For years, technology companies have been complaining about shortage of qualified workers to fill all the jobs in the industry. Until now, many sought a legislative solution, lobbying for immigration reform that would include an increase in H1B visas that would allow highly skilled workers to come and work in the US. But while the immigration bill remains a victim of legislative deadlock in Congress, companies are taking a different approach: they're joining the Open Education Alliance to craft standards that would define what a highly-trained potential employee would look like.
The Open Education Alliance is an effort spearheaded by massive online open courses provider Udacity. It is seeking industry partners to help it develop courses, assessment tools and even certificates that would aid technology companies in the hiring process. Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun will be offering more details on OEA and its goals during Tech Crunch Disrupt San Francisco conference this week, but the early hints seem promising.
To some extent, similar efforts are already being undertaken. Udacity, for instance, offers coding courses developed with help of Google. Another MOOC provider, Coursera, provides paying students with a certificate of accomplishment, meant to help adults in their continuing education program prove their competence to future employers. Similarly, the Obama administration just unveiled a plan to peg federal financial assistance to a college's graduate outcomes in the job market.
In other words, the major players are already shifting a focus on higher education to one of standardized career readiness.
According to TC's Gregory Ferenstein, even though most of OEA's goals are forward-looking, that doesn't mean it can't have an impact in the near future. Recently, Google reported on its own hiring process showed that candidate's college grades and even their performance on the famously rigorous interviews did not correlate at all with their success in the company. Therefore, it is possible that while Google starts giving less weight to actual college degrees, it might instead look for candidates that took OEA-approved courses.
Another example: there are plenty of brilliant students throughout the world who only have access to courses via Udacity or Khan Academy; the Alliance would allow these prodigies, for the first time, to prove their talents to tech companies by taking courses and earning certificates from online education providers.
The OEA intends to help colleges be more career relevant and also help those who don't have access to traditional universities still get a shot at success.
The OEA will (hopefully) create a new meritocracy in higher education. Every student will have an opportunity to prove their talents and any education provider will have an opportunity to develop curricula that become known for producing innovative workers.