Web development programs, like General Assembly’s, are generating a lot of talk. Just last month, The New York Times heralded computer programming bootcamps as 21st Century trade schools, offering a path to professional success at a time when good jobs are hard to find. Bootcamps and accelerated education programs are part of a trend that is set to strengthen America’s competitiveness, encourage new ideas and innovation, and impact the economy over the long term.
Gary Sinise recently penned an article in the Huffington Post. Perhaps best known for playing wounded veteran Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, the actor and philanthropist is also an amazing stage actor and a founding member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. But it’s the Lt. Dan role that changed his life, inspired a band (yes, the Lt. Dan Band,) and made him a supporter of and an advocate for America’s veterans. In the article, Sinise makes the case for training veterans for high-end manufacturing jobs. His group, the Get Skills to Work coalition, is designed to help connect veterans to colleges and companies across the country, looking to train individuals in the manufacturing field.
Sinise is right. America needs skilled people to do these jobs and veterans with the right training would be excellent candidates. But why stop at manufacturing? The same case should be made for helping veterans learn digital skills and computer programming. Now is the time to put resources and support behind training veterans for the most in-demand jobs through adult learning programs.
In today’s virtual world, the next great business idea need not come from California’s Silicon Valley or New York City’s Silicon Alley. It could come from a silicon cornfield, digital bayou, or mobile rustbelt in any one of thousands of tiny rural regions or small towns across America, towns that may have lost a past glory or never thrived because of a lack of employment opportunities. With online learning programs offering the ability to train adults to do in-demand careers, people throughout the country now have the same inroads to specialized learning and potential innovation available to residents of big cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston.
With nearly one-third of Americans now holding bachelor’s degrees, the level of college completion in this country is at an all-time high. Yet, according to the federal government, by 2022 the United States will fall short by 11 million the necessary number of workers with postsecondary education, whether bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, or vocational certificates. More importantly, we could face a gap between the skills learned in the classroom, and those needed to do in-demand jobs.