A Vocational Track to Tech Jobs
I recently read an article written on the craft of software development and that got me thinking about how we as a society prepare our citizens for their careers. The gold standard for getting into a great career has been our university system for decades, if not centuries. This has been a good path for many people, myself included, but with underemployment and unemployment growing among all young people - even those with a college degree - it may be time to reexamine the paths we should be making available for young people considering entering the workforce.
Silicon Valley Mogul Peter Thiel has been railing against the low ROI on college, and has even been paying people to drop out of college for a number of years now. His basic argument, that the time and money invested in college would be better spent building a business works for some people, but there are some issues with 1) available funding for business building vs. education and 2) many people may not be ready for or ever want to start their own business.
So what other options are out there?
I'd like to propose looking to vocational training across both blue and white collar jobs as a viable alternative to young people looking to start their career, especially those who may not be predisposed to succeed in a four year academic environment or those for whom educational funding is not available - or who are worried about the debt burden a four year degree would impose. Colleges already reject the many of their applicants, and for the most prestigious universities rejection may be as high as 95%, so vocational training provides an alternative path to a career.
There is nothing new about vocational training, but funding for these programs has being cut significantly and we still face a stigma in this country which discourages many people from pursuing this option. My challenge to the people of my country, state and city is to put the notions aside and look at expanding the types of vocational education that is more broadly available. My personal endeavor in this arena focuses on creating an ecosystem for technology jobs.
Because the traditional educational system has not seized the opportunity that exists in the software industry, the private sector has. Code boot camps, or vocational programming schools have popped up all across the country with a wildly varying degree of cost and curriculum. While these schools do provide a good initial boost, they will inevitably fall short unless we, in the industry and society at large do two important things:
- Create more entry-level jobs
- Start technical education earlier
Create more entry-level jobs
Creating a high volume of entry-level jobs is both an immediate and ongoing requirement. We must provide jobs that are a match for graduates of vocational programs that creates an onramp into the industry, or face a glut of semi-educated workers with no work to-do.
Start technical education earlier
Part of the shortfall of vocational technical education, is the failure of our primary and secondary educational systems to expose kids to technology. If we start them early and often, with technology exposure kids could graduate from high school with a huge head start.