A Case Study

Sorry for not keeping this on Twitter, some conversations are a bit difficult to have in 140 characters (or less) and the list of people involved is getting pretty long.

I feel for a lot of the individuals in the manufacturing sector, they watch plant after plant shut down, down-size, or move out of the country every day. Any person with the potential to retrain and move into another sector would be wise to do so, but the move is a difficult one, if not impossible.

While my situation is slightly different, I can easily empathize with theirs.

Biggest issue is the catch 22 of education. Like many of the factory workers I’m in my mid-30’s and 3 years to go to Fanshawe seems like an incredible waste of time¬†unrealistic investment of both time and money.

Traditional College

Not that there is anything wrong with Fanshawe’s program, I’m sure it’s a great education, and it is what most employers look for when hiring an entry level developer. In fact my wife went back to Fanshawe as a mature student for graphic design so I have first hand knowledge of the challenge returning to school can be. I’m not about to put our family through that again.

Career College

If time is an issue there are always career colleges like TriOs and Westervelt, but they are pricy, intense, and don’t sound like they get much respect. (Note: Please, let me know if anyone has had a different experience.)

MOOC

A promising new education opportunity has emerged with MOOCs (Massive Online Open Course). These are typically free and a great place to receive an education, or is it?

The largest problem with MOOCs is the inability to grade participants. Once you start grading, it requires teachers (or TAs) to spend hours reviewing student’s work, which is not feasible to do with free programs. These are still valuable learning experiences, but I don’t see companies easily accepting any sort of self directed education as “qualified”. I don’t anticipate or expect my reading list of management books will ever be considered an equivalent to an MBA either.

Online Tutorials

Some hope is in programs like Codecademy where you complete tutorials and earn badges. These at least give markers of progress. On a side note Codecademy is a bit rigid, while teaching principals, there is no way to to succeed except the standard accepted method, no points for creativity, and often has difficulty when even a correct answer is not what the site wants, verbatim.

So when do you think employers start accepting credentials from a MOOC or other online tutorial service?

What do you think an intelligent individual working a decent ($45k/yr.) factory job and supporting a family should do to switch careers and fill the gap in qualified tech workers, and do you think it’s feasible?