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According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were almost 6 million open jobs in America –pretty close to the all-time high. On the surface, this might seem like a good thing. It’s easy to think that since employers are hiring then the economy is growing. Deeper down, nonetheless, such a high number of open jobs is a big red flag. It means that there are not enough qualified people in the country to fill high-skilled positions, many of which are IT jobs. Think about it, with unemployment hovering around  5%, obviously there’s plenty of people to fill low-skilled jobs. So, if these jobs didn’t require highly educated and experienced people there wouldn’t be so many available. Would it?

The lack of highly skilled people is particularly evident in the tech industry, where every year a ton of companies look to hire foreign talent through the H-1B program. This program, which grants a total of 85,000 non-resident work visas annually, most of which go to tech-related fields, has received well over 200 thousand applications for the past few years in a row. Even though there have been some cases in which companies try to take advantage of this visa, such high demand for foreign talent signifies that there is a lack of qualified individuals in the country. According to Code.org, there will be almost 1 million more IT jobs than people who can fill them in a few years. Hence, debating whether or not the number of visas granted by the H-1B program should be reduced or not is irrelevant.

Related: Secrets to obtaining 6 figure job offers from top tech companies within 2-4 years even if you have zero experience today! 

Anyway, hundreds of thousands of IT jobs will be open in the not-so-distant future. A majority of them, to many people’s surprise, will be in the field of networking. People often make the mistake of thinking that more “tech” jobs mean more coding jobs. But, the truth is that there is way more demand for networking skills. Every single business out there, whether it is a small food chain or a Fortune 500 corporation, needs IT people. Add to that the fact that it is estimated that there will be over 50 billion devices connected to the internet very soon, and you’ll realize that demand for networking skills is only moving up. Yet, not much is being done to address the skills gap. ted in IT. But, with only about 10% of companies claiming that higher education is very effective when it comes to training people on the skills needed at their organizations, it’s obvious that this problem goes far beyond funding. On top of everything, the current president is laser-focused on bringing jobs back to America. In fact, it was the whole premise of his campaign and it seems like it will be the whole premise of his administration. But, bringing IT jobs back is not a problem — there are plenty available. The real issue is making sure people have the right skills to live up to the high expectations of companies.  

All these IT jobs will remain open unless education aligns better with what companies need: people who can actually get stuff done. However, we all know this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. On one hand, there are higher education institutions with outdated curriculums taught by people who, more often than not, have no valid real world experience. And, on the other hand, entry-level certifications that, even if they are used as a reference by many companies, can’t possibly certify that a person is ready to hit the ground running. After all, these certifications, although some can be very challenging to earn, are based on traditional written testing rather than hands-on skills performance validation.

This won’t change. Taking advantage of the IT industry and all it has to offer is up to each person. Those who are passionate, motivated and constantly looking for new in-demand skills to add to their repertoire will be able to reap the benefits of being some of the most valuable people to organizations. However, making it to the top of the industry can be very challenging if you’re being taught by professors who never made it. The reality is that the real world IT jobs are way different than what IT training schools and entry-level certification institutes are teaching. The worst thing of all is that, even after going through training programs and spending a lot of money, students are thrown into the industry without having a career plan to move up the ranks of IT. This results in many people spending years and years of their lives in unfulfilling and boring positions that are only meant to give people some hands-on experience so they can jumpstart their careers.

If you want to set off on a path to a fulfilling and lucrative career in the IT industry, and don’t want to spend a ton of money and time to reach the top, strongly consider trying to get into this career blueprint program and these tips:

Don’t waste your time and money on a college degree

Universities are way overrated. Back in the day earning a degree might have been a way of breaking into the industry. But, nowadays they waste 4+ years of people’s lives teaching a bunch of things that are not really needed in the industry. And if it wasn’t enough, they do it for an outrageous price. Recently, American student debt surpassed 1.3 trillion dollars! Companies want to onboard the best kind of people to their teams and want to have them stay there, adding value to the company, for many years to come. The best people have a mix of self-motivation, self-discipline, and proactiveness. If you can show a company that you have all of these traits, they could care less if you have a degree from a top school. In fact, even if you had a degree from one of the best schools in the nation but had a bad attitude and lacked motivation, you would either not get hired or lose your job shortly after. You can avoid slowing down your career and getting tens of thousands of dollars in debt simply by realizing that you can get valuable skills many other ways. These are the top-5 IT careers that don’t require a college degree.

Get hands-on experience

The best thing you can possibly have when you’re applying IT jobs is hands-on experience. Like I said above, companies want people who are motivated, disciplined and capable of getting stuff done. Nothing showcases these traits better than someone who went the extra mile to gain new skills and hands-on experience handling real world equipment. Unlike in many other professions like engineering and medicine, people who aspire to have an IT job can gain critical hands-on experience even before breaking into the field. This is a good thing, it allows people to learn the most important skills and practice performing tasks without any risks. However, companies are very aware of this. So, even more than in other industries, employers expect people to have a great deal of hands-on experience even if they are looking to land their first ever IT job.

Earn entry level certs, but make sure you capitalize on them

If you’re struggling to get hands-on experience and want to take a more traditional route, work towards earning entry-level certifications. Even though not having hands-on experience could be a big problem when it comes to landing a full-time job, one or two entry level certs could help you land a good internship where you can learn how to handle real equipment. If you have experience performing real world tasks on real equipment and have one or two technical certifications, landing full-time IT jobs shouldn’t be a problem. This said, make sure you avoid racking up entry-level certifications without taking specific actions that move you closer to your goals. Hiring managers look for people who are proactive and get stuff done. Having too many certifications under your belt and not being able to actually perform real tasks, could mean that you are a too much of a learner and too little of a doer which could backfire.

Have a plan to move up and avoid getting stuck

Many people work hard to get certifications and some experience under their belt just to end up getting stuck in their entry-level roles for way too many years. Entry-level roles are good to build the bulk of your resume and get your feet wet. But beyond that, you should strive to get out of them as fast as you can. A common mistake people make is thinking that the experience and skills they get from troubleshooting will be enough to get promoted to better-paying positions. This rarely works out. If you want to get promoted fast, it is better to focus on gaining new skills. Realistically, anyone could move all the way from the helpdesk to a network engineer position within a year or so. Too many people think this is not possible because it’s not that common. However, that’s only because most people don’t have a solid plan to execute on after breaking into the industry and they end up going around in circles.

The bottom line

There are way too many open IT jobs but not enough people in the country to fill them. This is due to disconnect between the IT training industry and what companies are in need of. Things are not looking good. With IoT just around the corner, the number of open IT jobs will only increase. Yet, not much is being done to address the skills gap issue. The Obama administration launched an initiative called TechHire, which will help train thousands of people in IT. However, this won’t solve the problem. The resources from this initiative will fund people through traditional education institutions, which only about 10% of companies think train people on the skills that are truly needed. On top of that, the Trump administration is looking to bring jobs back to America. This is great for the country in general. But, IT jobs don’t need to be brought back — there are too many already available. The real issue is getting people to acquire the most in-demand skills and training them in such a way that they can hit the ground running. Unfortunately, the education system won’t change overnight. Hence, it is up to each person to take control of their future and look for education alternatives that can give them the exact skills and experience that companies will be looking for tomorrow, not yesterday.  

There’s only one training program that can give you all the foundational knowledge you need to be successful (soft and hard skills) and allow you to gain hands-on experience working on real-world equipment. Here’s a link to it