Career readiness took a climb in the second half of the twentieth century toward making a bachelor’s degree the normal path upon high school graduation. Companies hiring demands mainly drove this near compulsory requirement.

Individual approaches to education, along with upskilling during their career can net equally successful outcomes. One IT manager who had 15 years of experience with the U.S. Air Force before working at a Fortune 100 company doubled his salary simply by obtaining his bachelor’s in business management.

Learning about career fast-tracking had one student rethink his initial approach, leaving his four-year computer science and informatics college program. He enrolled in the coding and cybersecurity immersion training bootcamp with non-profit Eleven Fifty Academy, which allowed him to be job-ready in half the time.

Creating partnerships with businesses

Having businesses on board with education plans, both to help shape the program based on future skill needs and for employment partnerships is another added value Eleven Fifty has seen with its partners and students.

“With accelerated path into careers, corporate partners play a massive role. Bootcamps design curriculum around what businesses design. In addition, we wrap soft skills around this curriculum to make our students be job-ready,” Tambasco said.

Infosys has a partnership with Eleven-Fifty and also engages with other education programs, like Ivy Tech Community College, and in what may be a growing trend, was slowly but successfully persuaded to drop a bachelor’s requirement upon hiring.

“Through educational partnerships, Infosys continues to change the landscape of our qualifications for hiring,” said Rick Cardwell, Infosys VP, Head of Innovation & Delivery Midwest. “Similar to many other large tech companies, we look at skill-based hiring practices and are no longer requiring a college degree as the only baseline.”

Professional certifications, two-year degrees, and master’s level options are all viable end goals, and an outgoing high school senior can easily be overwhelmed by which path to choose. Student loans must be considered in this mix and can be the difference between aggressively pursuing employment with certifications or a college degree in hand.

Then there’s the business side, whose management may still skew towards degrees, against a plan of straight tracking with certifications to a steady, and often lucrative, paycheck. Nowadays, some businesses and employees feel bachelor’s degrees are a minimum requirement and may plan for four-to-six years of higher education and an expectation of a planned career ladder toward upper management.

The reality is these human resources teams and upper-level management must stay aware of all educational opportunities and rethink requirements as their candidate pool becomes smaller due to rising demand in the field, as shown in the earlier example with Infosys. And that tech company is not alone by a long stretch. Tambasco said in the past three years, 320 unique companies have hired Eleven Fifty graduates.

“It’s important to remain agile to meet workforce demands,” she said. Strategic planners Thomas P. Miller and Associates (TPMA) help in this area by adding creative and innovative industry sector partnerships across sectors and at the local, state, and regional levels.

“It used to be that a community college would analyze class size and graduation size for regional high schools, and they would target enrollment,” said Dawn Busick, senior director with strategic planning with TPMA. “The last census indicates we’re experiencing a demographic drought; this has been confirmed in the recently released information by EMSI [ labor market data company], in an e-book named The Demographic Drought. The average age of today’s community college students is now 27, part-time, and many of these adult student learners are working on skilling up to enhance their existing wheelhouse of skill sets.” “Companies identify their needs and work together to fill their workforce talent demands,” Busick said. “Knowing what’s available in your backyard is the goal of a community, and they want to keep and retain their homegrown workforce talent. These industry-sector partnerships are critical in creating that ecosystem.”

CapSource is an education technology company that links students, educators, and businesses through experiential learning and experiential hiring programs, with the goal of training and placing ideal junior talent with partnering organizations. This type of learning experience is becoming increasingly popular, according to Co-Founder and Forbes 30 Under 30, Jordan Levy, especially in our post-pandemic world.

“Schools are working to find more remote, flexible options for their students. Since there are many diverse, high-impact ways to integrate industry into the learning process, schools are getting increasingly more creative in their approach, shifting to shorter projects and offering larger scale ‘hackathons’ or live cases in order to help more students gain the critical ‘resumé-worthy experience’ they need to succeed from day-one on the job.”

Levy also shared, “Live case studies are moving higher-ed into a new era. We are enabling industry to get involved in the education process of our next-gen talent, while encouraging academia to stay relevant and connected. Internships, co-ops, capstones, and other work integrated learning models are being rethought to ensure they’re scalable and designed to help both the students and employers achieve their goals.”

He pointed to numbers provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 40% of students graduate without any work experience at all. Most of the lucky 60% of students graduating with some experience only have one internship.

“As a society, we need to create more opportunities for our next generation of leaders to gain experience; there are not nearly as many internships available as there should be,” he noted. Levy added, “In partnering with over 150 global educational institutions, we acknowledge that each has their own approach to experiential learning depending on their mission and vision. While our client, the University of Montana, focuses on building partnerships with local, regional, and indigenous businesses, our other client, the University of Notre Dame designs its programs to help MBAs gain experience working as consultants as they travel to major cities to network and solve complex challenges for large-scale organizations like the American Cancer Society, Campari, and Mastercard.

CapSource Co-Founder and Director of Product Ankush Manchanda added, “The really exciting part is that employers are beginning to use these programs as an alternative to career fairs, resumé screening, and on-campus interviewing. Experiential hiring is a much more effective way to assess and train young talent.

Creating opportunities to encourage diversity

Five years ago, College Board added AP® Computer Science Principles (CSP) to high school curricula as an Advanced Placement course. The course doesn’t focus primarily on programming like AP Computer Science A (CSA), a Java-based programming course, but instead “teaches the foundational concepts of computer science and includes programming skills that explore computing principles that cut across many areas of computer science,” according to College Board.

The initial push was to create a more diverse classroom “to address a well-documented shortage of women and students of color studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in high school and college and ultimately pursuing STEM careers.”

For the class of 2019, which was the first to graduate with CSP offered in all four years of high school, AP CSP was the first AP STEM course for more than half of Black students (68%), Hispanic students (59%), and first-generation students (60%) taking AP CSP.

At the end of 2020, it reported “students who take AP CSP in high school are more than 3 times as likely to major in computer science in college, compared to similar students who did not take CSP. Differences are similarly large for female, Black, Hispanic, and first generation college students. College freshmen who declare a computer science major take a critical step toward receiving the second-highest-paid college degree in the nation.” To examine these findings by percentages, 11.7% of CSP students overall and 16.5% specifically who fall in the female, Black, Hispanic, and first-generation categories were more likely to major in computer science in college.

The value of AP courses is multifold, but specifically by scoring out of required courses for college the number of credit hours that still need to be earned during the college years is reduced. The trickle-down effect essentially allows the student to earn their higher education earlier and with potentially less debt as a result.

Creating an education path with limited debt

Spending a reduced time to earn an education helps with student debt load, which can be cumbersome to repay on an entry-level income. The same challenge is there for a working professional looking to upskill. Many companies are starting to trend toward plans to reimburse a percentage of employees seeking advanced degrees; others provide an annual budget for ongoing training.

There are multiple examples across the country showcasing the push to help students afford their degrees. As Congress continues to debate college-loan debt forgiveness, individuals have been spearheading creative, innovative solutions for students to pursue education. Remember the 20-year-old mentioned earlier? Impressive starting income aside, this new IT professional has a lower debt-load, due to a program started by Eleven Fifty’s founder Scott Jones. He created a 0% interest educational funding tool, Career Accelerator Fund, for students of any age to accelerate part-time or full-time into a career in tech. The state of Indiana invested $75 million into a similar fund that Jones spearheaded with legislators, which will be self-generating going forward.

Payback to the fund by the borrower is capped at 5% and occurs only after receiving a position equal to 75% or more than the state’s median household income. Stories like this dot the labor force landscape in various other ways often with a significant economic impact in terms of loan debts.

Jones is making quite an impact in the Hoosier state. In August, Eleven Fifty’s cybersecurity boot camp was named best for certifications by Intelligent.com.

“Cybersecurity is one of our transformational career paths at Eleven Fifty Academy,” Jones said. “Eleven Fifty Academy is proud to be recognized as one of the top cyber security programs in the nation. We are quietly but rapidly helping create a strong tech workforce centered in Indiana.”

Photo of Shelly Sack

Shelly Sack

Shelly is Manager of Content Programs for AOTMP®

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