Learn to Code and You’ll be Employed for the Rest of Your Life

“We are in this really huge, secular transition away from degrees, towards skills. It no longer matters where you went to school, what you did. Don’t tell me you have an MBA. It’s irrelevant. It’s useless. Who gives a shit? Learn to code and you’ll be employed for the rest of your life.”

Thus spoke Chamath Palihapitiya, the well known and highly esteemed software engineer turned venture capitalist, and University of Waterloo alumn, at an event in New York City earlier this year.

“I lost a kid – 24 year-old kid – to a big company in Cupertino, where he got paid $175,000 a year, and $600,000 guaranteed over four years in [Restricted Stock Units]. And he’s not done anything, ever! So, all of you should teach your kids how to code. All of you! You should learn how to code.”

Sky high remuneration of skilled software developers is not a new phenomenon, but it has been garnering increased attention as Canada faces a double crisis of underemployment of recent university graduates and record high student debt levels.

Many have interpreted these trends as a clear sign that the traditional model of a four-year bachelor leading to a stable and profitable career has broken down.

SEE ALSO: Why Canada Needs Coding Academies

Coding schools have popped up across North America and the world to provide an alternative to these disillusioned job-seekers, offering them training of skills in high demand, for a fraction of the cost – the true cost, the opportunity cost – of a university education.

One such school is Toronto’s Bitmaker Labs, which made headlines this past June when it was investigated by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) for operating as an unregistered, unaccredited institution. Bitmaker Labs trains its students to code Ruby on Rails and JavaScript over the course of a nine week program, for $9,000. It boasts that 85%+ of its graduates have gone on to land jobs or launch startups of their own.

And though the MTCU investigation was summarily cleared, with Minister Brad Duguid offering his best wishes, Bitmaker Lab’s status as a non-accredited academic institution means that its students are prevented from obtaining government funded student aid.

RELATED: B.C.’s Dearth of Developers

Coding schools in the United States are in this same position, and we can imagine that many students in both countries have been unable to register for lack of financing options.

This week however, one startup has begun implementing a potentially disruptive – if you’ll pardon the cliché – solution.

Upstart is a peer to peer investment platform that allows investors to fund students’ education in return for a set percentage of their income, for a set period of time. The percentage charged varies depending on the student’s future earning potential, but is capped at 7%, and payment schedules are set over five or ten year spans.

This week, the company revealed partnershipswith several prominent coding schools in the United States, announcing that any student accepted into their programs will be guaranteed to raise their full tuition on its platform.

This model – alternative academic institutions paired with alternative financing options – is the future of higher education. It is the future, that is, if various levels of government – those growing increasingly concerned with student debt levels and underemployment caused by a labour and skills mismatch that Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has called “the most significant socio-economic challenge ahead of us in Canada” – allow it to be.

For higher education to be reformed ingoing with the transition from accreditation to practical skills training that Chamath described, it will require an almost unprecedented apprehension on behalf of our elected representatives and unelected regulators to recognize the writing on the wall, and get out of the way.