The rise of self-education and individual investment

The rise of self-education and individual investment

Summary: With university tuition costs rising and a programming skill shortage, should students consider investing their time to help bridge the skill set gap?


Computing skills are in high demand. Job vacancies increasingly require skill sets in computer software applications, and those trained in programming are in short supply.

An expanding technology-dependent society naturally requires a larger percent of the labour force to be proficient in the technology it uses. There is a distinct lack of available computing specialists to cope with business requirements.

Faced with this short supply and high demand, start-ups are beginning to break in to the programming market. A current trend is to focus exclusively on teaching skills that have often traditionally been viewed as 'geeky' or boring.

A drop in IT graduates globally has contributed to the situation; with professionals such as website designers and .NET developers in low availability.

(Source: Flickr)

Many of these companies are breaking away from the traditional, expensive classroom setting. Whilst some do offer classes on campus grounds, far more are offering online self-study courses -- both free and via subscription.

Drawing interest from investing companies, new ventures that focus on providing the skill sets required by a technology-driven economy are fast becoming hot property by shrewd investors that perceive their increasing importance in the current market.

Treehouse Island launched last month with a handout of $600,000 from West Coast investors. The company specialises in online courses including mobile application development and coding based on a user subscription service.

Its business ethos is to assist those who "can't afford a quality technical education" and to keep training up-to-date in a rapidly moving industry.

New York-based General Assembly teaches classes on web development and design in classrooms. The company managed to entice investors to hand over $4.25 million. They are particularly interested in promoting entrepreneurship and offer a range of courses from business setup strategy to hard coding.

Other start-ups, such as Codecademy, offer extremely popular free online exercises -- having been accessed approximately 30 million times since its launch. They offer interactive learning, users are able to access lesson sets, gain virtual badges, and track their progress at their own pace.

Those offering online courses have the advantage of earning extra revenue by becoming a programmer recruitment service. Containing their users' progress and data, those that test highly and remain 'at the top' could have the opportunity of being headhunted by top companies.

Self-education in these shortage skill sets may become far more important than is yet realized. With many universities offering free online courses in topics ranging from mathematics to business, perhaps it's time for those in the labour market to consider using these free resources to make themselves more marketable.

Formal education certainly does not come cheap -- with student fees rising and fewer university places available, but less traditional methods and a sharper focus on skill sets rather than formal qualifications could benefit job hunters more than a degree and a point score on their resume.

Western education is no longer something reserved purely for the privilege; access and funding for university courses changed that.

The increasing cost of campus-based education may cause those who attend university in the future to be a select few, but online education has the potential to remove these barriers to education. This in turn can ensure people become more desirable to employers.

It is not only investors that need to keep on top of changes in skill sets required by an economic industry that is becoming more technology-driven.

Students considering university or vocational courses should seriously consider taking courses that will make them look more appealing in an uncertain economy -- whether a university course in computer science, or weekend basics in Microsoft Office applications.

Failing that, consider taking a free online option and study in your own time. After all, it's "something to put on the resumé".


Topics: China, Mobility, Start-Ups, IT Employment

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  • The real ???skill shortage???

    The real ???skill shortage??? is caused by an unwillingness of some HR departments and some hiring managers to even consider applicants who don???t fit a rather narrow profile. They won???t even interview older people like me and/or applicants who lack a specific degree or who don't have a degree from a big 'name brand' university. They just click ???delete??? when they see our resumes.

    This means that money spent on non-traditional training is largely a waste of time and money unless a large majority of companies move away from this model, something I don???t see happening soon. Sure, it's great to learn new stuff but don't expect employers to be itching to hire you just because you took an online course.

    The real irony is that last year I spoke with the HR dept. at a private educational institution that???s really getting into selling these courses about a job opening. I was told that they weren???t interested in me because I didn???t have a computer science related 4 year college degree (my 30+ year old degree is a liberal arts discipline).
    • RE: The rise of self-education and individual investment

      @ancientprogrammer <br>I can't express how many jobs in my lifetime so far have turned me down for a good career in an IT/MIS department saying I don't have enough experience with no formal paper education (when I'm overly qualified for the job). I wish they all knew I, with my not enough experience of 22 years, work for a Consulting firm with ties to the Security Community...Try explaining on a resume you proved your skills in the flesh by defeating some asset tracking software embedded in bios with a hardware TPM present? Where did I get these skills? I didn't get them from a school so I couldn't possibly know how to do the level 1 support job being applied for... That's the bulk of what some of us get here.
    • RE: The rise of self-education and individual investment

      @ancientprogrammer -

      Agreed. It's bunk.

      And businesses want people with degrees.

      Not "home schooling".

      It's bull, but that's how it seems to be in the corporate world.
  • A question for both commenters above:

    I am wondering out of pure curiosity, not being sarcastic here: Do/did both of you have excellent, thorough documentation and recommendations from your prior work accomplishments? In other words, was it clear how much experience you had, and the value and quality of it? And if so, did it not make any difference to the employer/companies you tried to apply to? Thanks.
    • Yes.

      But the want-ads speak for themselves as well.

      Not being sarcastic, but how do you explain a job ad reading "5 years of Visual Studio 2008 experience" when, either in 2010 or 2012, one needn't ten degrees in math and accounting to know that 2010-2008 = 2 and how 2012-2008 = 4. Both are less than 5. ;)

      I've responded to job ads, telling of my degrees, accomplishments, accolades, and in a format that even a person with a sixth grade education could comprehend. I still got responses of "Criteria not met".

      Our cynicism is not misplaced.

      You're welcome.
  • Law of "supply and demand", here me out

    a. We desperately need techs
    b. the "law" would suggest wages would go up to spur, meaning
    c. people could feel more comfy in taking out student loans for the college needed because companies want big 4-year degrees as one of many prerequisites and do not care for "homeschooling"

    Yet wages haven't gone up, and not just for IT people but all in the industry:

    I'm sure plenty of charts exist showing STEM employment still at all-time highs, which - like point 'b' above add to a belief that the system's amiss...