Tech-skill certificates may be more valuable than a college degree

From P-TECH to Red Hat Academy, and many more, here's a look at training programs that can give you a leg up on landing a coveted job.

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It's not a myth that many college grads are not working in fields related to their majors. 

A study, "Degrees at Work," released by Emsi in August, found only two majors directly sent grads into its business: engineering and computer science. The study also revealed that non-STEM grads devalue their education. 

Yet there are many available tech jobs , including positions unfilled for up to months at a time. And a reason for the disparity? Lack of skills. Graduates, and students in general, lack not only experience, but also practical skills to land the kind of jobs to which they aspire.

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"Our educational system is not equipped to meet the demands of the modern workplace," said Grace Suh, vice president of education for IBM citizenship. "We have more jobs than skilled people to fill them. There are already more than 700,000 open technology jobs in the US, and another half million expected over the next decade. Part of the problem is that we've focused too heavily on just one path to a good job: a bachelor's degree."

To address this issue of the educated, but unskilled, corporations pair with schools and alternative credentialing programs to help fill open positions, as well as match employees with their interest. And so IBM and its P-TECH program, and the other skills-based programs, have come to represent a kind of contemporary trade school, for what some are calling "new collar" jobs. 

Some companies have even developed their own training program for future employees, it's dubbed a "train-and-hire model." 

There are caveats, of course. The model is more of an internship, in which trainees are paid stipends or minimum wage. The period of apprenticeship can put a financial burden on those who have been cut off from parental finances and have little saved. 

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Here's a look at some tech programs geared to get a coveted industry job.

P-TECH

Starting as early as freshman year in high school, students can work toward a college degree or a career pathway at a P-TECH school. The first opened in Brooklyn in 2011, as a collaboration between IBM, the New York Department of Education, and The City University of New York.

It is a six-year integrated program of high school and college courses designed to industry skills, which leads to a postsecondary degree for all students.

IBM and CUNY developed a P-TECH blueprint for public high schools, community colleges and businesses.

P-TECH is a partnership among K-12, community college and industry, and includes urban, rural, and suburban schools and encompasses a range of STEM fields, including IT, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and finance. There are currently more than 100 P-TECH affiliated schools.

"P-TECH helps to strengthen regional economies and disadvantaged populations with a workforce better prepared for "new collar" jobs, skilled, tech positions that don't necessarily require a traditional, four-year college degree," Suh said.

"As of August 2019, 240 students have graduated from IBM-affiliated P-TECHs, such as in New York State and Connecticut, and 35 of them have accepted positions at IBM," Suh added. 

"In general, the initial graduates completed their associate degrees four to five times faster than typical community college students," Suh explained. "Most students are going on for more college, and because the majority are the first in their families to graduate with a college degree, this is a great success."

Red Hat Academy

Red Hat Academy is an academic training-program that works with schools and students and provides an enterprise-ready Linux and open-source curriculum, and certification. The students at the 1600 schools world-wide affiliated with the Red Hat Academy matriculate with the content RHA as integrated into their degree programs. 

An "important contributor to our success is industry-relevant content," said Ken Goetz, VP, global learning services at Red Hat. "Our curriculum includes technologies like containers, Kubernetes, cloud, Linux, and other open source technologies that are in high demand in the job market."
 
Students who complete the program have "very good" prospects," Goetz said. "So much of what's happening in IT today – big data, cloud, DevOps—is predicated on open source technology, so knowledge and skills in open source are in high demand."

Cisco Networking Academy

Cisco's program was developed when Arizona-based Cisco system engineer George Ward worked with the faculty and students at Greenway High School in Mesa to figure out how to manage the emerging school network. The program has been around for more than 20 years, is in 180 countries, in 25 languages, and has more than "a million students currently enrolled globally," a Cisco rep said. 

"Cisco Networking Academy follows a multiple pathway model," the rep added. "There are three possible outcomes:  providing secondary and post-secondary students with entry-level job skills, preparing students to take and pass an industry certification exam, or continue with post-secondary academic career."
 
Cisco said that 94% of students who earn a Cisco certification got a new or better job, or continue their post-secondary academic career. 

Facebook

"Facebook has invested in digital skills trainings to help small businesses and people get ahead," said Parisa Sabeti Zagat, Facebook's public policy programs director.  "The goal of the program is job readiness."

FaceBook collaborated with Pathstream to develop a customized program, and has partnered with 20 community colleges across the US to offer digital marketing training.

"These partnerships provide ongoing support to people and businesses through educational resources that will help them advance in work, find new jobs, or run their companies." Some schools offer the program for academic credit, "so it counts towards a traditional degree as well," Zagat said. 
 
The curriculum, which takes six to nine months to complete, consists of six course topics  like social media marketing, content strategy and branding, analytics and optimization, and email marketing, and is free to the colleges. FaceBook donates ad credits to students so they can practice using ads manager, and provides scholarship funding for students.
 
"The courses include a significant amount of career navigation content and guides students through starting their job search, including updating their resumes and LinkedIn profiles and planning their job outreach," Zagat said.

"Given the inherently local nature of jobs, we have been working with the colleges as well as other local organizations on community-specific career opportunities and support."  

Infosys  

Infosys has reskilling hubs in non-traditional tech US cities like Phoenix, AZ; Providence, RI;  Hartford, CT; Indianapolis, IN;  Raleigh, NC; and Richardson, TX to retrain university and community college grads to fill the skills gap. 

In the recent first phase of the program Infosys retrained 10,000 American workers and partners with higher education institutions. Students in the reskilling program range from graduates of four year universities like Trinity College to local community college grads.  Infosys has partnered with Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to create an employee-training program that will teach workers how to apply the design process to their jobs.

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Other programs of note

  • The Florida-based cybersecurity company ReliaQuest partnered with the University of South Florida and its Muma College of business, pledging $1 million over five years for cybersecurity training program, a four-week immersive program on cybersecurity.
  • Intel developed partnerships with universities and community colleges in manufacturing and research and development sites (Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico) to help factory hiring.
  • Neil Hunt, former chief product officer of Netflix, donated $3.5 million to his alma mater, Durham University in England, and established "The Hunt Programme" in computer science, four scholarships, including one geared toward the promotion of women in leadership tech roles.
  • The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin recently announced a Leadership in Health Care Privacy and Security Risk Management certificate program, to develop cybersecurity risk managers in the US healthcare systems.
  • University of Texas San Antonio paired with Digital Defense for students to learn the cloud-based information security platform Frontline.Cloud. The skills are part of an internship program, said Larry Hurtado, president and CEO of Digital Defense. 
  • Study.com offers a college accelerator program, as well as a Working Scholars program for underserved communities and working adults, and leverages Thomas Edison State University. 
  • The Relativity Academic Partner program prepares legal students with the e-discovery technology skills for legal career. More than 90 colleges and universities worldwide use the platform in their curriculums. The program is free and students can  be certified on Relativity's software.
  • Credly partnered with the Colorado Community College System to create digital credentials. Launched in 2013, students enrolled in the CCCS can earn digital badges at no additional cost (and offers financial aid options to students).

Demonstrated skills

"Today's employers are increasingly shifting towards skills-based hiring and promotion policies that reward individuals for their specific, demonstrated skills instead of signifiers of skills such as years of experience," said Jonathan Finkelstein, CEO of Credly. 

For more, check out Indeed debuts new tech hiring platform for jobs in technology on TechRepublic.

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