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Is college the best way to get career skills?

Written by Justin on September 7, 2012


I was looking at the programs being offered by the community college today and the course description for Computer Information Systems Diploma caught my eye. The college had linked to news articles (like this), exclaiming: “If you can code, you can get work.” The problem is, the diploma they’re offering doesn’t include very much coding. First you have to muddle through courses on technical writing, circuit boards and understanding an operating system. When you finally get to write code (in your second year), it’s going to be in Sharepoint.

Kids, taking these courses will not get you a better job.  I’m not against education, I’m against bad education; especially when it promises career advancement. What we need is education that connects with what’s happening right now. Plus, we need to do it as efficiently as possible. Why would we waste a student’s time teaching them about circuit boards, when what they really want to do is code for the web?

The main red flag I’d like to raise here is the courses being offered by this particular college are outdated. Let’s talk specifically about programming. Right now the web and mobile markets are desperate for developers. What’s sad is that so many colleges aren’t meeting this need: they’re preparing kids for yesterday’s jobs. Every software company I know is hiring Ruby on Rails developers, and yet few local colleges teach it.

When I compare the description for Computer Information Systems Diploma (from the community college) with the description for Web App Development (from a school in Chicago called the Starter League) the difference is striking:

My advice to anyone considering going to school: if you’re hoping to get a better job, make sure you consider the potential ROI. How much is it going to cost, and what’s the potential pay-off? To find out, you’ll need to do some footwork. Want to be a programmer? Go and talk to your dream software company, and ask them what education you’ll need. Show them the course descriptions for the programs you’re thinking of taking, and ask them if it’s what they’re looking for. 

If you’re specifically looking to become a web developer, these are some educational options that could give you a good start, at a fraction of the cost:

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Post-script: I’m wondering if anyone else in Vernon, BC (or the Okanagan) would be interested in something similar to Ruby Weekend. If so, sign-up here: Startup Vernon.