As traditional academic institutions scramble to adjust to the demands of the ever-changing marketplace, Generation Do-It-Yourself ("GenDIY") is taking matters into their own hands by shaping the paths of their careers themselves.
Spyros Fotiou is a great example of GenDIY success. Based on what he saw the job market was demanding, Spyros bridged the gap between the skills he had and the skills he needed. In three months Spyros transitioned from being unemployed to working as a full-scale web programmer. How?
After pursuing a mainstream education pathway of electrical and computer engineering in college, Spyros graduated with new skills but was unable to find work. Relocating from Athens, Greece to Berlin, he arrived with a basic knowledge of the concepts and ideas behind programming but no specific coding skills. His background led him to a job with a Berlin startup in a non-programming position. This gave him a good sense of the industry and opened his eyes to the many programming jobs available as well as the possibilities for a more dynamic and creative career path. He realized then that actually what he needed was more skills.
Spyros knew there were a number of online web development training possibilities available to him but chose CareerFoundry. It was the flexibility of the program that appealed to him:
"Living in Berlin I realized there were a lot of (programming) positions offered that were interesting to me. I chose to train with CareerFoundry because the company was also based in Berlin, it had the advantage of being online and it was also very affordable."
An imperative to GenDIY is the necessity to collaborate and learn in teams, seeking support and direction from multiple resources. As coursework became more complex, Spyros utilized a mentoring component to the program and checked in with his mentor whenever he needed. He was guided through his learning as opposed to finding out what went wrong after the fact, which is common in results-assessed learning.
The success of students like Spyros has begun to inspire others to follow in his footsteps. Career pathways have changed considerably over the past few decades and people no longer look for longevity alone. Diversity, sustainability, creativity and adaptability are all considerations that GenDIY students take into account. As they weigh the differences between offline and online education streams they see the disparity in the investment of time and money against the perceived outcomes. There's a reluctance to proceed knowing there will be a struggle to find decent career prospects with traditional qualifications, so the natural progression is to take a DIY approach. In many cases, GenDIY students are simply seeking more dynamic learning opportunities that provide specific skills, for work that they can see is abundantly available today.
At the industry level, the demand for trained developers and UX designers is ongoing. Job boards advertise hundreds of positions daily and fresh computer science graduates don't always have the specific skills required to be able to do the work. Discussions about the perceived inadequacy of tech a bootcamp style education (8 - 12 week intensive learning programs) can get quite heated, but like the industry, the opinions are subjective. However as students in the past have had to wade through years of university education, GenDIY students are rapidly filling places in immersive short-term programs or 'tech bootcamps' with much higher retention rates and better postgraduate employment success. The specific tech needs of companies are constantly changing and finding innovative ways to nurture and educate talent is essential to its continuing evolution. It's true that computer science degrees provide a comprehensive foundation for a full service programmer. But, online web development and UX Design programs offered by providers like CareerFoundry, Code.org and General Assembly are not only filling the gaps while traditional curriculum design catches up, they are redefining people's educational directions.
Spyros of course has not looked back. He now lists HTML, CSS and Bootstrap in his skill set and is a busy freelancer building websites for German companies from vintage clothing stores to business consultancies. He told us:
"I never would have imagined any of this would be possible this time last year."
Melinda Barlow is an Australian freelance writer and editor, based in Berlin. Find Melinda on Twitter at @melindajbarlow.