Will college become superfluous in the digital economy? It’s a real possibility—at least, for some jobs.
A new two-year, hands-on apprentice program, Enstitute, teaches skills in information technology, computer programming, and app building, and could help close the income gap between college graduates and those with just a high school degree. “Enstitute seeks to challenge the conventional wisdom that top professional jobs always require a bachelor’s degree—at least for a small group of the young, digital elite,” writes Hannah Seligson in a recent New York Times profile. The Enstitute program allows students to train under a master, gaining invaluable experience and possibly even a job offer upon graduation. Participating companies, meanwhile, get cheap, talented labor for longer than a typical internship would last.
While a college degree remains a prerequisite for the vast majority of professional jobs, the article points out that the cost of college is dramatically rising: “Between 2000 and 2011, tuition rose 42 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics—and students fear being saddled by debt in a bleak job market. And some employers complain that many colleges don’t teach the kinds of technical skills they want in entry-level hires,” writes Seligson.
Programs that incentivize on-the-job, out-of-the-classroom learning (the Thiel Fellowship is another example), along with changing hiring practices, are likely to continue opening up viable new paths for tomorrow’s digital leaders.