Workplace

‘There aren't enough data scientists’: How the future of reskilling in tech is changing.

Both ed tech and traditional institutions are addressing how to train for future tech jobs.

Graduation cap on a laptop screen

Ed-tech companies are stepping in to help companies reskill and retain tech employees.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The person who builds or programs your self-driving car may never step foot in a classroom for a higher degree, and some education and industry professionals are totally OK with that.

The tech labor shortage persists and the number of unfilled jobs in the U.S. has remained high. As of June 2021, job openings had increased to a high of 10.1 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an increasing need for highly-skilled tech workers, organizations are utilizing ed-tech programs to reduce attrition and fill job openings faster. The old model of waiting for students to matriculate from specialized master's and Ph.D. programs has changed.

In Eightfold AI's March 2021 survey of over 200 manager-level employees, almost 50% said their top management goal for the year is to cross-train and upskill their employees, while almost 30% said their goal is to reduce turnover rates.

"Upskilling and reskilling is very critical. There aren't enough data scientists, there aren't enough people with those digital skills," said Kamal Ahluwalia, president of Eightfold AI. He told Protocol that the talent platform has partnered with companies spanning over 18 industries to help train employees for new roles using its own AI software. It partners with education technology companies to provide the necessary courses for workers to reskill.

One of the companies still helping to bridge that gap is Udacity. Many in the industry are familiar with its nano-degrees, ranging from cloud computing to programming. And while in the past an employee might have enrolled themselves individually and taken on the cost alone, Udacity has its share of corporate partners. Udacity founder and executive chairman Sebastian Thrun, who also founded Google's self-driving project, told Protocol that corporations are frequently picking up the tab for employees enrolled in a program. Udacity has partnered with Bertelsmann, AT&T and Google for additional scholarship opportunities. Without help from a corporation, a typical graduate might spend about $1,500, he said — a cost that could prompt some employees to move on to other companies that would be more willing to invest in their development and enable them to move into a new role.

"I firmly believe that the future of education has to be lifelong," Thrun told Protocol. "I really believe this very deeply. And I contrast this with the model that we have so far — you go to college, [and] once you get your degree you're done. The model is going to kind of fail going forward, because you can find really amazing engineers in their 40s that by nature could not have learned about self-driving cars in college."

Thrun told Protocol that the program's target remains reskilling and upskilling tech workers in the age bracket of 24 to 65. Though he makes it clear that Udacity is still not trying to replace traditional universities. He predicts that in 20 years the nano-degrees offered by Udacity will become a reputable degree in addition to those offered by academic institutions.

"I think we're never going to replace the Stanford degree," he told Protocol. "Our strategy has been to push this credential and say, 'This is something that is guaranteed by industry, it meets quality standards without conflicting with universities.' We're never trying to replace existing degrees."

Fusemachines Inc. also does not see itself as a competitor to traditional master's and Ph.D. programs, but rather a way to upskill employees to a point. The ed-tech company differs from Udacity in that its classes are more of a hybrid model, held partially online and on-site with instructors and TAs. It focuses primarily on AI courses for workers both in and outside of the U.S. The goal for its corporate partners is to stop the drain of talent, said Fusemachines founder and CEO Sameer Maskey.

Martial Hebert, dean of the School of Computer Science and a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, said he does not see the rising number of ed-tech companies as competitors. "There's room for many different ways of doing this,'' he told Protocol. "It's not that one is better than another. It serves different populations, with different goals."

He has seen firsthand the voracity with which companies in and outside of tech are looking for qualified tech workers. Currently, Hebert and his colleagues are thinking about how it can reformat its own master's for professionals so they can reach out to broader populations that don't have to be in residence. They are working on AI education offerings for upskilling and reskilling as well. Right now their classes range from machine learning to robotics. The challenge, he said, is maintaining a level of direct experience while also making programs more accessible to prospective students who may be less willing to leave their jobs to attend classes in person.

"All of this is very much a work in progress," said Hebert, who recognizes the accelerating demand for educating professionals. The old model for educating employees is no longer realistic for rapidly changing fields.

Policy

How the internet got privatized and how the government could fix it

Author Ben Tarnoff discusses municipal broadband, Web3 and why closing the “digital divide” isn’t enough.

The Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative, which kicked off in May, will roll out grant programs to expand and improve broadband infrastructure, teach digital skills and improve internet access for “everyone in America by the end of the decade.”

Decisions about who is eligible for these grants will be made based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broken, outdated and incorrect broadband maps — maps the FCC plans to update only after funding has been allocated. Inaccurate broadband maps are just one of many barriers to getting everyone in the country successfully online. Internet service providers that use government funds to connect rural and low-income areas have historically provided those regions with slow speeds and poor service, forcing community residents to find reliable internet outside of their homes.

Keep Reading Show less
Aditi Mukund
Aditi Mukund is Protocol’s Data Analyst. Prior to joining Protocol, she was an analyst at The Daily Beast and NPR where she wrangled data into actionable insights for editorial, audience, commerce, subscription, and product teams. She holds a B.S in Cognitive Science, Human Computer Interaction from The University of California, San Diego.

Businesses are evolving, with current events and competition serving as the catalysts for technology adoption. Events from the pandemic to the ongoing war in Ukraine have exposed the fragility of global supply chains. The topic of sustainability is now on every board room agenda. Industries from manufacturing to retail and everything in between are exploring the latest innovations like process automation, machine learning and AI to identify potential safeguards against future disruption. But according to a recent survey from Boston Consulting Group, while 80% of companies are adopting digital solutions to navigate existing business challenges or opportunities like the ones mentioned, only about 30% successfully digitally transform their business.

For the last 50 years, SAP has worked closely with our customers to solve some of the world’s most intricate problems. We have also seen, and have been a part of, rapid accelerations in technology in response. Across industries, certain paths have emerged to help businesses manage the unexpected challenges over the last few years.

Keep Reading Show less
DJ Paoni

DJ Paoni is the President of SAP North America and is responsible for the strategy, day-to-day operations, and overall customer success in the United States and Canada. Dedicated to helping customers become best-run businesses, DJ has established himself as a trusted advisor who places a high priority on their success. He works with many of SAP North America's 155,000 customers and helps them adopt business and technology best practices across 25 different industries.

Fintech

How I decided to exit my startup’s original business

Bluevine got its start in factoring invoices for small businesses. CEO Eyal Lifshitz explains why it dropped that business in favor of “end-to-end banking.”

"[I]t was a realization that we can't be successful at both at the same time: You've got to choose."

Photo: Bluevine

Click banner image for more How I decided series

Bluevine got its start in fintech by offering a modern version of invoice factoring, the centuries-old practice where businesses sell off their accounts receivable for up-front cash. It’s raised $767 million in venture capital since its founding in 2013 by serving small businesses. But along the way, it realized it was better to focus on the checking accounts and lines of credit it provided customers than its original product. It now manages some $500 million in checking-account deposits.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.
Enterprise

The Roe decision could change how advertisers use location data

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restricting use of location data. But that may be changing.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the likelihood for location data to be used against people suddenly shifted from a mostly hypothetical scenario to a realistic threat. Although location data has a variety of purposes — from helping municipalities assess how people move around cities to giving reliable driving directions — it’s the voracious appetite of digital advertisers for location information that has fueled the creation and growth of a sector selling data showing who visited specific points on the map, when, what places they came from and where they went afterwards.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing. The overturning of Roe not only puts the wide availability of location data for advertising in the spotlight, it could serve as a turning point compelling the digital ad industry to take action to limit data associated with sensitive places before the government does.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Enterprise

Russian cyberattacks against the US may still be coming, experts say

In response to strong sanctions and military aid to Ukraine, Russia was expected to launch disruptive cyberattacks against the West but never did. But a cyberescalation from Russia still remains possible, as soon as later this year, according to experts.

"I fear this is a 'calm before the storm' situation," said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos.

Illustration: Nanzeeba Ibnat/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In the four months since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia hasn't intensified its usual pattern of cyberattacks against the U.S. and Western Europe in response to sanctions and Ukrainian military aid, as many expected. But that doesn't mean the risk of escalation with the West is gone, numerous experts told Protocol.

In other words, don't lower your shields just yet.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins