We have a technology problem in the U.S. There are over 500,000 open IT and software jobs in the U.S. right now. That number is only going to grow. How do we fill the current job openings and train people for the upcoming demand?
Code.org estimates we are at 500,000 open IT jobs right now. In another Forbes article, we wrote how the number of IT and software jobs will double in 10 years. Even during April, one of the worst months of Covid, the unemployment rate for IT people only went to 4.3%. Compare that to the worst segments of the economy that experienced an unemployment rate of nearly 42%.
The economy is now reopening. For the past year, executives have been hearing they need to “digitally transform.” With so many digital transformation projects getting the green light, you can bet the demand for IT and software people is going to be fierce.
For those with technical skills, they should change their LinkedIn profiles to “Open to Work” and wait for the recruiters to call. It is good to be in demand. But to keep our technological edge in the world, the U.S. needs to figure out a way to get more people in STEM.
Computer Science Programs Help…Kinda
Colleges and universities are turning out computer science graduates in the hundreds. Business needs them in the thousands. It is great that we see are seeing schools produce these graduates and even start new programs like data analytics. It is not enough, though. China and India each graduate about three times the number of CS grads. Applications to top schools are skyrocketing, but the U.S. programs are only expanding slightly.
Carnegie Mellon has a top 10 computer science school program. In 2020, it only had 187 computer science graduates. Graduating classes of 187 computer science majors are not going to make a dent in the open 500,000 jobs, nor keep up with the doubling of jobs.
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What We Really Need
There is a whole other way to educate U.S. citizens on technology, and there are some players starting to get attention. Coursera, Udacity and Udemy are some of the big players in online education. Their core business is not getting you a degree but instead providing a solid set of targeted skills, such as data analytics, front-end development or cloud infrastructure.
There are also a host of technical boot camps popping up. Some meet in person, others virtually. Some are private and others are sponsored by universities as continuing education. These are intense 12-24 programs where you can get a full-stack or cybersecurity certification.
Are the people coming from online learning or technology boot camps going to have all of the same skills as a computer science major? No. Then again, what you learned in those two compiler classes in your computer science program has very little to do with what the average C# or Python developer does every day. Online learning and boot camps focus on what you will do every day in the workforce.
For the U.S. to keep up with the rest of the world technologically, we need to get more people trained. Companies must look beyond universities for talent, and I believe companies that make a push to bring in people from online programs and boot camps will have an edge. The companies that ask these programs to tailor their courses to mimic their development and infrastructure environment will have a greater edge.
Google is at the front of this movement by offering Google-centric courses on Coursera. One can get a Google certificate in data analytics, IT support and even machine learning. Not every company has the clout to influence the curriculum with Coursera, but they can influence other online trainers or local boot camps.
There are a lot of smart people in the U.S. whose background is not conducive to enrolling in a four-year degree. Others struggle with the thought of having over $100,000 of student debt. Online programs and boot camps allow these people a path to attain the right skills for much less. If your company needs technology talent, do not overlook them.
This article was originally published at Forbes.com
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