Technical training

A person wrote to me: “The more I read about the Industrial Revolution 4.0, the more I worry about my future. When I read your blog I was scared too. It seems no matter what I do, robots and technology are pushing people like me out of a job. What could I do? Please advise.”

Answer: Although some economists have predicted that soon Robots and Artificial Intelligence will take people’s jobs but you need to ask yourself: “Who create these technologies and robots? The answer is technical people. So if you want to ensure that you will have a job in the future, you need to develop technical skills. Today the advance of technology has created more opportunities for people who have or are willing to learn technical skills.

Getting these skills does not mean you have to go to school. There are many online courses that you can learn without paying such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs.) or Youtube tutorials. If you put in your effort to learn, you can succeed. Since there is a shortage of technical skills workers, companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon are hiring people without a degree, as long as they have the skills that they need.

Last summer, I taught a five-week computer programming class for high school students as part of a STEM initiative. Within a few weeks, representatives from Google and Facebook were there to hire students who complete the course. They told me: “If they can program in Java, Javascript, and Python, we are willing to hire them as programmers. I asked: “But these are just 11 and 12 graded students who only have a few weeks of training.” A representative explained: “We need more skilled workers. We are hiring college graduates for advanced jobs but programming job is good enough for high school students and people who do not go to college. We are now recruiting in high school to find qualified workers as we need more programmers. If they are good at programming, we are willing to train them for other jobs too. We are paying high schools to develop more computer classes like this as we need workers to fill our jobs.” Another person added: “There are more jobs in technology than people even thought. If they know what skills we need, how to develop them then they will get a good job.”

All over newspapers and TV news, technology companies are complaining about the “skills gap” preventing them from getting workers that they need. And this is NOT just in the U.S. as Europe and Asia also have the same problem too. When I was in China, I saw a lot of advertising for programming jobs in their newspapers and billboard. I asked my friends and they said: “We need more technical people because our schools do not produce enough of them.” I was surprised: “For a country of billion people and thousands of universities and you do not have enough technical workers? My friend explained: “College graduates prefer to work for big companies with good office jobs. To them, programming jobs are not suitable for a four-year education because the salary is low. We have high unemployment among college graduates as they are not willing to work on lower-paying jobs.”

Currently, issues are being raised about the lack of support from schools to meet industry demand but many academic people maintain their position that university is NOT a vocational school and they know what is best for their students. Companies are blaming schools that focus too much on theories without applications to develop the needed skills and the schools are blaming companies for interfering in their education works. Many parents and students were angry with the schools about the high unemployment of college graduates and the lack of proper advice from career advisors. These debates continue and the victims are students who do not know what to study and what skills that they need.

Students often ask me: “What skills do I need and how do I develop the skills that can get me a good job?” For years I have written many articles on my blog about this topic that have been translated into several languages. When students ask: “What should I study?” My answer is: “Technology, Technology, and Technology.” Last year, a third-year student lamented: “But I studied Business Administration. Is it too late?” I told her: “It is never too late to learn anything. Every business will need people with technical skills. Today every business company is becoming a technology company. As a Business student, you need to take some computer classes to strengthen your skills. Regardless where you work, what type of work you do, you need to have technical skills.”

A high school student lamented: “My family is poor and cannot afford a college education for me. I need to have a job to support my parents.” I explained: “You do not need to go to college to get a job. What you need is skills and there are many places that you can learn these skills. You can learn from online classes such as MOOCs, or attend short computer programming courses to help you to get a job. You should start with programming classes in Java, JavaScript. And Python. Once you have these skills, take Cloud Computing class or Network development class then you will do well.”

A college graduate asks “I graduated in literature. Can I learn technical skills? I told him: “Why not? As a college educated person, you can learn anything if you put your effort in. I suggested that you take computer programming classes in Java, and C++ then take Computer security classes such as Cyber threat detection and Intrusion Detection and you can work as a Computer security specialist.”

There are many technical skills that are needed in the industry today, and it is hard to list everything. There will be more skills emerging as technology is changing all the time. The technology fields will continue to evolve fast because of that rapid change. Since many universities are too slow to change, many companies will hire people who have the skills that they need instead of relying on “The Degree” and over time, I think it will change many things, especially the traditional education system.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
Don't forget to follow us on Facebook!