Back to school resources for IT pros

Mobile and online technologies are shifting job-based training from a top-down model to self-directed career development that is personalized, flexible and continuous. Here are some alternatives if you lack the time, money or stamina to go back to college or university.


It’s September and you know what that means: back to school, kids.

I remember September when I was a kid. It meant shopping for new clothes, buying another tin box math set with the pointy metal compass that barely ever got used, and buckling down for another 10 months of classroom learning.

For IT professionals, learning is no longer confined to 10 months of the year (or to a classroom, for that matter). Unlike that geometry test you crammed for in fifth grade, staying on top of new technology trends and adapting to shifting business conditions is an ongoing responsibility.

That’s why we’ve created this lesson plan for IT pros. Keep reading to find out which skills you really need to have right now and how you can go about getting them.

The skills you need

Here’s a no-brainer: cyber security skills are still highly sought after. When Intel recently surveyed companies in eight countries (including France, Japan, Israel and the U.S.), 82 per cent said there’s a cyber security skills shortage at their enterprise.

Security isn’t the only game in town, of course. British recruiting firm Harvey Nash gave TechTarget a sneak peek at its global report on tech hiring trends for 2017. It found the hottest IT skills are all about analytics, especially data science and big data. In terms of non-data skills, DevOps is seeing strong demand.

Harvey Nash also took a look at up-and-coming skills and discovered that hiring prospects for artificial intelligence and machine learning are both heating up considerably. No wonder — 41 per cent of the surveyed IT pros believe their own job will be automated within 10 years.

Canadian firm Igloo dug up another interesting nugget when it pored over the most common skills and positions listed in IT job postings on Indeed.ca. Although the most commonly posted job title was ‘engineer’ (software engineer, to be exact), that was followed by two very non-technical ones: ‘project manager’ and ‘business analyst.’

Take note, students. As IT becomes more aligned with the goals and budgets of business units, these so-called soft skills are increasingly important to have in every technology field.

Where to get them

Okay, so that’s quite a list of skills you might want to acquire or improve. The good news is there are more ways to do that than ever before. As described in Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends report, mobile and online technologies are shifting job-based training from a top-down model (the boss tells you what you need to know) to a self-directed type of career development that is personalized, flexible and continuous.

“Employees can now take a course on nearly any subject online, search for an expert video or podcast, or learn a quickly needed skill and even earn a college degree in a new topic like data science, without even leaving their desk — or a couch or coffee shop,” Deloitte suggests.

Here are some other alternatives if you lack the time, money or stamina to go back to college or university.

Go private: Companies like ctc TrainCanada and Learning Tree offer boot camps, workshops, courses and certifications in both technical and business skills; options include in-class, workplace or virtual learning.

MOOCs: Massive open online courses (like those on Coursera) are often free and provided by large universities; in Deloitte’s study, 43 per cent of companies were willing to incorporate them into employee training this year, up from 30 per cent in 2015.

Social learning: Some companies post training videos, podcasts or collaborative learning modules on their social intranets; vendors like Yuja offer platforms featuring social tools like blogs, forums, chat rooms, file sharing, group messaging, video live-streaming and quizzes.

Boot camp: A study cited by InsideHigherEd found that 67 coding boot camps in the U.S. produced more than 16,000 graduates and generated US$172 million in revenue last year; grads from one called Hack Reactor had a 98 per cent job placement rate and an average starting salary of US$150,000 after the 12-week course.

Microsoft: To combat the industry shortage of analytics talent, the company is launching its first Microsoft Professional Degree program in October; it focuses on data science and will be available to early and mid-stage tech pros on the non-profit site edX.org.

Internships: Who says you’re too old to be an intern? As detailed in the Washington Post, tech firms like PayPal, Intel and Zendesk are offering paid ‘returnships’ to mid-career women re-entering the sector after taking time off to raise kids.

If you keep on learning, hopefully you can keep on earning.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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