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  • Writer's pictureNick Lansley

Forget college degrees? Employers are recruiting students direct from online tech courses Hello and welcome back to innovation lab – your guide to the world of technology and innovation thinking, I’m Nick Lansley and it’s good to be back. I last left you at the end of March 2020 when Chartered Psychologist Dr Richard MackInnon and Personal & Employment Engagement coach Assunta Cucca had advised on how to cope with what was then a freshly imposed COVID-19 related lockdown. Then suddenly my guests became furloughed and couldn’t talk to me in their usual professional capacity for fear of breaking the rules. Then one of my clients needed to some innovation and coding work completed, and the next thing September Has Come! And let’s face it, COVID lockdown has made everyone more digital – including my 80-year-old Mum who now not only uses Zoom and Skype but is about to host a new season of her University of the Third Age (U3A) Social Affairs class using Zoom with up to 30 class attendees. Hosting a digital class! At ages 80! On her Chromebook! I mean seriously, that is where this pandemic has led us! Digital Super Savvy Grannies University of the Third Age is a national organisation in the UK arranging classes in all kinds of subjects and activities designed for retired people. You know, the third age – the first age being school and college, the second being work and family, and the third being retired pensioners. How to summarise all of life’s stages…! It’s not just the pensioners learning, of course; September is when kids return to school and students return to college, and this year that’s needed more than ever given the months of loss of education. Which brings me to… why go to college? University? Why go specifically if you want the sort of career in programming and software development that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy? Now, I went to University, well, Leicester Polytechnic to be exact, now called De Montfort University, to get a graduation in Computing - 1984 to 1987 I Loved it! The main reason I loved it was because I had access to computing power that was way too expensive to own myself. That’s not the case today. I loved it because the few people who knew a lot about computing were teaching the course! That’s not the case today, you can learn various aspects of computing by just following tutorials online or better still going on an online course such as Udemy or Pluralsight amongst many online education organisations. You can watch recordings of previous years lectures as-live – not at just any university but at MIT and Harvard. For Free on YouTube! Do you know the best way you get your CV to look good when seeking a job in IT? Sure a 1st class degree will be great, but today most recruiters are looking for hands on experience. When do you get that experience? By getting into open source code projects on places like GitHub and making meaningful contributions to those projects. And how do you learn to code? By going on an online course for a programming language that matches the GitHub project you are interested in, and thoroughly learning it. That’s how I learn today! In the last year I’ve been getting to grips with Kubernetes and into the second half of this year, I’m learning how to understand Artificial Intelligence and program machine-learning algorithms. You never stop learning, especially in the world of coding. Now Google is getting involved in tech education, based on the fact that colleges and universities are struggling to stay relevant in tech domains. Let’s take a 3 year Computing course. Can you imagine how the world of tech has moved on in 3 years? A 2016 StackOverflow survey found that 56% of developers do not have a college degree in computer science or related fields. They also noticed that a portfolio of projects and products you have made credible contributions to is worth more than years of experience or going to college. US news channel CNBC has found that 14 major US companies - Google, Apple, IBM, Intel, Hilton, Starbucks, Pand others have posted numerous job positions that do not require a formal degree. Here In 2020, Elon Musk has said that you don’t need to have a college degree to work at Tesla. He has also said that “college is basically for fun and not learning.” Google has already launched Google Garage with plenty of courses from several course providers. They’ve also created Grow With Google with their Career Certificate courses for entry-level positions. About 85% of the 637,000 enrolled students left 5-star course reviews. Do these certificate courses provide aa safe pathway into an entry-level position at Google? Based on their unambiguous language, it would seem so. Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs tweeted: “In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles.” Google has effectively replaced four-year college degrees with a 3 to 6-month program that only takes about 5 hours a week to complete. Most importantly, they’ve made it affordable. The IT Support course costs $49 a month on Coursera, and Google has promised to fund 100,000-course programs for those in need. Either way, these costs are lunch money compared to what most colleges are charging for what is arguably a much less relevant education. Google has made the first decisive step in bridging the gap between education and tech employer needs. Based on student reviews, it’s a big hit. Alan Trapulionis, writing on Medium, says: "These aren’t just random people as many of them are employees at other companies. “On behalf of our entire organization, thanks again for taking the Conference to a whole new level of education and professionalism!!” says one of the reviews." So far, the evidence shows us that this is the future of education. In particular, what Alan said calmed him down is how thought-through and integrated this entire solution feels. His guess is that this pilot project will turn into the new standard in employee training and education. Companies win massively by doing this: they train their own employees, make extra money and even get credit for educational philanthropy. And youngsters navigating the world of education finally get a lean, mean degree that actually means something for far less than an all-out University course. However, my final word on this is to someone reading this blog on their way to University to study Computing going Whhhaaaaattt!? It’s OK! Deep breaths find your centre, the good news for you is that I found my time at Uni far richer than just studying. Finding friends, joining student societies, trying new things, living away from the family home for the first time. Being stupid and learning from it! Finding who I really was, all of that enriched my life such that my time at Leicester studying Computing are amongst the favourite years of my life. So you’ve got to work out what works for you. Do you want to go to your grave shouting that you studied? Or shouting that you LIVED? Or maybe a balance. I’d love to hear from you on this subject. Head over to where you can find links to various channels, or drop an email to Stay safe – speak soon This article is adapted from the script of my Innovation Lab podcast episode which aired 1st September 2020.

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