While many industries have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the field of information technology (IT) is trending in the opposite direction as the result of a widening talent gap. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology professions are projected to grow 11 percent between 2019 and 2029.*As the industry continuously evolves, the opportunity to marry in-the-field experience with education is timely and important.
Providing an opportunity to earn both a degree and career experience is the goal of a new federally recognized registered apprenticeship program created this summer by Woz Enterprise, a division of Woz U. The program places community college graduates in tech fields in a boot camp-style learning environment and on a pathway toward a degree and work experience. Once they complete the training program from Woz U, they’re offered the opportunity to apply for entry-level apprenticeship roles in STEM fields and pursue a four-year tech degree at University of Phoenix.
Chris Coleman, president of Woz Enterprise, said the mission is to educate students with a focus on existing career opportunities while bridging the widening talent gap in an in-demand field.
“Students are able to upskill quickly and still work toward a traditional degree that will benefit their long-term prospects,” said Coleman. “It is a natural fit for an industry that is constantly evolving.”
The industry needs the support of educators, said Nathan Jones, UOPX director of product development, and University of Phoenix is poised to do so by combining its existing IT degree programs with the ability to assess and award credit for industry training. The University recognizes that IT professionals are in high demand, and has recently launched certificates aligning with industry shifts.
“The market is getting more and more challenging for employers to find skilled talent,” Jones said. “We’re working together not just to skill employees up, but to make them valuable throughout their careers.”
Boot camps are short term in nature and help rapidly upskill, Jones said. Conversely, universities are good at broad education but may not be agile enough for the changing needs of the industry, he said. That’s the value of a program like the one Woz Enterprise offers.
“Combining industry training and higher education credentials is the best of both worlds,” Jones said.
The apprenticeship program focuses on key tech fields, including software development, cybersecurity, data science, and computer support. The fields of study within the apprenticeship program were selected after working directly with employers to address their needs, Coleman said.
“We’re not operating off trends or data,” he said. “This will be driven by employer demands. These are not jobs we’re making up in a vacuum or based off of data on a website. We’re talking to the actual employers.”
UOPX and Woz U moved quickly in addressing employer and student needs. Conversations began in March 2020, and the product with the first cohort was launched this summer. Plans are to expand the program, Coleman said.
“It’s a really remarkable program that we’re building,” Coleman said. “If we can combine that effective training with on-the-job experience, we really bridge the gap. We give the learners the opportunity to acquire skills, demonstrate these skills, and earn a wage while they’re adding value to a company.”
*Information not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.