High school, graduate and undergraduate students across the country will soon be drafting personal statements and submitting applications for a chance to attend the college of their choice. Many have already started. However, there has been a shift in mindset regarding higher education and the promise of securing employment. When the pomp and circumstance ends, the brutal job search begins.
With national student loan debt now reaching over $1.5 trillion, a significant amount of students are opting for a more affordable and accelerated experience from business incubators and tech bootcamps such as App Academy, General Assembly, and Flatiron School. Gone are the days of students bearing down with the singular goal of attending college to obtain a job—paying a livable wage. Entrepreneurship, being your own boss, and “startup culture” are on the rise in and outside of the classroom, with no signs of slowing down. Considering the change in the U.S. Labor Market and amount of skilled labor needed to fulfill tech-enabled jobs, we can’t afford for it to slow down.
At the academic level, there is significant movement that should be highlighted to give the next wave of students and entrepreneurs more options to nurture their mindset about the future of their careers.
Computer Science major and Georgetown alum, Kamar Mack says his college experience made a significant contribution to his success as an entrepreneur. “My first year on campus I applied to live in the Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community, a freshman floor filled with like minded students who self-identify as wanting to run a business. I learned about all of the resources that Georgetown had to offer such as StartupHoyas and began to compete in their pitch competitions, one of which I won for a business I was working on,” says Mack. “Though our business idea eventually failed, my co-founder and I got the opportunity to pitch at a national competition in TCU as mere freshmen.”
In 2012, Georgetown University established StartupHoyas in an effort to establish a new culture of entrepreneurship by providing students with an opportunity to participate in a two-year fellowship, a one-year apprenticeship, a two-month, summer startup incubator, or a venture capital competition, in which students are trained as venture funders and evaluate actual companies.
According to Mack, Georgetown students also operate the largest fully student-run business in the US called the Corp, where students manage a credit union called GUASFCU, and lead countless other robust organizations both for-profit and non-profit.
“One of the main reasons I chose to attend Georgetown was its emphasis on cultivating the independence of students,” says Mack. “I knew that gaining this management and leadership experience would prepare me for running my own business effectively in the future.”
Now, in transition, Mack currently previously served as CEO of a student-run startup accelerator called Georgetown Ventures (GV). He plans to take a calendar year off of school to work full-time in Atlanta doing full-stack web development, while working on a company of his own called Adena Quantum, Inc., with co-founder, Jarian Lee–who is also a Georgetown student.
“We are out to create the next generation of energy-efficient wearable technology,” Mack says.
“I believe my work experience this year will put our company in a position for success.”
Most recently, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) announced its plans to launch a coding and data analytics boot camp. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, CWRU currently ranks 42nd in national universities due to its top-performing programs in health law, biomedical engineering, and non-profit management. So where does a coding bootcamp fit in?
“The half-life of digital skills is continually shrinking: Skills, including computer languages, require updating every couple of years,” says Brian Amkraut, executive director of the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University. “The Lifelong Learning program at Case Western Reserve University helps individuals, and some of the largest global enterprises, address the training and up-skilling needs of a continuous learning economy.”
Having longevity in almost any career field means that you must be willing to make an investment in updating your skills. Siegal says the program was launched in 2017 to help career professionals do just that. “Our primary goal has been to help Northeast Ohio residents redirect or augment their careers with in-demand digital skills,” says Amkraut. “We train coders and analysts to step into positions and produce results for organizations.”
Colleges offering similar in-demand training or instruction include Northwestern University, Ohio University Center for Entrepreneurship, UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Howard University. As the definition of work continues to be reshaped, the list and need for such programs will continue to grow.
No matter what avenue you choose, making the effort to build a strong and more importantly, supportive network will prove to be equally as important as the school or career-centered program you choose. While the concept of working for someone else remains a good option to bring financial, personal, and professional fulfillment—the entrepreneurial spirit is alive, well and providing a promising future for many who still believe in the power of education.
Does your college or university offer specialized study or professional development in tech or entrepreneurship? Sound off in the comments below.