Fresh Take On The Skills Gap

Students and jobseekers ‘skilling up’ with flexible bootcamps.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lisa Tenorio

Dev BootcampFor recent college graduates, the task of finding a job, particularly one that’s in their desired area, is a daunting one. But in today’s digital economy, new job hunters are facing an uphill battle – even with college degrees and solid work experience on their resume. In 2015, underemployment for young college grads reached a staggering 45 percent. In today’s competitive job market, job seekers need more than just a college degree to set them apart. Many companies look for students with specific certifications or trainings, such as Google AdWords. In fact,  the gap that results from job seekers’ credentials and experience not meeting company’s wants and needs is draining $1.3 trillion from the U.S. economy per year.

In fact, 21 percent of employers today do not feel that colleges are doing enough to prepare students for the working world.

So what does this all mean? It means that college degrees have become the new high school diploma and college students are pressed to upgrade their skills in order to differentiate themselves from other grads. And it means universities are not necessarily teaching the skills that employers need. As a result, employers are having a hard time finding qualified talent and graduates are having a hard time finding good employment opportunities. In fact, 21 percent of employers today do not feel that colleges are doing enough to prepare students for the working world.

Part of the college experience is all about allowing students to explore who they are and what interests them, and it opens the door to new and exciting topics that may pique their interest enough to encourage them to embark upon a certain career path. The college curriculum is created to give students a balanced, if not broad, understanding of topics like writing, mathematics, science, and language that will undoubtedly help shape them as a person and how they approach whichever career they choose. In the later years of college, students are geared towards courses specialized to their particular majors, but the content is still focused on teaching the theoretical, versus the practical. What’s missing are the specific tools that will help them be successful in their future career.

This fact, combined with the pressing need for job seekers to upgrade their skills, has opened the door for so-called “bootcamps,” add-ons to regular curriculum to teach specific skills and provide the tools needed in order to excel in a technical job. The job market is constantly changing – what’s the most sought after skill today may not be the case tomorrow, and estimates say that 40-60 percent of the jobs of the future have yet to be created.

With this in mind, the beauty of bootcamps is clear – colleges cannot change their curriculums drastically to keep up with the changing job market, but bootcamps can be changed or created in order to allow students to “skill up.” The university degree is still the most widely accepted credential that we have. Creating new types of credentials that are as valued by learners and employers as the university degree is no easy feat, and not something that can be accomplished overnight.

While college degrees are great for informing potential employers of general educational background and qualifications, they don’t necessarily communicate that a person has the tools required to be successful in the career that they’re seeking. Many job seekers are turning to digital badges, aptly named “microcredentials,” through bootcamps as well as online courses—whether MOOCs or for-credit courses—to highlight their newly-acquired skills.

Badges are earned once a student reaches particular milestones or can clearly show that they’ve developed a certain skill, at which point they can add the badge to their LinkedIn or online portfolio for potential employers to see. When the badge is clicked on, it details how and when the badge was earned.

Different bootcamps and online courses that offer badges run the gamut in terms of costs – some programs will charge students a premium for their services, while other companies offer these programs for free, taking the stance that it’ll pay off in the long term because they’ll ultimately be hiring better equipped entry-level employees who won’t require extensive training during onboarding.

Badging and bootcamps are still in the early stages, but we’re already seeing adoption across industries, particularly in the technology sector. As these programs evolve and advance, we’ll undoubtedly see more and more traction, with students and job seekers viewing them as ways to enhance their broad college educations.

Lisa Tenorio is the Director of Academic Programs for Salesforce.


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