companies are changing as baby boomers retire and workplaces are filled with a strange and not fully functioning blend of digital immigrants, with fresh new academic graduates. In many cases these graduates have invested considerable time and money in traditional offline learning and have come out overqualified yet drastically under skilled.

Today we are saturated with technology and our ‘new found’ ability to just ‘work stuff out’ (who gave that baby that iPad!) has caused a shift so that many of us are also making new choices about our career paths. We have become much more independent in our approach to things and now live in a world where, if the familiar traditional option is not working for us, we believe there must be an alternative, so we find something else.

Many people who make the switch are ready for change and want it to happen quickly. Online training through technology boot camps for example, means they can pick up key technology skills, and as a result make a total career change; transitioning from being unemployed to becoming a busy productive freelancer in a matter of months. As a result, offline learning is losing ground while online learning is gaining traction by the second.

In contrast to postgrad employment, the transition from online learning to employment, more often than not, ends in success.

Recent graduate Spyros Fotiou is a great example of the new normal in technology careers. Despite having been to university, Spyros struggled to find employment as he lacked the tech skills necessary for the majority of jobs he saw advertised in his field. Recognizing this and taking a DIY approach, he engaged in online learning and in less than six months had completed the course and established a full time income for himself as a freelance web programmer, building websites for European companies.

The ‘boot camp’ style learning approach has been one of the keys to bridging the technology skills gap. Although degrees in computer science, engineering and technology streams provide the theoretical knowledge, it is the practical skills that are lacking and currently the most vital. Tech boot camps are specifically designed to provide these skills through an intensive program ensuring graduates have the skills employers are currently looking for. Programming languages can go through waves of demand and online courses can be structured to meet that demand in real time.

Time and money are always a consideration and tech boot camps run from 6 – 12 weeks with pricing starting at $5000 and increasing based on duration and content. By the end of the program, students are skilled to walk into an entry-level developer role immediately. Because programming languages have also progressed, they are now simpler to learn and in many cases students are proficient in a matter of weeks. As technology advances and becomes so much more accessible to everyone, our desire to engage with it in a more comprehensive way has deepened. Changing career from graphic artist to web designer, from social worker to app developer is now more within reach than ever.

Educational reform is essential to manage the skills gap and ensure the supply of appropriately skilled workers meets the ever-changing demands of the workforce. Bridging the tech skills gap is not enough. As long as human beings continue to innovate, demand in technology careers will only get stronger and unless traditional educational curriculum has been sufficiently redesigned, online learning will not just be another solution, it will become the only solution.

Melinda Barlow is a writer for Career Foundry, a career accelerator for vocational tech skills that builds online programs delivered by expert mentors to bring complete beginners up to employable standards in technology.


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