Yesterday, the New England Board of Higher Education hosted “Talent 4.0: How Employable Are New England’s College Graduates and What Can Higher Education Do About It” at the Federal Reserve building in Boston. An eclectic group of boot camps, Universities, Colleges, Corporations, and Non-profits were present. I happened to snag a front-row seat for The Demand for Tech Skills: What it Means for Higher Education, Careers and Public Policy.  Moderated by Level’s own, Nick Ducoff the panel included:

  • Susan Buck, Instructor Computer Science, Wellesley College, Harvard University Extension, Co-Founder, Women’s Coding Collective
  • Jeff Forbes, Expert, Education and Workforce Group, Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation
  • Tom Ogletree, Director of Social Impact, General Assembly
  • Pat Yongpradit, Chief Academic Officer,

A panel this diverse made for some great conversations. If you’re entering the tech workforce, here are some of the memorable takeaways:

Soft skills are in demand in the job force
Nick Ducoff kicked off the conversation with quoting an earlier presentation by Jeff Selingo, “5 skills are common across 80% of 20 million job listings. 4/5 are soft skills. The one tech skill is Microsoft Excel.” The panel discussed skills such as computational thinking, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.

The most in-demand skills are changing all the time
Higher Education, whether it be a boot camp, University or College all have the same challenge and that’s keeping up with the ever-changing technology skills employers are looking for in a potential employee. Everyone could agree that making sure potential employees have in-demand skills was necessary. They also agreed that education and industry need to form a partnership for success.

Job functions are becoming more hybrid
Today’s job titles and responsibilities are not as cut and dry as they were in the past. Positions are becoming more hybrid. You especially see this today in marketing. Successful marketers are data-driven and look at analytics to draw conclusions. They might not write code regularly, but they know enough to be dangerous!

Not everyone needs to be a programmer, but it’s good to have the tech vocabulary
Pat Yongpradit summed it up best, “Not every student needs to be a programmer, but every student should be empowered to have computational thinking.” Knowing how to analyze data and create solutions in ordered steps is critical in today’s tech-driven workforce. The panel all agree that there is a clear need for a  workforce that has the ability to “think like developers.” Susan Buck pointed out, “There are two types of computer science paths — one is for general education and one is for programmers.”

Boot camps are complementary to a traditional education
The conversation got especially interesting when Pat Yongpradit asked General Assembly’s Tom Ogletree if he would suggest to an 18-year-old to choose a boot camp over traditional college. The answer was no. He went on to further explain that the boot camp model isn’t meant to be a college alternative. It’s an avenue to help professionals change careers at an accelerated pace and lower price point. Being completely biased, (I took a boot camp and work at Level) I completely agree. My college education built my career and my boot camp education helped me pivot.

Do you agree with yesterday’s panel? Let us know in the comments below.



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