The necessity of the college degree is beginning to be questioned. With youth unemployment in Europe at 24% in 2013 and thousands of graduates coming out of university every year without jobs to go into, there is an increasing feeling that there is a missing link somewhere between education and employment.
By Raffaela Rein
A hangover from the 90s mentality that every child must go to university in order to ensure a career appears to be finally wearing off. The 90s may well have been about every parent saying, ‘You need to get a degree. You will not get a job if you do not get a degree,’ but the reality is young people cannot land jobs, because they do not have right skillset to get ahead. Graduates are beginning to realise that university isn’t enough to get them where they wanted to be.
In 2011, 20,000 students in the UK alone graduated university not only without the promise of a graduate job, but they were still unemployed six months later. The bottom line appears to be that universities are not equipping students with the skills to enter a marketplace that is increasingly dominated by tech. Employers are far more likely to ignore students’ certificates and look more closely at other skills acquired outside traditional schooling, such as online courses and project collaboration. Unless an individual puts that effort in themselves and learns these sought-after tech skills like programming, they will seriously struggle to launch successful careers in industries which are moving further and further towards a tech model.
Between education, careers and employability there is clearly a missing link. Tens of thousands of highly educated young people are leaving university every year desperate to find work and build lasting careers yet are unable to do so. This begs the question: are we teaching our young people the wrong subjects to set themselves up in an economic climate that is already so heavily reliant on technology? It appears to be the case. So what is this missing link? And who is working to build that bridge between education and employment to ensure all of this talent does not go to waste?
Fast-track tech educators like career accelerators and coding bootcamps offer one solution to the problem of filling the tech skills gap.
As new kids on the block they go right to the heart of the problem of preparing students for work in the real world in the tech industry with an intensity and dedication that further education colleges and other vocational training institutes have lacked. These accelerators choose candidates hungry for success and in a short period of time, immersing the students in the subject, they bring them up to speed, preparing them for a tech career. Very often the school or bootcamp exposes the students to potential employers at an early stage, with some even offering introductions to employers directly via open days or trial interviews. On their part employers are queuing up to hire these talented young people with the right skills to place them in creative, fast-paced, high-salaried jobs fresh out of school. As a threat to university education, bootcamps and accelerators are a very real one.
There is, however, a downside. Although career accelerators are by far the most specialised in terms of tech skills, they are only available offline, which is ironic considering the subjects they teach. These offline bootcamps are very expensive, full-time and location-specific, which excludes vast portions of the populace who either do not have the money, time or right location to take advantage of them. However, all is not lost, as a host of smart online options are popping up on the internet to address this need for learning tech skills online, which, when you think about it, is the natural place to learn them.
By learning online, with immersive free and paid bootcamps like CareerFoundry, Code Academy and Bloc students learn all of the same skills they would in an offline bootcamp but with flexible learning timetables that fit around their work and life while still receiving the same specialised, immersive, mentor-driven training of an offline bootcamp. By learning tech skills online students can save money, hold down a full-time job or take care of a family and get the added support of student advisors and mentors as and when they need them. If this trend continues, there will no longer be the need for offline training bootcamps for tech skills, when the more affordable and flexible option is available to students online at their leisure.
It is becoming clear that universities need to wake up to the changing face of business and begin to see edtech startups as the real threat they are to the current status quo. With so many industries looking for people with the right tech skills, more and more on and offline bootcamps are beginning to take over where higher education has failed. With flexible, online learning now so easily accessible in tech subjects, students can learn from home without the location-commitment of offline bootcamps or the financial commitment of computer science degrees at university. If policymakers do not start to make changes soon in higher education, edtech startups and savvy entrepreneurs will soon be coming to the rescue of Europe’s young people and teaching them the skills they need to launch great careers in tech.