The rise of self-education and individual investment

With university tuition costs rising and a programming skill shortage, should students consider investing their time to help bridge the skill set gap?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

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".


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