High School failed me. As a high school dropout, I knew I was taking a risk by rejecting the ‘normal route’ and knew I always wanted to be in the business world. During one assignment in my computer class, I did not show up in a suit and tie for the presentation. The teacher docked me for not ‘dressing proper’, which I found puzzling. After all, this class was about desktop publishing – why should this be an issue? It should be about the substance of my work and not some preconceived, superficial notion about how I looked. For me, it has always been about the substance and not the suit.
The good news is that federal aid for colleges has reached its high-water mark. The bad news is that millions of young adults feel they have no choice but to enroll in a four-year University, something that brings with it an inordinate amount of debt for many students.
“We were mixed on Pate’s need to attend college. He knows he wants to code and is focused on being a tech entrepreneur,” said Patrick. “Of course, college offers other experiences and a social network that are important to his development, but we are proud of his choice to skip college and go directly into the workforce. He’s already an accomplished member of the development team at work, and within four years, when his peers are first joining the workforce, he should already be much further along in seniority, experience and income.”
“I already have the knowledge and capability to write code that you’d pay someone who went to four years of college to write,” said Pate. “I love to solve problems, which is why I love coding. Going to college would be a waste of time for a computer science degree. Many of the peers I work with are self-taught. It would make sense for other degrees like law or medical.”
Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen offered a startling prediction last year when he stated that “as many as half of American universities would close or go bankrupt within 10 to 15 years.” Between online education and the emerging tech/coding industry, he sees technology undercutting the traditional four-year college model. I, for one, welcome this much needed tidal wave of change in how we develop and nurture the next generation of our workforce.
Thankfully, young adults have caught on to the failure of the status quo. In 2017, the think tank New America published a survey revealing that just 13 percent of millennials agree or strongly agree with the statement that “higher education today is fine how it is, while 79 percent said they disagree or strongly disagree with that sentiment.” If nearly 80 percent of young adults entering college classrooms view the system as failing, why are we continuing down this path?
I have spoken before about the benefit of seeking talent in unconventional places and the lack of soft-skills possessed by this younger generation. From the kitchen to the valet stand, talent is all around us and the static CV is dead. All that is needed is for employers to jump off the hamster wheel as it relates to recruitment and open up to the idea, however unconventional it may seem, that a degree does not necessarily mean the right fit for a position. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of coding.
Coders have been outliers in this trend to reject the traditional college degree, and there is data to back this up. An important 2015 Developer Survey by Stackoverflow revealed that nearly half of the 26,000 developers who responded did not have a computer science degree. What also caught my eye is that only 25 percent of developers worldwide have more than 10 years coding experience. This is a young person’s field, and combined with the high percentage of non-traditional schooling, it creates an environment of risk-taking and contrarian thinking — requisite skills for coding.
So, my advice to high schools is very simple. Encourage your gifted coders to seek careers now and not just when they secure a college degree. If these young adults develop the proper coding skills, companies will open their doors to interview them right out of the classroom. Coding is a zero sum game. If they possess the proper skills, they will succeed. From the large tech companies to the many emerging startups, the job boards are ripe with positions that are difficult to fill.