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Tech Training Schools Going Bust 651

superflippy writes "The Associated Press reports that many tech training schools which opened during the last few years are now shutting their doors. During the dot-com boom, there was the perception that a few months of computer training could lead to a fabulous job. Now, it seems all these schools have produced are unemployed people with student loans and dubious certifications."
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Tech Training Schools Going Bust

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  • Too many of them (Score:5, Informative)

    by l810c ( 551591 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:29PM (#8345787)
    This is just a result of the dotcom bubble burst. Companies these days are looking for (in order):

    Outsourcing to India
    Cheap College Grads (Although there are too many here also)
    Experienced (more expensive) College Grads
    And *maybe* a few scraps left over grads of these half ass tech schools

    There is still definitely a place for a few of these schools for people wanting to add a skill or become more advanced in a skill, but the days of taking an 8 week course and then finding a tech job are over. I actually know a couple of people that went to these type schools 5 years ago and now have great tech jobs.

    • by dankney ( 631226 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:41PM (#8345889) Homepage
      Certifications aren't completely obsolete as long as one has realistic expectations. Tech is like any other industry -- certification/education gets you an entry-level job with an entry-level salary. To advance past that, it's based on your experience and accomplishments.
      • by segment ( 695309 ) <sil@po[ ] ['lit' in gap]> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:06PM (#8346115) Homepage Journal

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but certs mean little nowadays. People on the NANOG list, SF lists, IPSlists they all argue this. Companies who hire strictly on certs should be ashamed of themselves. Now I'm not saying all cert holders are stupid, hell many know their stuff inside out, but studying for an exam is not equivalent to knowing your stuff.

        How many people have come across someone on a mailing list asking for help for typical stuff all the while their attachment has their proudly pimped status written on it... CCNA, CCDP, CISSP. I've seen them all, and I've seen one too many times big corporations with clueless rejects administrating their networks:

        Thread-Topic: Help understaing startup scripts.

        Thread-Index: AcP14pt9Qx+3Mc+tT0Ky9WLsNty4yw==
        To: sunmanagers!
        X-OriginalArrivalTime: 18 Feb 2004 05:46:52.0807 (UTC)
        X-UBS-Disclaimer: Version $Revision: 1.25 $
        Subject: Help understaing startup scripts.

        Greetings Gurus,

        I have a question.....

        When I login to one of the UnixBoxes in the network,all my settings get changed e.g home, aliases, and prompt etc. This happens only in one machine not with all others. This has started happening only after my loginID was included in new Unix Group and Netgroup. Does that mean there are scripts which run at unix group or Netgroup level? How can I see which scripts are responsible for these setting changes?


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        I don't mean to pick on this one person, I know too many times I see the same stuff over and over, and wonder how the hell could companies hire clueless people. I remember I worked for a company who if you sent a resume in with your newly acquired MSCE cert staus you met Mr. Shredder. I also remember meeting three people who supposedly had CCNA's only to find out they were forgeries and the company I was working for never checked them. So again, from my perspective certs mean you have the capability to read and grasp something, but admining something at 4:00am is a different story altogether.
        • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:33PM (#8346286)
          I know I'll get modded down, but this guy is probably a product of India's certification schools, that pump out people with degrees, certifications, etc. with the express purpose of getting US tech jobs. They get very real education. I've run into many, many people like this, and worked with them, and they're the same. They may have a degree or certification, but half the Indians I worked with wouldn't know HTML from Cobol.
          • by qtp ( 461286 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:17PM (#8346869) Journal
            but half the Indians I worked with wouldn't know HTML from Cobol.

            Hell,more than half the MSCEs I've worked with don't know HTML from Cobol. And these guys were "educated" here in the US. So what's your point?

            • by paganizer ( 566360 ) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .1evorgeht.> on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:57PM (#8347048) Homepage Journal
              As a aside to this; I have been working on computers/electronics/ etc since the mid-80's; when the dot-com bubble was bursting, I was working as a network/security engineer for a medium large bank chain; I went on from that to running a 6000 computer WAN network. In the 6 weeks between those I decided, for the heck of it to get my MCSE.
              When I finally managed to extricate myself from the nightmarish (EVIL coworker) government job, I couldn't find ANYTHING outside of a couple weeks here & there. I finally decided to just say screw it and retire from the field when a recruiter told me that they are taking resumes with MCSE cert & no CS degree and shredding them.
              I experimentally tried out my pre-MCSE resume on a couple of employers, and got near-immediate hits.
              I'm not saying this is the case now, and might not have been anything but a fluke then, but I still think it's weird.

              • by vedic math ( 751351 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @12:47AM (#8347285)
                Happened in India after the dotcom bust too. A lot of fly by night "computer education institutes" mushroomed overnight during the boom. Was a time when you could land a decent paying job, armed with a java developer certificate handed out by these institutes. The courses lasted anywhere between 3 weeks to 2 years, and yes they also came with a "job guarantee". No prizes for guessing, over 90% of them disappeared faster than they had sprung up. With the job market witnessing a lot of traction of late, I wouldn't be surprised to see a repeat.
        • i have to confirm this; maybe from another point of view

          when i was 20 years old, studying informatics at a university, i have found my first real job

          i have got a chance to work on real things, and see my algorithms being used by real people, not just producing some useless results to satisfy a lector

          i have decided to follow this chance, quit university and i was working for cca one year with a lower salary then i could get if i would finish university (3 years later ...)

          after one year, i have been known
          • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @09:21AM (#8348694)
            it was the same at university; i was supposed to learn things of which i never use everything if i would be supposed to learn how to use them, and where to find them if they are needed; that's a good thing but if i should memorize them to satisfy some so-called exams -> what is it all good for ?
            This is the usual first year student rant, also know as "will this be on the exam" but it still needs to be answered since the answer isn't obvious.

            Univerities are not traditional trade schools, and decent trade schools aren't anymore either. They don't take the approach of showing you how to hold the tool and how to twist it to produce part #637. When the design changes your knowlege is now worth very little. Universities try to teach understanding, how to apply your knowlege on slight variations, where to go to get more knowlege, and the shocking fact that precisely what you are trying to do may not have been done by anyone before, so you can't look it up and need to find distantly related information.

            As an example, some time back I used to run lab sessions in materials science for engineering students, and every few weeks there would be an electrical engineering student who would ask why he had to learn all this boring strength of materials stuff. An answer I frequently gave is that people sit on mobile phones, so the designer has to consider that. You can't always afford to go running off to someone else for little things like that. You have to have some sort of clue if you want to look up the information on how to design the case and internals of the phone to cope with that, which means knowing a lot of boring little details about how things break, many of which will never be on the exam but may ultimately be useful. You won't have time in ten years time to read that textbook from cover to cover, but some vague half remebered details may be enough so that you'll know what to look up.

            The object of the course/certification is not to get a pretty peice of paper, or even just to be able to pass the exam, but to get some understanding that you can apply. The pretty piece of paper is just a symbol of that knowlege, and the last time I had to actually show somone the degree was five jobs ago. Even in a fairly widely removed field that knowlege still applies for me, I still need to know about sound propagation through complex solids, heat transfer, and some material science, even though I just keep the computers running for a bunch of geophysicists . It's a lot of seemingly unrelated stuff, but it's surprising what sort of things are relevant. Knowing all sorts of spurious facts makes it a lot easier to put the brushwork into that "big picture", knowing where to go in the menu is not going to help if the user interface changes radically.

            i have just realized that i don't need to keep all the things in my head, i only need to know where to look for them, and how to use them
            Sometimes we don't have the luxury of the time to learn new skills, which is why the exams try to find what skills/knowlege you have. Whether it does it well or not is another story. We all know office people who need hours of retraining every time a new version of Word or Microsoft OS comes out since they are too lazy to consider things from any other perspective other than getting the current task done - it's worth considering an extreme like that, and considering how much furthur you want to go (technically) than those people.
        • by cot ( 87677 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:40PM (#8346325)
          "Sorry to burst your bubble, but certs mean little nowadays. People on the NANOG list, SF lists, IPSlists they all argue this. Companies who hire strictly on certs should be ashamed of themselves"

          You're turning this into a black and white issue.

          The first part of your statement is that certs are essentially useless. The second part of the statement is that the consensus is that people who hire based ONLY on certs are foolish. The second statement does NOT support the first!

          It supports the statement "Certs are not, on their own, a good measure of someone's capabilities" which seems a fair statement to me. But to jump from their to "Certs are toiletpaper" seems pretty silly.

          Note that this is coming from someone with a degree and no certs, with no real personal interest in defending them.
        • by Jim Starx ( 752545 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:06PM (#8346473)
          This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail.


        • by pantycrickets ( 694774 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:44PM (#8346704)
          I don't mean to pick on this one person, I know too many times I see the same stuff over and over, and wonder how the hell could companies hire clueless people. I remember I worked for a company who if you sent a resume in with your newly acquired MSCE cert staus you met Mr. Shredder.

          What gave you the impression that the guy you singled out was misrepresenting himself as some sort of uber-geek, as you make yourself out to be?

          From what I can tell the only things you can ascertain from his email are that he works at a company (ok), and doesn't understand how some aspects of the system he's using work.

          So? Shredding someone's resume because they got an MCSE is pretty ignorant I might add anyway. Why not shred it if they have a Mexican sounding name, after all.. are Mexicans known for their outstanding tech skills? It would be equally asinine. I know plenty of people who have MCSE's and countless other certs who did it just based on the thinking that "Hey, it's probably better than not having them."

          This elitist attitude is pretty sickening. And it usually comes from people who themselves don't have any experience working in a large tech company. Sort of like the armchair quarterbacks shouting things like "Oh man, I could do that! Geez, this guy doesn't know anything." But not stepping up to do it themselves.

          And by the way, I don't have an MCSE, or any real certifications for that matter. I don't even have a high school diploma, and that's never kept me out of work.
          • by raju1kabir ( 251972 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @05:53AM (#8348239) Homepage
            Shredding someone's resume because they got an MCSE is pretty ignorant I might add anyway. Why not shred it if they have a Mexican sounding name, after all.. are Mexicans known for their outstanding tech skills?

            Count me among the MCSE-shredders.

            I have observed a strong correlation between trumpeting MCSE and being a totally ignorant useless waste of skin, at least at the keyboard.

            I have not observed that same correlation with Mexican last names (e.g., de Icaza).

            YMMV. There is no need to remind me that there are exceptions; I believe you. When I have 1000 resumes to sift through, a quick filter like that is helpful. No way all 1000 are going to get a full read.

        • by T-Ranger ( 10520 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:34PM (#8346952) Homepage
          Im subscribed to a bunch of OSS admin help type lists, and sunmanagers. DAMM there are some stupid sysadmins out there. About 50% of the questions on the FreeRADIUS list over the past week could be answered with: "google for that exact sentence and click 'Im feeling lucky'" and/or "I dont know, but it would be fun to try".

          Being out of work, I am very tempted to start isolating these morons, and sending off some mail to their company explaining how they have a moron working for them (and I would be a better choice). Hmm.. I have some time on my hands right now...

    • by Andorion ( 526481 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:49PM (#8345965)
      I notice "people with many years experience in the field" is not on your list, as it shouldn't be.

    • by RobPiano ( 471698 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:50PM (#8345981)
      The problem isn't too many techs! The problem is too many BAD techs! Being a tech is more than a certificate. I know computer science majors who have never opened up a machine. I had someone with a Master's in Computer Informational Systems ask me if I could point out to her the "virtual memory" inside the computer. I know a system admin who keep disks running at 99% capacity and wonder why he get disk errors.

      The idea that tech == money has contributed to many people going into tech that haven't any interest in it.
      • by JPriest ( 547211 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:58PM (#8346046) Homepage
        The good news is that they don't hide well. They proudly identify themselves as MCSE's.
        • He had passed the 4 (?) core exams for the win2k mcse. A jobs program had put him through a boot camp. When he got to me, I asked him to bring up the control panel.

          Deer in headlights.

          Ok. Hit the start button and go to control panel.

          More bambi.

          O.k....lower left corner. Left-click...

          I am not making this up. It's possible the guy went into cranial vapor lock under pressure, but even in brainlock you should be able to find the control panel. Or at least the start button.

          Nice guy, good attitude, might be some aptitude, but the thought that he was going to get hired as an admin somewhere after his internship was weird.

      • Re:Too many of them (Score:5, Informative)

        by IthnkImParanoid ( 410494 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:00PM (#8346058)
        At the risk of being a "Me too!" poster, I agree. When I was in my senior year, I was taking a fourth-year microcontroller class, and it was painfully obvious my lab partner hadn't coded at all in his life. He would start a condition check with an "if", then indent once more for the "else if", then once more for the next "else if" until, ten "else if"s later the condition was occupying three lines on the text editor.

        He wasn't a Comp Sci. major because he liked coding, that's for sure.
      • I call bullshit (Score:3, Informative)

        by mrcparker ( 469158 )
        Unless you are at a shit school, a CS Major should have a damn good idea how a computer works. What university did this person come from? Your second comment on the person with the Masters in CIS screams bullshit also unless this person came out of a diploma mill.
      • by BuckaBooBob ( 635108 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:16PM (#8346178)
        Honestly There needs to be Tech schools out there that have 90%+ Failure rates of students that Just don't have the aptitude to work with computers.. But the only problem then would be to get students into the school and fill up the classes so they can make money.... Thats the problem... Mostly tech schools fail to Properly teach students proper skills... instead they drown them in technical procedure and text books and think they will learn something... When ever i see a tech school grad I allways ask them for a difficult problem and their solution to it.. 99.99999+ of them are Stumped when I ask them how their solution relates to the theory of the actual problem. 90%+ Tech school grads don't have any idea at all on proper troubleshooting techniques the vast Majority use what I call the "Pin The Tail on the Donkey" approach to troubleshooting.. and I can't half blame them ... as the come out of a tech school armed with enough knowledge and confidence to be blind and dangerous in their abilities to admin anything but their home PC. That or they only use half of the Cause and Effect aproach.. The see The Cause and its effects but think nothing of the effects of their solution once its implemented Causing problems again that are usually worse..

        Its usually a horrible situation with tech grads that do not have a firm background in computers... You usually have to break them and completely retrain them and show them how to utilize their knowledge they obtained in school...

        But there are many many different shades of bad techs out there.. and as of late more of them are becoming fluent in linux and can get by alot of questions in that area and still be dangerous... But the "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" approach is allways a sure sign of a tech you shouldn't hire unless you have time and resources to retrain them if their personality isn't resistant to it.
        • Re:Too many of them (Score:5, Informative)

          by Prof.Phreak ( 584152 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @03:30AM (#8347863) Homepage
          Honestly There needs to be Tech schools out there that have 90%+ Failure rates of students that Just don't have the aptitude to work with computers.. But the only problem then would be to get students into the school and fill up the classes so they can make money....

          I've been teaching at one of them schools for almost 4 years; and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to fail anyone (or to suggest they should seek another major, or [as I usually like to tell students] to switch schools - I also teach in a real college).

          On one occation, the `director' actually changed my final grades! (yep, plainly edited the final roster).

          I've heard stories of instructors being fired for what amounts to IMHO `telling the truth' to the students.

          These schools are evil money sucking machines that pray on the mistery of others and screw up the lives of just about every student they come across (recruit already messed up folks [many not even high school grads], promise lots of stuff, leave them with TONS of loans). I really hate that school (on moral grounds), but hey, work is work, and I'd rather be employed than not.

          Oh, yeah, and I wish they'd go under! I've been wishing for that since the first few weeks of me working there.
      • by catfood ( 40112 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:35PM (#8346299) Homepage
        I know computer science majors who have never opened up a machine.

        Opening up a machine is not part of Computer Science. You might as well criticize Political Science majors for not holding public office.

        The idea that tech == money has contributed to many people going into tech that haven't any interest in it


    • Re:Too many of them (Score:5, Informative)

      by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:50PM (#8345982)
      I recall that back in the early 1990s there were many schools that specialized in technical training for those with non-mainstream cultures. An Example: A particular school opened up in Shiprock Arizona teaching all sorts of tech skills to the Navajos: "just sign here and we gaurantee to take all your money and what's more you will also get a free lifetime of debt!" As soon as the loan guarantees were signed and the monies delivered, the school closed up shop and moved on. This was something of a local scandal back then, but I think it was repeated in basic form throughout the country with other local populations. This latest schooling blight is just another form of the same. As long as the lure of student loan money is there, the shysters will come.
    • by deadmongrel ( 621467 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:41PM (#8346328) Homepage
      > >Outsourcing to India
      You had to say that didn't you? Can't be just out- sourcing in general. Do you know how many "tech" centrers and "universities" and "institutes" were started in India? probably more that it was started here in the US. and after the dot-com bubble burst probably 60 to 70 % of them went belly up. US in not alone in this situation.
  • well.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:30PM (#8345790) Homepage
    at least they are unemployed with only a few months worth of student loans.

    seems downright enviable from my position with four years worth of loans.
    • Re:well.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Toasty981 ( 43996 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:44PM (#8345924) Homepage
      Not quite. From the article:

      "The problem for students like Milla Muller, 25, is that they sign legal contracts to pay back loans, no matter how bad a school turns out to be. Muller's efforts to get her $7,500 loan from Sallie Mae Financial forgiven have been unsuccessful.

      Muller was one of about 150 students enrolled at Xintra Institute of Technology in Quincy, Mass. The school was stripped of its license in April for failure to comply with state regulations. It filed for bankruptcy in August, without giving students any notice.

      "Sallie Mae has absolutely no recourse for this at all," said Muller, who now pays $189 a month for classes she didn't take."

      I'm guessing a lot of people don't have the cash reserves to simply pay off the outstanding balance when it became clear that the school wouldn't be around for four years. So they are paying a four-year loan.
  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El ( 94934 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:30PM (#8345791)
    Funny, that doesn't seem to stop them from running ads that say "40,000 new IT jobs are opening up every year! Train now for a rewarding career!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:30PM (#8345793)
    They shood do what I did and go to an acredited scholl like the University of Pheonix. Online.
  • Perception? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 463190 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:30PM (#8345797) Homepage
    During the dot-com boom, there was the perception that a few months of computer training could lead to a fabulous job.

    Perception? How soon we forget - that actually happened. It happened all over silicon valley.

    We'll have another unsustainable tech boom as soon as everyone forgets those mistakes entirely.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:41PM (#8345893)
      Might I interest you in a new fad diet I've invented by investing heavy research into fad diets of 40 years ago?


      Well, how about this brand spanking new religious philosophy channeled to me by a wise, old Atlantean that I found in the library?

      Hmmmmmmmm, tough customer.

      One word. Plastics.

      I think Santayana had something to say about this. Wish I could remember what it was.

    • Re:Perception? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:12PM (#8346148) Homepage Journal
      1999: We're going to replace your position with someone who dropped out of tech school...

      2004: We're going to replace your position with someone in Bangalore who dropped out of tech school...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:31PM (#8345800)
    I am a professional HTML software developer with good working knowledge of Microsoft FrontPage 2000, Microsoft FrontPage 2002, Microsoft FrontPage 2003 and HomeSite. Extensive experience with back-end server management via Microsoft Web Publishing Wizard. I am looking roughly for $80-90K (plus sign-on bonus and relocation), but I can tell you the job field is not that great. I think I should learn PHP and wait for things to pick up. Can anyone recommend good PHP classes under-$5,000 range?
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:50PM (#8345975) Homepage Journal
      I am a professional HTML software developer with good working knowledge of Microsoft FrontPage 2000, Microsoft FrontPage 2002, Microsoft FrontPage 2003 and HomeSite. Extensive experience with back-end server management via Microsoft Web Publishing Wizard. I am looking roughly for $80-90K (plus sign-on bonus and relocation), but I can tell you the job field is not that great. I think I should learn PHP and wait for things to pick up. Can anyone recommend good PHP classes under-$5,000 range?

      We're a start up anticipating developing a product and being bought out by Cisco, Microsoft, HP or someone else with deep pockets. We offer your choice of stock options by the roll: White Cloud or Charmin.

  • by daeley ( 126313 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:32PM (#8345803) Homepage
    Now, it seems all these schools have produced are unemployed people with student loans and dubious certifications.

    So, kind of like Microsoft?


    Thanks, I'm here all week! ;)
  • Classic example: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:33PM (#8345821)
    1. Kid goes through course
    2. Kid does well, but doesn't really learn
    3. Kid gets job $63,000/year
    4. Kid has no idea what to do, but was able to talk his shit up.
    5. Kid goes to teacher and begs him to help
    6. Company pays teacher to do kids job $15,000

    Cost to company $75,000
    I know of this personally. Pretty annoying if you ask me. The kid actually still has his job too.
    • Oh yeah? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:24PM (#8346221) Homepage Journal
      Here is another wonderful example: A kid finishes a university, does not really learn anything except to kiss ass, starts working for a major company, works there as tech support, decides it's not enough money, goes to another company and after a couple of months of 'programming' moves into more senior position by presenting other people ideas as his own. The kid never stops to do that because it seems to work really great for him, the salary grows, so do the lies and brown-nosing. The kid with only 2 months of programming and 2 years of 'architecture' moves into management positions by playing golf with the 'right' people. The others who work their asses of watch the kid zoom by them even though literally everyone knows how he is doing that, only management does not care, they like flattery and lies and backstubbing. Well, the kid is still there.

      I would never want to work anywhere around such people but there seems to be an abundance of those.

  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:35PM (#8345830)
    I think it is wonderful that people are given a few hours of lecture and a certification for some obscure software system. This indeed leads to some fabulous jobs, earning over $300,000 a year starting salary. This is because RESULTS DO NOT MATTER. What matters is that you show up to work on time and work for eight hours. It doesn't matter if you get anything done. It doesn't matter if the company meets its obligations. The important thing is that you have a certificate and you are there on time. Because businesses like to pay people for work, not for results. No business wants results.

    And that is exactly why these schools are as successful as they are.

    Or, is today opposite day?

    • This is because RESULTS DO NOT MATTER. What matters is that you show up to work on time and work for eight hours

      Gee thats what I did wrong I gave 3 years of results to a company that not only made the company sucsessfull but very profitable. and I got nothing not even a paycheck. But then again I was fucking the owner.
      Moral: Don't get involed with the owner
    • What matters is that you show up to work on time and work for eight hours
      What sad is that is all too often true. At one former job, showing up on time counted for 20% of your annual performance review. One fifth of your job was to show up on time. Insane. I could see it if it were retail or customer service, where there's a genuine business requirement to be there at a certian time, but this was an office job.
  • by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) * <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:36PM (#8345850) Homepage Journal
    Well if we thin out the population of tech schools some, the more reputable colleges (in my case Cal Poly Pomona []) will look a little better, and that degree will mean more. Therefore maybe IT degrees will mean something again...well we can hope anyways...
    • by lucabrasi999 ( 585141 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:00PM (#8346060) Journal
      the more reputable colleges

      This makes me think of something a co-worker once talked about. This man, a native of India who is a highly skilled and extremely competent consultant, talked about how great the schools in India were. He insinuated that the tech schools in India focused on "real" tech education and didn't waste their time on courses like Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, etc.

      I disagree with that. The best tech workers I know, don't just program, they know how to "think". Personally, I believe someone from a reputable college, where they were forced to take a few Russian History courses, is worth much, much more than someone that has only learned how to code C++.

      As silly as my European Film course was in Undergrad, I think it helped me think beyond Java.

      • by Fiz Ocelot ( 642698 ) <baelzharon@gmaiF ... m minus language> on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:17PM (#8346544)
        There's a big difference between people who can for example, set up any kind of network, or know how to program in C++ well. And people who can really think on their own, learn new things because the really "want" to learn, and don't just follow orders. What you get from a 4 year university is that they're supposed to make and encourage you to think. That's why you had to take those history, art, writing, etc courses that may not be "programming" courses. Just a couple days ago there was an article on slashdot about linguistics and programming. ok I"m rambling but you get my point...maybe not.
        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @12:26AM (#8347189)
          Are those that cross fields, venturing into new areas. Since you mentioned Linguistics and Comptuers, and those are two of the areas I'm studing I figured I'd chime in:

          Right now there is quite a bit of research being done on computers and language. We want to make them speak it, listen to it, but above all, to understand it. This is a difficult problem, more difficult than most people think. I'll ignore the speaking and hearing part and just talk about the understanding:

          To understand a language, a computer must not just have a bunch of symbols in memory that make up the words, it needs to be able to perform operations on those such as to derive what it meant. Well that invloved three fields right there, CS, linguistics and philsohpy. The CS of course is the actual implementation of the algorithms. But what algorithms to implement?

          Well that's where linguistics come in. You need to analyze natural language and figure out how it actually works. Try and write rules that dictate what is and is not a correct utterence, how different parts of speech are usedm etc. Also you need to produce a database of words, meanings, parts of speech and so on. A lot of this has been done.

          So what about the philosophy? Well the thing is, current popular linguistic theory doesn't work right for language as humans use it. It describes literal, direct speech only. Well humans aren't like that, most of our meanings are at least aprtially context dependant and not entirely direct and literal. So language philosophers are working on trying to develop empirically testable theories for how humans actually communicate, and how the process the different kinds of communication with ease. The field is called Pragmatics.

          But this adds yet another part to the study. It's all well and good that we come up with a nice theory that everything fits in, but does that have anything to do with reality? Do humans ACTUALLY process language in such a way and does it really adiquately describe communications? So we turn to psychological tests to try and verify or falsify theories of language. Only through emperical testing of actual humans can we figure out how this works.

          Those theories then need to be studied in the context of the actual spoken language and have rules developed, and those rules then need to be implemented as algorithms in a computer.

          And that's just the beginning.

          Thing is, this ISN'T an insignificant field. All the big computer companies like MS and IBM would LOVE to be able to produce a computer that people could speak to naturally and it would do what they wanted. Then there are people like the NSA that are highly interested in have a computer that can analyze the content of intercepted communication and do a real good translation and breakdown of it.

          It's a field where there is quite a bit of money to be made, and a whole lot of work that needs to be done. However, what it really needs is people that aren't just one trick dogs, that have studied some in ALL of those fields (and others) to be able to work on designing and coordinating experiements and statical analysis of language to try and actually get a working system off the ground. Not just someone who knows code and nothing but code.

          As a side note, I'm not studying this to go in it, just because I think it's a neat interdiciplinary degree to get. I'm a computer support guy by profession.
  • by ChopsMIDI ( 613634 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:37PM (#8345853) Homepage
    A friend of a friend asked me to help him with a final project for one of his classes at ITT Tech. This was a project in ASP for an online bookstore. He was nearing completion of his associates degree in Web Design, and when I got there to show him things, he knew nothing at all. Not even HTML... When I asked him about that, he said he "sorta learned it a while ago". Last I checked, HTML was the staple of Web Development, no? All of his pages that he had made so far were all autogenerated by FrontPage. Goes to show you what good a $30,000 2-year associates degree at ITT Tech is worth.....or rather worthless.
    • by SilverTab ( 82769 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:12PM (#8346151)
      Yeah, tech training can't make you a real computer geek. You have to actually be INTERESTED in computers. I've learned more ON MY OWN than I have from formal techie education. Those folx who pursue an IT education because "it's a good field to be in" will always suck because they're not actually interested enough in computers to learn anything on their own. So they don't know any more than their instructors tell them...which just isn't enough. There's A LOT to learn in order to do a decent job in any tech field. If you don't have the aptitude to seek out that which you do not know (or even to REALIZE what you do not know), you're gonna suck. That guy probably didn't even realize that he needed to know HTML.

      What somebody needs to do is design a course that will actually teach you all you need to know. I wonder if a CS degree program at an actual acredited university does?.... anybody know?
      • Honest answer?

        Probably not. If you are going into academia or scientific research or some similar field, then MAYBE a CS degree will teach you what you need to know.

        But where do most techies end up? Programmer or network admin at a BUSINESS. Precisely where they are most destined to fail. Why does this happen, well, if you listen to the posts on slashdot, then you might infer that CS grads are unusually predispositioned to develop:

        1. Arrogance about their chosen fields that causes them to think that the
    • by asdfghjklqwertyuiop ( 649296 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:20PM (#8346565)

      A friend of a friend asked me to help him with a final project for one of his classes at ITT Tech. This was a project in ASP for an online bookstore. He was nearing completion of his associates degree in Web Design, and when I got there to show him things, he knew nothing at all. Not even HTML...

      Amen. I work at a consulting company that does web hosting for some clients on the side. Every 2 months I get someone calling me up asking me to move their site over to the frontpage server at the request of their new web designer.

      The "web designer" always has a go at making things work on the unix server, but they get stuck trying to do something trivial like a no-frills form mailer. On the phone I mention to them that they could do this with Javascript or a simple CGI program on the server end that I'd even set up for them. They then go on and describe to me in a very roundabout manner (so as to avoid embarrasing themselves at all costs) that they've never even heard of these things before, and they don't understand anything but frontpage. So I move their site over, at greater monthly expense to the client.

      I thought the dot-com bust would have shaken these people out of the IT industry and into mcdonald's and walmart where they belong. I really hoped it would, but it hasn't. It seems that the people who are good at lying, bullshit and buzzwords and wear a nice suit are lasting longer than the people who can tell a div tag from their ass hole.
  • Shocking! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crispin Cowan ( 20238 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:37PM (#8345858) Homepage
    You mean that a cheesy diploma from a paper-mill that reads the O'Reilly manuals to you for a semester or two and charges you tens of thousands of dollars is no substitute for a real degree or real experience? I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you!!

    Well, no, I'm not really shocked :)

    Disclaimer: several bachelor's and master's degrees work for me, as well as several no-degree people with strong skills, but as far as I know, no "certificates", which is the way I like it.

    Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.
    CTO, Immunix Inc. []

    • Re:Shocking! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:57PM (#8346042)
      I think it is great that you are an employer that is willing to consider applicant that do not have a university degree.

      As a 'letterless' software engineer I find this to be pretty uncommon. This is incredibly frustrating to me because during the 6 months I was unemployed (Im pleased to say this is no longer the case) I was passed over by many-a-position that suited my skills perfected purely on the basis of my lack of a university education.

      YMMV, judging by your sig you are obviously an educated man but when I think about the truely outstanding technical people I have worked with during my relatively short career so far I find that that majority were those without the education.

      Im not sure exactly why this is, but my theory is that it is too easy to coast through a degree by 'going through the motions' and then use it to mean more than it is. Usually those without the degree had to demostrate a higher technical skill level before being considered.

      I do however, take slight issue with your point about certificates. I have found some of these to be very worthwhile. I have certificates from Sun in their Java programmer, Java developer and Java web component developer qualifications and found them (particually the programmer) to be an excellent base-line skill test.

      I have recommended to my current employer that all developers working on our software should either have the programmer certificate or be working towards it.

      I dont attempt to leverage these certs too much on my CV but they are far from useless.

      I dont think you should tar them all with the same brush.
  • Good Riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wan-fu ( 746576 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:38PM (#8345864)
    These schools churned out tons of useless "educated" people with little added value from their educational experience. The only purpose that these institutions had was to dilute the talent within the IT and computer engineering fields. I say good riddance!
  • by Stupid White Man ( 750118 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:38PM (#8345871) Homepage
    I spent 10 months at "The Chubb Institute" gaining a certificate in Network and System Security. During the 10 months, we started with basic A+ cert type information, and worked our way up through Linux and MS ISA Server... none of each in enough detail to actually get a job done.

    In fact, we spent 1 week learning Redhat where we installed the OS, Installed Samba, and FTP.

    Then we spent 4 weeks (5 hours a day 5 days a week) learning how to write resumes and interview.

    Somehow I feel like Linux is more important then what color my suit is for the interview. (blue vs. grey)

    Lastly, they promised "Job Placement" - however, the only calls that the Graduating Security Class received were helpdesk positions.

    My question is... if the Network Security class... the most esteemed program at the Chubb Institute is getting calls for Helpdesk positions... what positions are the helpdesk classes getting?

    • by Sandman1971 ( 516283 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:58PM (#8346045) Homepage Journal
      I guess timing might be everything... I went to a regular college, and left unfulfilled and not wanting to work in the fields I studied it. So I went to Herzing and took a year-long course. I worked 1 year at a helpdesk for an ISP (not a mom & pop shop either, but a national ISP). Moved up to the backbone group and got on the job training and a few Cisco courses... Moved up to 2nd line within 6 months there. Stayed there for about 4 years. 2 Years ago I moved to the server team for the same ISP. I had no formal *nix training, but had been playing around with various flavours of *nix since 93. Had a blast working on the backbone team, and I'm having an even bigger blast working on the server team.

      Lesson? You can't start at the top. Especially if you went to a trade school. Don't think you'll get hired right off the bat into a junior position. You have to work your way up. But the knowledge, and more specifically people networking you gather becomes priceless.
  • by malchus842 ( 741252 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:39PM (#8345874)
    I mean seriously - I was a director-level IT manager at two multi-national companies over the past 12 years, and neither I, nor any of my peers, would even think about hiring someone from one of these tech schools.

    Even the smallest amount of real-world experience was far more useful than several months of training at these schools. Sure, they learned a few rote solutions, but I can teach those to a new recruit who shows a bit of intelligence in a short time.

    In fact, for an entry-level position, give me a liberal arts grad with a bit of tech knowledge learned on their home computer, and I've got the makings of an excellent eomployee. People who can read, write and converse are better candiates than many of the "tech school" grads I ran into.

    Frankly, I never felt these schools were worth anything, and if they are now closing, all the better.
  • Yep. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:40PM (#8345882)
    I used to work for a small computer training center. I got to teach people on worker's comp how to repair computers (fun when they were just there to collect the check and didn't care about the class).
    Basically, they were told by their rehab people that our three-month class would get them a nice 40K a year job, and they usually got really pissed when they found out otherwise.
  • 8-year old MCSE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:41PM (#8345891)
    Speaking of the original dubious certification, a 8-year old just got certified as an MCSE [].
  • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ymiris ( 733964 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:42PM (#8345899) Journal
    I would wager that the schools who are not doing well and forced to close their doors are the same ones running the ad's that state there are a ton of IT jobs,and then take $18,000 from you to learn test questions. But places like Globalnet and the likes who ACTUALLY teach real world use still thrive. If you don't believe me feel free to contact them and ask why they have to turn away students because their class is full. So this is a good thing in my mind. Let the schools who charge obscene amounts of money to learn the test questions go bankrupt, because the ones who teach real world experience will always be here.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:45PM (#8345932)
    As much as I personally value education, the organizations in the education arena (from K to PhD) do a very poor job of justifying their existence (and high tuitions or high taxpayer subsidies). Common sense and aggregate data does certainly suggest that salary correlates with education, but nobody seems to be able to routinely show that a particular school leads to a particular boost in success (except for some highly debatable test score schemes in K-12 education).

    What are students paying for when they get degree X from school Y? And what are they really getting?
  • Tech Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:46PM (#8345940)
    This is from an Air-Force perspective, so think what you will:

    The military is based around taking people who know very little and teaching via tech schools. We do quite well. We can take someone with virtually no computer knowledge and turn them into a basic sysadmin in about 6 months. Within 2 years, the cream will rise and those are quite impressive. Of the rest, some will transfer to administrative (paperwork) jobs and be promoted. Others will get out and become a burden to AT&T or WorldCom. But the system DOES work.

    The main difference between the military and the commercial world is that we actually care about our people. Where your company provides very little in the way of mentorship, I will nurture my people till they find their sweet spot. Some will learn from books I reccomend, others from college I allow them to attend during working hours. More still will need me to hold their hands and walk them through tasks until they catch on.

    Most civilians see coworkers (you call them cow-orkers) as competition. That's why a lot of good sysadmins will never develop after their civilian tech schools.

    You and your company may see on-the-job training as a waste. Well, you are missing out on a lot of good people. Instead of a college grad demanding $50k+, you could look to the sub-$20k market of tech-school grads. Give them some training. Promote those who deserve it, fire those who screw up.
    • Re:Tech Schools (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dasein ( 6110 )
      YES!!! Grow that person! It's by far better to get someone motivated and bright with some basics then keep giving them more responsibility as they grow. Better than hiring someone who feels they are entitled because they have a degree.

      All this pompous "I have a degree. Nanna, nanna, booboo." stuff makes me sick. One of the best guys I ever worked with was a high-school dropout with 20 years of experience. *HE* knew where the bodies were buried.
    • Re:Tech Schools (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:20PM (#8346202)
      Ahh... another zoomie.

      There are some good tech schools and some bad ones. I went through AF programmer tech school in '89, and it was, IMHO, pretty much a waste of time. IIRC the 12 week course consisted of: 2 weeks intro to basic computing concepts (basically the OSI network model), 3 weeks of pseudocode, 4 weeks of Cobol, 2 weeks of assembly, and 1 week of ADA. As far as I can tell, the purpose of this "training" was to weed out the people who couldn't understand the basics like looping and control structures. My real training happened once I got to my permanent duty station, where I was fortunate enough to work with some *brilliant* people who taught me how to develop good software. (Thanks Capt. Block!)

      In general I'd say you are right, there are probably more good tech schools than bad ones. Mine happened to suck. My cousin went through Navy nuclear power school and got a great hands-on education in basic electronics and applied physics. I had some friends who were F-15 crew chiefs who got a great education in aircraft mechanics, and dated a girl who was trained as an air traffic controller a year out of high school.

  • by Ask-A-Nerd ( 590961 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:48PM (#8345956)
    Finally I'm starting to see some justice! I have 18 years experience but have been out of work due to all the outsourcing and dumping of jobs overseas for the last 10 months. Nothing has ticked me off more than seeing so called private schools like ECPI and others advertising in the paper for IT and Cert courses. They advertise like there is a shortage for jobs, that they cant fill them fast enough... when all they have done is dumped untrained memorizers on the market and created a glut of available personnel. And if a business or HR department doesn't know better, the fancy paper gets these really untrained workers the jobs at cheap salaries (because they have to pay those 30K college course fees) I wish they all would shut down and go back to just being Testing centers like back in the Drake days... or am I showing my age again.
  • Not Surprised (Score:3, Informative)

    by hopbine ( 618442 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:48PM (#8345960)
    After getting a real degree (Electronics) and many years later spending ony a couple of months in getting a CNE and 3 more months in getting a MSCP - thanks to a generous company willing to fund me - I can say that these quickie qualifications are interesting, but not worth the big bucks. The only reason I have them is because my company says they have so many certified people on the staff.
  • by uid0mako ( 683312 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:50PM (#8345974)
    In my experience the better tech people are the ones that grew up playing with the stuff as a hobby, not the ones who heard that there are money/jobs available in the field and then sign up at a tech school. I'm not going to cry for the tech schools. Go get a CS degree instead.
  • by neilcSD ( 743335 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:51PM (#8345991)
    The downward spiral of recent years, beyond anyone's direct control: 1) The economy going to hell 2) The resulting layoffs 3) People with years of experience competing for entry level jobs 4) A lack of entry level jobs (why hire someone fresh out of school when you can hire a former sysadmin for Dell tech support?) 5) Companies not paying nearly enough as they used to for tech positions This is not the schools' fault. A previous poster used the term 'dubious certs,' and this is completely accurate. The problem however is not the curriculum, it is the way the students study. When I attended a comp training school a couple years ago, I cannot tell you how many students used and other sites where they can get test questions. The percentage was huge. As a result, these people just memorized answers and did not know how to apply anything they learned (if they did at all) to real world situations. When they got out into the real world, they broke more than they fixed. As a result, companies now view these certifications with a skeptical eye. Sure, you passed the test - but what do you really know? Prove to me you can make it - but how do you get the shot if a sysadmin with ten years of experience wants that tech support job too? Answer: you don't. These schools have tried to hide this and have been largely successful, but the truth is finally coming out.
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:53PM (#8346003)
    Passion for the work doesn't come out of a crackerjack box. An MCSE or any "Certification" from a vendor, is just a manufacturers way of saying you have digested their propaganda. If you are looking to get rich quick while only working a few hours a week try No money down real estate.

    It should come as no surprise that the people who went for these courses are now getting burned. The schools were unscrupulous but then again so were the majority of their students. Both parties were trying to sell sows ears as silk purses.
  • by 36526542DD ( 456961 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:54PM (#8346018)
    I am both self-taught and self-employed, and I have never once had a client ask me about my college degree (I don't have one, by choice), certifications, grades, diplomas, or anything else related.

    When I managed a computer store and someone came in who was A+ certified, it was almost a strike against them. I found repeatedly that the technicians that were self-taught were far better at maintaining their skills in a rapidly changing environment.

    I place zero value in any of these certifications.
    • Looks trollish, but I'll bite...

      I am a GURU on the I.T. certification game. Certification and degrees have a place, just as experience has a place. Which do I consider the most important after 8 years of working in I.T.? I rank them 1- Experience, 2- Degrees, 3- Certifications. During the boom, one or two of these three was usually sufficient to get a job, sounds like you had EXPERIENCE, the most valuable of the three. Congratulations on your timing. Hell, I lucked out too with some well-timed moves

  • Ten years. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phs2501 ( 559902 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:59PM (#8346055)
    This seems like as good a time as any to mention Peter Norvig's Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years [], an interesting look into the "NOW NOW NOW" attitude that is present in the computer industry (and the insane number of "Teach Yourself $skill in \d+ (days|hours)" books out there). This attitude is a part of what these tech training schools represent, and probably a reason why it hasn't worked out so well for them.

    It also has very good advice for becoming an accomplished programmer.

  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:00PM (#8346059) Homepage
    "Are you happy with your job? Think there's better? THERE IS (cue music). Become a certified network engineer or software developer at MADSKILLZ. Technology jobs are still paying well - our graduates make as much as $100,000 per year! Student loans available, call now and we'll throw in a comlimentary scale model Porsche - just like the one you'll be driving after you become a certified network engineer or software developer at MADSKILLZ!"

    Why is anyone surprised that companies that advertise get rich quick schemes like this are going under? Dear trial lawyers - better sue quick because the IT certificate industry is going to die.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:00PM (#8346063)
    I was involved as a lead instructor in the first 1 year full-time Network Technician program in Canada which started in 1994. The program was oriented to PCs and LANs. Typically, it graduated between 15 and 25 students per year for the next 7 years. The graduates were fairly quickly employed and for a city of close to 1 million, it was well respected and supported by the IT community. 15-25 graduates per year was a good balance for employment opportunities, the job market was not saturated and the starting salaries were reasonable.

    It was interesting to watch as other post secondary institutes and even other departments at our institute jumped on the IT bandwagon. When I left the program in 2001, our institute was graduating close to 500 IT grads/year, not to mention the local University and College graduating an equal amount. Then there were the private schools were pumping out MSCEs and CNEs and now Cisco engineers.

    The fact is that the market is saturated and the gravy train is over. Our school is hurting because we receive funding from the provincial government based on graduate's employment placement rate (for example: 93% employed after 6 months in their field of study). For the first time in 10 years, I've noticed that the placement rate description has changed from 6 months to 1 year and they've dropped the reference to "field of study" from the statistics. The IT programs are really hurting for enrollment also. People are wising up to the fact that it is difficult to get a job in IT with just a piece of paper.

  • corporate welfare (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:26PM (#8346238) Homepage Journal
    I think the story misses the issue. The primary purpose of these so-called schools are not to educate, but to abuse the corporate welfare system. These firms convince students, often desperately trying to find a better life for themselves, to submit applications for government backed loans, helpfully prepared by the firm's staff, often without any understanding by the student of the risks actually involved. Of course, there is little risk to the firm. Many students will find the firm lied to them, and they are stuck with a large loans that they can never repay, leaving them in an even more desperate situation with government collection agents that makes the IRS look like a the newspaper boy. Eventually, the loans get paid by the government, which of course is funded by hard working middle class Americans.

    These firms are run by people that have already made thier money, at significant taxpayer expense, and are now looking for another path to mooch of the corporate welfare system. The actual closing of the schools is insignificant, as the damage is already done.

  • Community Colleges (Score:5, Interesting)

    by catfood ( 40112 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:52PM (#8346392) Homepage

    Wow... all these posts and nobody mentions the many fine public community colleges!

    Quality of courses and instructors varies widely--and with open admissions, I suppose many students may lack aptitude. But you have reasonable tuition rates, stability, and accountability. Not to mention accreditation.

    I just started teaching Visual Basic programming (yeah, I know, I know...) at Cuyahoga Community College [] in Cleveland. I feel a place like CCC is a pretty good alternative to for-profit private tech schools, although as a liberal-arts snob myself I am glad I attended a very competitive four-year private college [].

    As with anything else, there are good and bad community colleges. But I'm surprised nobody mentioned them as an option.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"