It’s a tired trope to cite the percentage of English majors that are working as a Starbucks barista, but the point is well taken. With 44% of recent college graduates working a job that doesn’t require a degree, higher education must be missing something. And while the question is simple, the answer is less so.
What is it that needs to be gleaned from the months or years between graduation and someone’s first “big-kid” job?
Coming out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for careers only to be forced into a low-wage position just to make ends meet or start servicing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of student loans just doesn’t make sense. With colleges offering fast-track degrees, externships, internships, co-ops, etc. why is it that there’s still a gap between education and employment?
You’ll start to find the picture becoming more clear by looking at the most recent trends. There are some previously basic truths that may not be basic nor true anymore in regards to what employers are looking for. The very word “education” may not fully suffice to describe the assortment of knowledge and skills one needs to arm themselves within a professional setting this day in age.
So what are they looking for?
Education has long been about being well-rounded. It’s about developing critical thinking skills, researching to prove out a set of assumptions, and learning how to convey that knowledge to others. These are the soft skills that come as a byproduct rather than a direct or overtly pursued result of education.
In many ways, these soft skills increase in demand in the job market at a faster pace than the particular knowledge base that may be at the heart of someone’s major or degree. These are also a valuable metric for a prospective employee’s flexible skills- to be able to teach is to be able to be taught- a mirror of one’s ability to learn new processes and technologies quickly. These being “intangible” and only able to be proven overtime on the job has necessitated a longer runway in getting a recent grad to where they want to go.
In many ways, it also offloads the cost and risk of a company having to test the waters of new employees onto “sub-degree” employers. In short, education does not mitigate the risk that someone doesn’t have these soft skills.
Education vs. Training
The other side of the coin is training- specifically in a practical rather than theoretical way. The increase in soft skills is only overshadowed by the increase in demand for technical skills. In a recent study by Upwork, the addition of technical skills can fully double the amount of available job offers. We see this all the time without identifying it as such- the unbundling of degrees- a creation of micro-credentials to put together a more comprehensive picture of what applicants can, and, as importantly- can’t do.
The addition of technical skills can fully double the amount of available job offers.
Noted By Upwork
Take an MBA- high level and theoretical skills that are of course invaluable in any business setting. For multiple generations, you’re hard-pressed to find them out of work or anything less than extremely high demand. While this still holds true, it is not the silver bullet that it used to be.
The question you ask an MBA has now become “How do you manage and optimize in a technology-driven workplace if you don’t have the technical skills?”
They may possess 6 years worth of soft skills, but without technical skills, it becomes abstract and even academic. The confluence of these new realities bring us to an inescapable truth- degrees, while valuable, are far less valuable and a far cry from a job guarantee than ever before.
The fact of the matter is that degrees are static- the job market is not. Degrees often collect dust in the staid walls of their owners, but true credentials- skills that are used, augmented and scaled- require constant validation.
The pace at which any industry changes has rendered degrees subject to something entirely new- expiration dates. Today’s most in-demand jobs didn’t even exist a mere decade ago. Your job, duties, roles, and responsibilities are dynamic and constantly changing. A degree shows that you have the knowledge base, whereas the true skills and micro-credentials show you know how to handle them.
Now the key is how will you put together a plan for education, credentialing, and validation?
Check out our real-world job-ready training guaranteed to land you a job in IT at NexGenT.com
NexGenT was founded on the belief that education is for everyone and that the ideal educational system should be based on real-world skills training. The company ethos includes the belief that education cannot leave people in debt with degrees that do not teach the real skills needed to succeed, and that it should prepare people to be ready for the workforce. We want our students to be field-ready after completing our program, similar to how we trained network engineers in the military.
This is how we view proper training – it should actually prepare folks for a real job and give them tangible skills that are necessary to do the job (I know, crazy right!?). However, we find that traditional College education is lacking in technical fields of study such as information technology. What is needed in IT are people who can do the job, not people with a head full of concepts with no application.
For this reason, people mostly get hired based on their skills and certifications. There are not enough college programs that teach the necessary technical skills and to make things even worse, traditional institutions leave their students in massive amounts of debt. So, it’s important to highlight this issue of College debt, and discuss alternatives to traditional academia, but alternatives that actually provide the education needed for a great career.
Last year, more than 20 million students attended College or University, and 70% graduated with a significant amount of student loan debt. The national student debt is nearly $1.5 Trillion, collectively held by around 44 million Americans. This figure is truly unsustainable, and there must be change. The average student debt is around $37,000, and that significant amount of money could have been otherwise invested somewhere else.
At NexGenT, we provide real-world skills training for a fraction of the cost of College. Students graduate in just months instead of years and gain sought after skills without the burden of large amounts of debt. This is the kind of thinking we will need in order to fill the millions of tech jobs that will be open in just the next couple years.
And, don’t only take it from us – we created a short video with raw footage from some of our students who were inspired to share their stories and discuss this topic. The video starts with a question about College and then students share their authentic stories providing genuine insight into the value of alternative educational programs and the mission at NexGenT.
Would you assess a soldier’s ability to perform in combat with a written exam? No? That’s what I thought. You would probably try to simulate a real life situation to isolate your best people, otherwise, you’d be giving the enemy a huge advantage, wouldn’t you?
Sadly, this “field-ready” mindset, which is the sole purpose of rigorous military training, doesn’t quite translate to the educational system. Instead of educating and qualifying people based on real-world skills, the vast majority of institutions simply give them a form of written test to pass, and then claim that people are “ready”. Ready for what?
Now, we all know that the workforce doesn’t come close to what people experience in real combat, either directly or indirectly. But unlike the military, businesses have an actual limited budget and stockholders to keep happy, so they must be laser focused on efficiency.
The obsoleteness of the educational system is such that there are industries in which companies must rely on certifications and other kinds of training to “ensure” that people have the minimum qualifications to perform a job. Nonetheless, many of these certifications are based on written tests, which even though are very specific and require a lot of studying, could not possibly guarantee that someone is job-ready.
Take the IT industry as an example. Cisco Certified Network Associates (CCNA’s), for instance, are certified in specific fields of study such as routing and switching, but they earn their certification without ever actually touching a router or a switch, or even setting up a basic local area network (LAN).
Imagine if a Navy SEAL was deployed to a war zone with a CCNA certification! He wouldn’t last very long, would he? Not only that, but other SEALs would end up having to allocate part of their focus to take care of their underprepared partner just to make sure he could make it through the day. Talk about endangering all those involved in a mission!
This happens in a more subtle way in the corporate world, where companies invest a lot of money on training programs. These resources could be allocated more efficiently if their entry-level personnel was trained to hit the ground running in less time or trained on more advanced skills.
Believe it or not, every company is, in some way, similar to the SEAL program. They want the best possible people to join their teams and they strive to build or maintain a competitive advantage. If this is the case, then why is it that the educational system hasn’t caught up with military training yet?
I’m not saying that the entire system needs to be exactly like combat training. But, there are certain things that could be incorporated into education that would make a big difference on people’s skill sets and on their ability to advance in their careers.
At NexGenT we prepare students for the real-world, period. We give them the skills they really need to know and certify that they are able to perform over 100 different tasks in person, handling real equipment, with zero written testing! We do this through a self-paced online program called Zero to Engineer and a 5-day in-person certification boot camp.
Since we cut all the fluff included in conventional degrees and certifications, we are able to teach more advanced skills to our students such as how to configure Private WAN to VPN failover for disaster recovery or set up an HQ network with 2 branches from scratch.
These, among hundreds of other skills, are part of what real network engineers do every day at their jobs. This is where paper certifications reveal all their weaknesses and make people feel like all the hard work and effort they invested studying didn’t prepare them properly for “combat”.
We’ve incorporated the field-ready mindset, which was instilled in our founders when they served in the Air Force, to our certification programs with the sole purpose of empowering people to either break into the IT industry or advance in their careers. Hence, when our students earn the Full-Stack Network Associate (FSNA) certification title, they have the skills needed to hit the ground running, just like American soldiers are.
The educational system is broken across various industries in several ways. It’s outrageously expensive, it doesn’t prepare people for the real world and leaves many of them in debt for many years to come after they graduate. We are working to change this for the IT industry, where what truly matters is a person’s skill set and knowledge, and nothing else.
Are you really learning how to do real things or just a bunch of theory?