The New Normal: Skills Before Sheepskin | New Horizons Career Development
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July 3, 2018

The New Normal: Skills Before Sheepskin

IT CAREER | New Horizons Computer Learning Center Career Development

“Why do I need to learn this?” is a question students have asked down through the generations. What’s the relevance of math, English, history, biology, or anything else to their future? How are they going to use that in their lives? Many parents, teachers, and guidance counselors have done their best to answer it, with limited success.

Today it seems like that question is more relevant than ever. The job market is tougher than ever, yet there are hundreds of thousands of tech positions open and awaiting qualified candidates.

The disconnect is in the requirements to be qualified. Even a Computer Sciences degree does not necessarily prepare students for the real-world jobs that await.

The New Normal

Call it “the gig economy” or simply contracting or free-lancing, but a growing percentage of the population is choosing to remain self-employed and to enter into engagements with companies who require their skills.

Other companies are removing the requirement for a college degree and replacing it with specific technology certifications. Even the US Department of Defense (DoD) now requires a CompTIA Network+ certification for those seeking IT employment.

On June 27, 2017, The New York Times published “A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree” describing how “Programs promoting a skills-based labor market are gaining momentum and changing the way people are hired and trained for tech and other jobs.”

The article describes an alternative path for those who lack a four-year college degree, or even those who have earned one only to be disappointed by the lack of job prospects. “We desperately need to revive a second route to the middle class for people without four-year college degrees, as manufacturing once was,” said Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration. “We have to move toward a system that works.”

Highlighted are stories of people stuck in dead-end food service and similar jobs who made the bold step to acquire certification in specific technology skills without spending four years earning what could be an inapplicable degree. Many of them immediately doubled their income by qualifying for some of the more than a quarter million tech openings available in the United States and filling them.  As the Times article points out, “These jobs have taken off in tech for two main reasons. For one, computing skills tend to be well defined. Writing code, for example, is a specific task, and success or failure can be tested and measured. At the same time, the demand for tech skills is surging.”

A sidebar to the article provides an intriguing list of skills in demand which can be gained through specific training:

  • Cloud Computing Skills
  • Data Mining and Statistical Analysis
  • Smartphone App Development
  • Data Storage Engineering and Management
  • User Interface Design
  • Network Security Expertise

Another list of desirable so-called “Soft Skills” includes Communication, Curiosity, Adaptability, Teamwork, Empathy, Time Management, and Open-Mindedness.

It’s Not a Short-Cut, It’s a Direct Path

There will always be those who will argue that a college education makes you a more “well-rounded” person, and it is not our purpose here to dispute that.

The question most need to ask themselves is, what do I need most right now to pay my bills and improve life for my family? Well-roundedness? Or a better-paying job? The answer is obvious.

Skills training is a direct path to an available open tech position at a quality company. To launch your journey, begin with the end in mind. Pick a position you’d very much like to occupy. Talk to a counselor at New Horizons and ask them which courses you’ll need to take in order to obtain the required certifications.

Then enroll in those courses and prepare yourself for your new career.

If it sounds too simple, it really isn’t. This is not a short-cut or a “get-rich-quick” scheme. It’s simply a very direct path to learning the things you need to know to get the job you want to get.