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Vacancies at tech jobs rose to more than 700,000 in the US, as a shortage of tech talent, engineers, and students caused a slowdown in the growth of Big Tech and startups. In NYC alone, Columbia University, New York University, the College University of New York (CUNY) and the state colleges cannot graduate computer science or data science degrees faster if they tried. Powered by Income Share Agreements, coding schools continue to bridge the gap for startup founders with full-stack, data science and cybersecurity talent. If New York City is an example of the shortage of tech talent across companies — then America has a growing talent problem.

Applied Technology skills are needed everywhere. Startups and Fortune 500 companies need engineers who can drive business value from Day 1. Yes, recruiters can source candidates who know python, C++, Java, or SQL; how effective are these hiring techniques? Recently, developers revealed Silicon Valley’s Dirty Hiring secret on Hacker News. Engineers in 2020 are hired on their ability to code, not where they studied or what certifications are on their LinkedIn profile. Learning may accelerate with coding competition platforms such as Kaggle and Leetcode, but does this create better on-the-job engineers? Applied learning will differentiate high performing engineer’s more than 360 performance reviews or agile workstreams.

Colleges are racing to transform degrees with data specializations to allow all students to enter the market as #DataReady. Given that the college income Premium is almost 0, according to a paper by William R. Emmons from the St. Louis Fed, these transformations could not have come sooner. Partnerships with companies can bridge the gap in applied learning since the skills are as important as the insights delivered. From Microsoft’s Future of Work Institute in Louisville, Kentucky to JP Morgan’s commitment on workforce development, everyone is learning to reskill and upskill in technology. Every company is a technology company today — where 20th-century business models must adapt to a Digital First society.

2Who pays for digital skills improvement? IBM allegedly only fired thousands of old engineers without considering reskill options. GE sold off its Digital Business Unit into the graveyard when it admitted it was too late to be in the Digital Transformation game. Even Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank cut back on sponsoring employee MBAs, causing job retention to decrease and employees to go into massive amounts of student debt. With recent figures estimating the average student debt at over $28,000 in the United States, to what extent is the Education market primed to collapse into a debt spiral?

Should the educational expense be the responsibility of the student or the company or university? While many students in Europe often receive a free public education, I believe that Income Share Agreements are the next Gold Rush to cash in on tech because of Company Valuations. From Tesla’s valuation rising above that of General Motors, to Toyota achieving Level-4 capable Autonomous Vehicles out of its Toyota Research Institute, developers are leading the way in the New Technology Economy.

Income Share Agreements make sense in an expensive educational market where salaries increase for desirable skills. Promise-to-pay systems could present their own risks; critics will question what percentage of students will be hired within 6 months of graduation and they will reference the next tech downturn, eventually being right on-the-money.

What if companies could provide continuous learning? Beyond DatacampPluralsight, and Udemy, I argue that continuous learning must be squad and pod-based. For years, Microsoft and Google have given employees up to 20% of their time for research projects and self-directed learning. Independent project time can generate innovation efforts, but how much return does this yield?

Even 4-day workweeks (which Microsoft trialled in Japan in 2019) improved productivity, but did it increase learning? Companies must take responsibility for quarterly or semi-annual project-based learning to maintain the relevancy of employee skills. Whether internal with a Learning & Development organization, or external with universities and coding schools, the cost to reskill employees is less expensive than hiring new resources.

3The future of learning is on-the-job Why have Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank stopped paying for MBAs? Candidates who graduated could not translate their skills to improved on-the-job performance. While Ivy League programs remain in-demand and generate record salaries, applications are declining to world-class MBA programs according to the Wall Street Journal.

The technology companies that were once icons in the American spotlight soon learned that it was quicker to replace candidates with new hires that had the desired skills. These ramifications from the 2008 Global Financial Recession resulted in a shift for education. I believe executives, recruiters and managers don’t know the answer for their digital illiterate workforce. Coupled with a desire to trim costs and automate, many analysts have decided to fork their educational bill to get ahead and stay relevant in the workforce.

We are all lifelong learners, and with accountability through coaching and mentoring, everyone can be a developer, and we can all be ready to work in #DataFirst companies. Relevant technology skills are always changing, more jobs are becoming technical, and coding is critical for the next wave of jobs. However, Executives and Startup Founders in technology ventures continue to share a common message: there is a growing crisis to hire competent developers who can translate code into business results. Flexible training could help solve a tech shortage. Coupled with project-based learning, I suspect that businesses can transform and retain their workforce.

An audio version of this Medium article is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.