Sunday, Feb 07 2016

Can Alternative Education Shrink the IT Skills Gap?

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Can Alternative Education Shrink The IT Skills Gap

One reason it takes so long to fill open IT positions is that there just aren't that many candidates for the jobs. IT jobs are often very specialized and even candidates with solid credentials—degrees from good schools or a few years of work experience—may not tick all the required skills boxes. New educational paradigms may provide a way to find qualified candidates who've built their skills through less traditional paths. Here's a look at some new ways IT job candidates are developing skills to add to their resumes.

Boot Camps

Military boot camps last up to 13 weeks and provide intensive, focused training during that period. New recruits learn necessary individual skills as well as the teamwork needed to complete objectives.

Coding boot camps are similar, except without the shaved heads and yelling drill sergeants. Instead, coding boot camps offer intensive training in programming languages and development methodologies. Students work on projects both individually and in teams. By the time they complete a final project, boot camp graduates are capable of completing entry-level programming assignments.


MOOCs—massive open online courses—put university lectures onto an online platform. These courses may have thousands of students enrolled, and rely heavily on peer review to grade assignments. The quality of these programs varies greatly, with some courses taught by faculty from top universities.

Students often have the option to audit a MOOC without completing any project work. If a candidate lists a MOOC on their resume, find out if they received a certificate attesting to their completion of the coursework.


Nanodegrees are an extension of MOOCs. Instead of receiving certificates of completion for individual courses, students follow a specific course of study structured much like a degree program with prerequisites, required courses, and electives. There is also a required project assignment. At the end of the coursework, a nanodegree is awarded.

These programs are highly tailored to skills needed in industry. As one example, the MOOC firm Udemy has partnered with AT&T and other technology businesses to design nanodegrees for front end development, back end development, and other technical roles.

How Capable are Graduates of Alternative Education Programs?

Just as university degree holders differ in their capabilities, the graduates of these programs also will differ in their capabilities. They still need to be screened through technical interviews for their ability. But technical ability isn't the only factor to be considered. Graduates of these alternative programs have demonstrated their motivation to develop themselves for careers in technology. That can go a long way in getting the job done.