The vice president of sales and marketing at Centriq Training speaks about whether a four-year degree is worth it and what skills are important for work.
The demand for tech jobs is up both nationally and in Missouri, but there are too few skilled workers to fill all the jobs. Ted Parker, vice president of sales and marketing and a partner at Centriq Training, appeared on Power Lunch to talk about whether a four-year degree is worth it and what skills young people need as they head into the workforce.
KK: Can you tell me what Centriq training does?
TP: Centriq Training is an IT training company. We train IT professionals that work for existing companies here. Technology is an ever-changing field, and IT professionals have to continue to learn as the technology changes.
We train probably 3,000 IT professionals a year here in Kansas City. We train from between 400 and 500 different companies, and they will come to us for a five-day class where they get upgraded on their skill sets so they can stay up-to-date with the latest technologies.
KK: What are you hearing from companies about how many jobs they have sitting unfilled?
TP: It is a huge issue in technology throughout the entire country. If you look at unemployment rates for the last year or so, general unemployment has been in the 8 to 9 percent range. I know it has gone down recently. During that same time, unemployment in the technology industry is around 3 percent. At the same time, the demand for the savvy, technologically trained workers is increasing and our education system today is not producing those students.
KK: Can you get by and get a great job if you’re just a brilliant kid and have some certifications under your belt?
TP: We certainly promote certifications by companies like Microsoft and Cisco and Citrix, but the key there is that they have to be trained. If you just Google the phrase “skills gap,” you will see tons and tons of articles about every state in the union saying they cannot find skilled workers to fill their jobs. So they have to be trained, because it is very specific. If you’re trained, companies are now looking to your ability to do the job more than they are looking for a piece of paper that some school gave you.
KK: Basically, Centriq is saying the four-year degree isn’t necessarily necessary?
TP: I think the question is whether college is for everybody, and there’s no question that it’s not for everybody. Especially when you look at the fact that over the last five years, 53 percent of all college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. In technology, because it can be learned and trained by companies like Centriq, people are looking now to see whether you can do the job.
At Centriq, we develop a program that trains individuals with little or no technology experience. We do it in 4-1/2 months but that is 4-1/2 months of five days a week, 7 hours a day. It’s not on a semester basis, so it’s probably about 500 hours of class time. We do it in classrooms with a 10-to-1 student teacher ratio, so it is very hands on. We talk to the hundreds and thousands of IT professionals that we train on the corporate side. We ask them what type of skills an entry-level network administrator or an entry-level programmer/developer needs to be hired at their company. We cater our program, modify it, so that it delivers the skills they need. So on day one, they hit the ground running, contributing to the business.
KK: So four-and-a-half months versus four years? And you can start earning a job that gets you up over 40,000 a year on average?
TP: You should build in the opportunity cost of 3-1/2 years. Not only are you earning between $40,000 and $60,000 over that three years each year, but at the end of that, you also have 3-1/2 years of experience and so, you are very experienced and on your way to a career in technology.