Our educational system is the reason there’s a tech talent shortage

There is a tech talent shortage and one of the many reasons can be attributed to the missing “soft skills” from potential candidates. The Wall Street Journal reaffirmed this and suggested employers are looking for candidates who can communicate, work well with others and be proactive.

However, a big reason candidates lack these “soft skills” is because our educational system has failed us in two ways:

  1. They don’t provide enough opportunities to hone in on these skills inside and the outside the classroom .
  2. The education model of a college degree as a gateway to a job or successful career is limited.

Reason 1: Education doesn’t provide enough opportunities to hone in on these skills inside and outside the classroom

For instance, introductory or general education college courses are largely comprised of 500 seat lecture halls, possibly more. Students not only are spending almost $200k on a college degree at elite private universities but the majority of it is spent in lectures listening to professors talk and click through powerpoint slides- all of which students could easily watch from their own dorm.

Then there’s the alternative education model where students are spending an average of $15k on a 12 week intensive boot camp to train for a career in tech. Students are working furiously behind a screen on projects either coding, analyzing data and or designing a new web-site. While there are opportunities to work in groups on projects, the time crunch of these programs don’t allow for sustained engagement.

Reason 2: The education model of a college degree as a gateway to a job is limited.

Students wanting to enter the tech field have more options to learn and practice those “soft skills” outside the traditional college environment. They can learn the technical skills from a variety of online courses at a less costly investment than attending college. In addition, they can easily hone in and practice their social skills outside the classroom. Michael Ellsberg addresses this by suggesting we can “potentially also learn them at a job, working in or creating a start-up, volunteering, traveling on a shoestring, or even starting a rock band.”

How can we solve this problem of equipping and preparing students to meet the rigor for technical jobs? How can we as educators, students, and learners best prepare ourselves?

Whose responsibility is it? Does it come with inquiry, critical thinking, lifelong learning and continuous practice? All of that — to be successful and competitive for a tech job.

Our educational institutions need to incorporate opportunities from the beginning for students to work together on projects, ask questions that shows and demonstrates their thought process, and engaging in critical conversations about their work. By teaching students how to talk and engage with each other, they will be more successful in the job market. These will also be useful in coffee meetings, networking/interviewing and interacting in the workplace. Most of all, these are lifelong skills that are valuable outside the workplace setting.

Teachers have a responsibility to improve their teaching to be effective mentors and role models for students. They need to incorporate opportunities in the classroom and syllabus for collaborative work

Students too, need to be proactive and help their teachers understand that they aren’t learning effectively in the traditional lecture and or powerpoint format. They need to seek opportunities to engage with their instructors and peers in and outside the classroom. This will encourage them to put their phone away and talk to people rather than continuously texting.

In short:

  • Educators need to create opportunities for students from the beginning of their educational experience to engage in dialogue inside and outside the classroom.
  • Educational institutions need to change their teaching method — less lecture and more opportunities to interact either in small groups, engage with peers one-on-one and or in settings outside the classroom.
  • Teachers need to update their teaching methods and incorporate active learning, dialogue and engagement to foster these skills in students.
  • Students also need to be proactive in challenging their instructor’s teaching methods where engagement and interaction is limited.

These “soft skills” are necessary so students can explain their analysis and work among a team of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

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