The U.S. lament that there are plenty of jobs but not nearly enough people with the training to qualify for them may fade with the introduction of the on-line “NanoDegree.”
AT&T, in collaboration with on-line educator Udacity, has just announced this initiative in vocational training. According to New York Times columnist, Eduardo Porter, the relatively short and inexpensive course “is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, IOS applications designer or the like…. It may finally offer a reasonable shot at harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream.”
AT&T spokeswoman Charlene Lake explains that, “We are trying to widen the pipeline. This is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business.” Udacity’s Sebastian Thurn goes further, in effect challenging traditional higher education institutions: “It is like a university… built by industry.” The “NanoDegree” program is a career precursor to the kind of program Google has developed with Udacity for its employee-programmers working on Google platforms.
With all of its merits, however, make no mistake: The “NanoDegree” providers do not claim to be delivering the fully-rounded educational experience of the traditional four-year undergraduate experience. And many colleges and universities across the country are themselves evolving such programs to make even liberal arts students better prepared for business careers. Harvard, at the top of the educational food chain, has just established a supplemental online program called Credentials of Readiness (CORe) intended to give liberal arts students what it calls “the language of business” — accounting, analytics and economics.
All of this promising ferment at the business/higher education interface is further nourished by innovative commitments such as Starbucks just-announced program to pay employees’ college tuition.
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