Some American states are making money available for high school graduates so they can learn skills to help them get technology jobs without a college degree.
One example is the northeastern state of Connecticut. It has invested $70 million to put young people and adults through short-term training programs that can lead to good paying technology jobs.
Some states see such programs as a good solution as college costs keep rising and businesses have trouble finding skilled technology workers.
The programs are known as “nondegree skills training.” They have helped people like Mohameth Seck, who left college after two years. Seck said he wanted to work in technology but the classes he was offered in a traditional college program “weren’t really interesting” to him. He also said traditional college takes too long to finish.
So Seck decided to enter a one-year computer training program run by a nonprofit organization. Today, the 25-year-old teaches computer coding at a skills training center, or academy, in Stamford, Connecticut. Seck said friends who finished the program also have good jobs.
The academy where Seck teaches is operated by a company called Synchrony. The instructors teach classes in website design, management and other important subjects to current high school students and recent high school graduates.
Nicole Samaniego is one of the students. She told online publication The Hechinger Report that at first, she wanted to study a form of engineering. But after taking classes at the academy, she had other ideas. “After doing this program for almost five months now, I saw that I wanted to change my career,” she said.
When she starts school at the University of Connecticut later this month, she will center her studies on computer science. For students who do not plan to attend college, the academy offers job search assistance.
Niall Dammando is a leader in Connecticut’s office of workforce strategy. He said academies like the one run by Synchrony can help a state’s finances. This is because skilled technology workers are likely to make more money and pay more state taxes. Dammando said this is a real incentive for the state to get workers into higher paying jobs.
Bridgette Gray works for a nonprofit called Opportunity@Work. It seeks to get employers to hire people who do not have college degrees. Gray said her own son left college after one school term and took classes with a group called Per Scholas that offers technology training both online and throughout the U.S. She said her son now earns more than $90,000 a year at the age of 27.
Research carried out by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce showed that people who do get a college degree earn about 84 percent more over their lifetimes. But not everyone can get into, pay for or do well in college.
David Soo leads an organization called Jobs for the Future. He said the college model that has been in place for the last 40 years does not work for everyone. And this is especially true for students who are Black, Hispanic or whose families do not make a lot of money. “We need to find a better way to serve those students,” Soo said.
Brad Hershbein, with the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, agrees. In the past, he said, employers would take inexperienced workers and then train them for better jobs as they got older. But at some point, that model became costly and businesses decided to depend on colleges to provide that kind of training.
But now, many businesses are in great need of trained workers. To fill that need, some companies are creating their own academies or hiring students from places like Synchrony. Large technology companies like IBM and Google have started their own programs because they can train workers faster than universities.
Recently, however, some businesses have been reducing the number of their employees because of worries about an economic slowdown. Among technology companies announcing job cuts are Robinhood, Oracle, Shopify, SoundCloud, Netflix and Coinbase.
Such job cuts lead to more people seeking employment. As a result, industry experts say when a company considers hiring two people with the same skills, the one with a college degree is more likely to get the job.
Anthony Carnevale is the leader of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. He said that while job training is good, it is not 100 percent correct to tell people they cannot benefit from a college degree.
One reason companies might hire college graduates is because they think they might have better communication and teamwork skills.
To make up for that, one job training nonprofit called YearUp is seeking to provide that kind of instruction as well. Gerald Chertavian, who leads the organization, said YearUp includes training on how people can succeed in office environments, rather than just teaching how to write code or design websites.
In the end, even the experts who say it is good to get a college degree recognize that there might be reasons not to go to college. “The best outcome is that people have choices,” said Georgetown’s Carnevale. “And that we ensure that all the choices lead to a good job.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
And I'm Faith Pirlo.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on a story by the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.
Words in This Story
graduate– n. a person who has finished a period of school such as high school or college
degree –n. a document that shows a person has finished a period of school
strategy –n. a careful plan to complete something or achieve a goal over a period of time
incentive –n. something that makes a person want to take on a task or project
benefit –n. a good result or effect
ensure –v. to make sure something happens
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