IEEE Computer Society Team
Suppose a financial company hires you as part of its cybersecurity team. In your first week, you’re charged with designing a honeypot to attract a specific kind of ransomware, luring it into an isolated, safe environment with fake digital assets. You then have to write a detailed report on how the malware carrying the ransomware attacked your honeypot environment and the implications for your real network ecosystem.
Which undergrad class broke down the engineering, applications, and network implications of honeypots, including how to create them, step-by-step? If, like many computer science majors, “Honeypot 101” wasn’t on your course list, you’re not alone. And the tech industry is starting to figure that out. Further, many young professionals are discovering that they may be better off investing the four years following high school in getting real-world experience instead of a — potentially over-valued — piece of paper.
Why There’s a Gap Between 4-Year University Programs and Industry Needs
Why does a college degree often fall short when it comes to the practical knowledge you need to succeed? The short, easy answer: Technology. Specifically, tech evolves too quickly for college course material to keep up.
For example, suppose a company has developed a neural network that communicates with automated machines on multiple factory floors using 6G technology. How long will it take a leading university to develop a curriculum designed to help engineer a system to secure this kind of network, especially considering that 6G is — at the time of writing — still under development?
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Colleges Can’t Keep Up
This conundrum repeats itself throughout the tech sphere. Some of the most compelling technologies are so cutting-edge that many undergrads don’t even know about them. If a professor were to invest the time and energy needed to develop a course teaching how to use this tech, the course might not even get enough students. It would be too ahead of its time.
As a result, organizations have been forced to either wait for a professional with the kind of niche experience they need or invest in teaching someone less qualified yet bedecked with a degree how to use their systems. This has given birth to a range of educational solutions that have been steadily filling the gap.
The Rise of Industry-Focused Educational Platforms
There was a time when an online certification was received with pursed lips and rolling eyes. Not anymore. Learning platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Scaler, Google Education, and Codecademy have not only gained reputations for providing strong educational content, but they’re also filling the skills gap that universities have been struggling with.
For example, instead of investing six-to-eight — or more — years in college trying to grab enough courses on AI and programming to qualify for a machine learning job, you can hop on Codecademy and learn how to become an AI Engineer by taking only the courses you absolutely need.
Also, why roll the dice and commit to a four-year institution — that may or may not have the teachers you need — when you can have real experts from Google guide you through machine learning?
The Role of Industry-Focused Platforms in Professional Development
Similarly, specific tech-learning platforms are becoming a stop-gap measure for companies that used to send employees to the local college campus for periodic upskilling. Organizations can simply pay for online courses, either one at a time or via a subscription model, and empower their employees with the skills they need.
Not only can industry-focused learning platforms save companies time and money, but because students can learn at their own pace, they may enjoy a more positive, impactful learning experience.
Tech Companies Are Shifting Their Hiring Practices
Google, Tesla, and other tech giants are no longer requiring a college degree as they scout talent. It’s more important to them that they hire someone who can do the job, as opposed to a grad with mostly theoretical knowledge.
Also, companies are starting to recognize that by requiring a college degree, you automatically preclude hundreds of qualified applicants from submitting applications. By dropping the degree requirement, employers broaden their potential talent pool, increasing the chances of nabbing the right person for the job.
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