Universities and colleges are facing a crisis that extends beyond Covid-19 contagion concerns. Many international students have cancelled registration due to travel restrictions and difficulty of obtaining visas.
Covid-19 has induced financial hardships on local students as well. While many people are seeking education to change careers from their old professions, which bear no future potential, they cannot necessarily choose traditional academic education. People on unpaid leave or unemployment must find work immediately to pay billowing bills. Rather than waiting three or four years to complete a degree, they seek short-term training — to reskill them quickly for jobs that are still in demand — and find employment as soon as possible.
Compounding this crisis is the increasing tech skills gap. University degrees are not always relevant to the needs of the tech industry. Evolving technology means that universities’ curricula cannot catch-up quickly enough and job applicants do not have the necessary skill sets to match employer requirements.
To combat these Covid-19 challenges, technology training centres are gaining traction around the world. For example, to address the technology skills shortage, the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) in the U.S. has partnered with enterprises including Microsoft, Amazon, F5, and others. Telco giant Telstra has collaborated with Australian and Indian universities to train the local workforce in vital skills such as network and software engineering, cyber security, and data analytics.
Although many businesses at the beginning of the pandemic had to close or lay off employees, other organisations, such as healthcare, education, and ecommerce, were hiring. What is more, other businesses needed to pivot online, which required that existing staff acquire digital skills as soon as possible.
Since the onset of computer science in the second half of the 20th century, having a four-year university or college degree was considered the mainstream way to attain a job in the technology sector. Long-term degrees have been regarded as desirable to recruiters as they represent hard work, tenacity, and commitment. Over three or four years, students need to work on projects that require communication skills and teamwork, well-roundedness, and social awareness. But this is not the only route to be recruited.
Reskilling of individuals already working in other professions can be accomplished over a shorter period. Such short-term models of learning are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are good mostly for the broadening of knowledge (not skills) by people with strong self-discipline, or bootcamps, which are usually short and vary in the quality of training. The best proven model, according to Eran Lasser, a tech education entrepreneur, founder, and CEO of Wawiwa Tech Training, is a six-to-eight-month program of 250-450 hours, which combines both technical knowledge and skills:
“Looking back on my experience training software programmers and cyber specialists in the Israeli military and in the private sector later in my career, the most successful training programs blend face-to-face training and mentoring with some online learning,” claims Lasser. “Apart from learning the latest programming languages and software development tools, learning needs to include the development of soft skills, such as teamwork, communications, time management, and resilience, which employers are looking for.”
Universities cannot continue to rely solely on their traditional model of long academic degrees. In the aftermath of Covid-19, employers, students, and alumni need something different. Students need jobs that pay and to that end, they need concrete shorter-term training that gets them jobs. Employers need employees who were trained by esteemed educational institutions like universities, but in a shorter period and with both up-to-date knowledge and interpersonal professional skills.
By partnering, universities and colleges can offer industry-aligned, job-role reskilling programs and professional courses, train masses of tech professionals, and overcome the financial challenges that the pandemic has inflected. Such an offering appeals to the local population of learners and can draw people to campus again or continue online should the need for social distancing resurface.
Partnering with a tech training provider can help bridge the technology skills gap, turn a crisis into an opportunity, and change lives.