A Good Time to Go Back to School

The fashionistas say gray will be a hot color this fall, and baggy jeans are out. That means the throng of mature workers planning a return to campus will feel right at home. As manufacturing jobs continue to disappear or move off shore, the government and the technology industry are responding with increased educational funding and new curricula designed to retrain displaced workers for new careers, some of them in IT.

A Good Time to go Back to SchoolThe benefits of these programs aren’t limited to unemployed workers. Experienced and employed technology professionals can also learn new skills and transition to burgeoning fields like security and healthcare informatics by taking advantage of the new offerings.

Here are just a few examples of the latest commitments by the government and tech industry to worker training:

  • Last week, the Obama administration announced a proposal to provide $12 billion to the nation’s community colleges in an effort to churn out 5 million more graduates by 2020. Most community college students are actually employed adults who attend part-time, according to the New York Times, which also says some 295,000 community college attendees earn vocational certificates each year. Undoubtedly, some of the funding will provide additional certification programs that will benefit experienced tech workers.
  • Meanwhile, Cisco Systems said it’s expanding its Networking Academy – which currently reaches 44 percent of community college students through 2,200 locations – to include security, broadband infrastructure and healthcare IT through a workforce retraining initiative. The program will initially launch in Michigan, but Chief Executive John Chambers said the company may add the courses to Networking Academy curricula across the country, if all goes well. Officials in Michigan claim it isn’t uncommon to find professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees returning to community colleges for additional coursework, enabling them to compete for promotions or move into new fields.
  • Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its "Elevate America" program. It offers 1 million education and selected Microsoft certification vouchers at low or no cost to interested learners. Last week 5,700 free e-learning vouchers were made available to Iowa residents as part of a training program for unemployed workers.
  • If advanced training would be a boon to your career, Dice is also offering a helping hand. Dice Learning is a new portal that provides IT professionals with access to over 50,000 training programs across major skill areas through self-paced and instructor-led classes, certification tracks, boot camps, books, videos, and seminars. The site offers the opportunity to compare programs and receive tuition discounts.

Recessions always remind us job security is fleeting. With the emergence of so many new learning opportunities, this fall could be the perfect time to give your career a much needed boost by earning a degree or a new certification.

— Leslie Stevens-Huffman