Tech labor shortage due to college degree requirements

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The tech industry is grappling with unprecedented labor shortages, and to emerge winners, employers may need to reset the entry bar.

There are now 197,000 more IT jobs open in the United States than a year ago, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of people joining the IT industry is expected to increase by 13% between 2020 and 2030. But if employers are serious about filling these much-needed roles, they need to rethink their recruitment strategies and consider removing the need for four-year degrees.

“You can get into tech without a college degree — it’s possible,” says Cory Althoff, senior vice president of the Computing Technology Industry Association. “We have a huge community of people who are all learning to program outside of a traditional four-year computer science course. [degree] and who have successfully completed the course to become software engineers in different types of companies.

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Although college is often seen as the only way to get in the professional world, the proliferation of coding and programming bootcamps is teaching workers computer skills that can be applied today. Combined with a labor shortage, the technology landscape is rapidly changing to create pathways to industry that did not exist before.

“There was already a shortage of tech workers before the pandemic, and now with the pandemic and the Great Resignation, it’s even worse,” says Althoff. “This is a great opportunity for companies to reassess why they require university degrees and why they [may or may not] need them to fill these positions.

Althoff is part of the new generation of self-taught software engineers. After earning his undergraduate degree in political science, Althoff learned to program and code in his spare time until he gained enough experience to land software engineer job on eBay.

Although Althoff didn’t start out with a traditional engineering background, he says there are many more candidates like him willing to work. Not only will they find employees with real-world experience from the start, but they will also advance their DEI goals.

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“One thing that the [tech industry] really struggles to have a diverse set of employees,” he says. “When you start removing the degree requirements, you now have access to a more diverse set of candidates and are able to hire people who wouldn’t traditionally be in tech.”

Instead of the standard CV, Althoff predicts that future technology employees will more than likely submit its GitHub – a commonly used platform where software developers can store and submit their work, including projects and code they have worked on and collaborated on.

Many self-taught software engineers will also have freelance work under their belt and enough coding experience to be successful in entry-level technician positions where they will then learn the skills needed to continue climbing the career ladder.

“Companies need to adapt and start accepting more self-taught software engineers, because workers currently have the upper hand,” says Althoff. “Companies that refuse will not be able to compete.”

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