Steve Wozniak is most famous for being Steve Jobs’ right-hand man. Wozniak designed and built many of the earliest Apple computers. Since leaving Apple, Wozniak has continued to be a technology thought-leader. However, business-wise he’s been a bit quiet. Now, Wozniak is set to take on a new challenge and a new industry. Wozniak recently announced plans to found “Woz U”, which will focus on preparing students for a career in technology.
With the United States already home to over 2,500 accredited higher-education institutes, it’s tempting wonder why Wozniak would bother launching yet another university. The answer is quite simple: Wozniak is hoping to disrupt the university space by utilizing technology and providing hard-skills training.
Higher Education Today: Expensive and Inadequate For The Modern World
Woz U will strive to educate students without pushing them deep into debt. In the United States, student loan debt has climbed to over $1.3 trillion dollars. Worse yet, even as students are shelling out more and more for their education, experts are warning that many graduates will be ill-prepared for work after they graduate. This is especially true for students who want to work in the technology sector.
A recent survey found that 60% of hiring managers believe that recent college graduates are woefully unprepared for the workplace. Another survey found that 74% of young people felt that their university education did a poor job of preparing them for the professional world. Given that both students and managers are worried about the quality of education provided by universities, opportunities for different education models are emerging.
Alternative Education Programs May Close Talent Gaps
While the world has changed rapidly over the past few decades, universities have stagnated, especially when it comes to preparing people for a career in technology. Those universities that do offer training in computer science and other related fields are often teaching obsolete coding languages and technologies. As a result, even students who graduate with “STEM” degrees are often under-prepared for a career in their chosen field.
These short-comings have spurred the rapid growth of various alternative education models that have been designed to impart real-world skills and knowledge. Woz U will be joining a growing list of alternative education organizations, including Udemy, Coursera, and Lynda.com. Many coders and companies are also sponsoring “code camps”, which allow students to fully immerse themselves in programming for several weeks.
Many of these alternative education programs eschew the “theory”-based training found at most universities and instead focus on hard-skills. In other words, don’t talk about coding, don’t read PowerPoints and textbooks. Get out there and code. Build and debug programs. Put theory into practice. For programmers and other technology workers, this hands-on training is often far more effective and meaningful.
Woz U Looking To Be Innovative and Disruptive
Woz U is taking that to heart with the motto “Education. Reprogrammed.” When Woz U launches, the university will focus on training software developers and computer support specialists. In the future, Woz U plans to add data science, cybersecurity, and mobile app development. The curriculum will focus on hands-on training and skills directly relevant to careers in technology.
While Woz U will offer some full-time education program, the university will also develop programs for companies to train their own staff. Discovering and retaining talent has become a major issue for many companies, and especially tech firms. If companies can increase their own training and advancement capabilities, they may be able to lessen this burden.
Besides the higher education platform, Woz U also plans to partner with tech companies to identify, recruit, and train employees via customized programs. Woz U also aims to build a k-12 program to nurture children who aspire to work in tech. Woz U will offer online and on-site programs.
Are Alternative Tech Programs The New Trade Schools?
The emergence of Waz U, Udemy, and other alternative education models hints at a shift back towards “trade” training. The number of people pursuing careers in skilled trades has fallen as more students have chosen to go to universities instead. However, many college graduates are now struggling to find jobs in their chosen field.
Research by the Federal Reserve showed that from 2009 to 2013 45% of recent college graduates were working in jobs that did not require a college degree. The Great Recession is finally behind us and unemployment in the United States has dropped to 4.2%. As a result, these numbers have almost certainly improved over the past few years but finding a degree-related job remains a problem for grads.
Woz U and many other non-traditional organizations are now looking to disrupt higher education. Early indicators suggest that they’ll find success. Coding camps and other similar programs have proven to be popular among employers. By focusing on hard-skills, these programs will offer training that is more directly relevant to employers. Universities might get burned by these non-traditional programs. However, it’s just as likely that they watch, learn, and adaptive those innovative measures that produce results.