Why popular online IT schools don't work and juniors are left without employment

A few years ago, during the pandemic, there was a huge demand for IT specialists on the labor market. Seniors were hard to find, and middles and juniors were snapped up instantly. Almost everyone who completed some courses and knew how to program at a basic level – be it web, backend or mobile applications – had almost a 100% chance of finding a job in 2-3 months. But now everything has changed.

Retrospective: The online education market a couple of years ago

The golden age of the online education market development was in 2015-2020. Many schools put training on stream, but the quality of training suffered. The scaling of the training system did not work everywhere, but this did not affect demand. Switchers and graduates bought everything they saw, and employers were ready to take anyone who could at least somehow work with the console.

A popular offer of such schools is “10 projects in the portfolio and guaranteed employment.” In reality, participants received 10 tasks similar to those given to students at technical universities, and a set of video lessons for independent study. For example, the task of saving an object to a database. From a real project in such a task 0.1%. There is a lot of code, but most of it is copy-paste, which artificial intelligence can create with a snap of the fingers. For a practicing programmer, such a “project” takes half an hour of work.

The cost of the courses grew rapidly. People were ready to pay in anticipation of starting a career in IT, although they spent half the course just watching videos. Sometimes the curator answered questions in groups of 20-30 people, but mostly the students studied independently. Nevertheless, this was enough. The severe shortage of personnel played into the hands of students of such courses – they really took everyone.

New reality for juniors

After 2022, everything changed. Many IT companies left and stopped hiring in Russia. But domestic companies began import substitution and launching new products. On the one hand, some companies left, but others began to develop more actively. It would seem that hiring should continue, but this did not happen.

The demand for seniors and middles, especially local ones, remained. But juniors faced unemployment. Local companies went the way of outstaffing: hiring formed teams from contractors. Juniors did not fit into this system, because raising a young specialist requires a lot of time from the company.

There is a fairly large percentage of people from non-technical fields among interns. For example, a person with a humanities education goes into development. He lacks the foundation that is provided at universities in the relevant programs. For example, he does not know what the complexity of algorithms is, what it affects, how to work with it, there is no knowledge of relational databases. Such people need a mentor who will monitor their work and help them. This requires employers to assign mentors or additionally train newcomers in theoretical foundations.

In general, it is expensive to grow a junior within a company. This has led to a lot of interns on the market who have completed courses but have not managed to find a job during the mass hiring.

IT recruiter's comment:

Nowadays, crowds of people respond to junior or middle positions. But, unfortunately, these are the same type of resumes of IT course graduates. These templates are read from the first line, and the repositories contain half-dead educational tasks. If a candidate does not indicate any independent projects in the resume and does not distinguish himself from the mass of similar interns, then, as a rule, we do not even consider these profiles. We immediately reject them.

Those who, in addition to courses, have completed internships and can demonstrate real combat experience, albeit not in commercial projects, have a much better chance. And of course, the motivation and preparation of the candidate play a big role. Even at the response stage, there are ways to attract the recruiter's attention, but this is not taught in courses and schools, which makes our job easier – we can immediately assess the qualities we need, rather than reading copied resumes

Cyclicality of the labor market

That's how it is now. Maybe in a year or two everything will change. It's not the first time that there is a situation like this, when there is a crisis, and companies do not take juniors, preferring experienced teams. This usually passes – the market's need for developers grows faster than universities can graduate them. At least, this has been the case for the last 15 years.

Maybe this will change someday: either the IT sphere will stop growing so quickly, or universities will start producing as many specialists as needed. But for now, this is not the case. All crises, whether 2008 or 2014, followed roughly the same scenario: young specialists were dismissed, then recruited, and then normal young specialists cannot be found.

How schools are adapting to new conditions

In the new reality, the offer of guaranteed employment, which was so attractive to interns, has become, to put it mildly, irrelevant. Now everyone understands that most juniors are graduates of courses. They have a carbon copy of their resume, and if it indicates the name of the course, such a resume is not even considered.

Schools have started to adapt. They teach students to indicate not the course title, but their academic projects on their resumes. They add years of experience so that graduates look more solid and at least get an interview. Employers have become very selective, because there is no such serious shortage as three years ago.

What should interns do?

You need to study hard, code more than what is taught in online schools. In addition to commercial experience, open source experience will do. If a graduate has contributed to an interesting project, and its repository contains more than just typical tasks, it will interest the employer.

Open source is easy to find – just type “popular open source products” into a search engine. If a student gets to the point where his commits are accepted, many employers are ready to count this as commercial experience. And you don't need to go through an interview for this. It's enough to prove to the developer community that the code is worthy of being included in a common repository.

Soft skills are also important: the ability to adequately pass an interview, show a willingness to learn. The main quality of a junior is the ability to quickly gain knowledge.

The Importance of Self-Development

Any course provides a base, but success depends on the student himself. How much extra effort he put in to understand. Read and study a certain topic in more depth, practice, start a pet project to practice knowledge on it and turn it into skills.

Most students just take a course and get a certificate. They develop a minimum amount of skills, but do not have deeper knowledge and a holistic picture. It is difficult to consider such people as specialists. It takes a lot of effort to make developers out of them.

Schools and courses are not a panacea

Such courses promise an easy entry into the profession. It seems that if the course is completed, the graduate is almost a ready-made specialist with a decent salary.

Few people say: “We are starting a year-long course, forget about your personal life and entertainment during this time. During this year, you must spend all your free time on studying, reading additional materials, working on yourself.” You need to put in a lot of effort to develop.

Most people think that it is simple and easy, and that completing the course will give them results without much effort. It comes as a surprise how much effort you need to spend to achieve the result.

You can't cheat or take homework lightly. Otherwise, further learning will become more and more difficult. And there will be no benefit from it.

The problem may not be so much in the courses, but in people who do not understand where they are going, why and how much effort they need to spend. And the courses promise that everything will be simple: in a year you will become a specialist, in three months you will find a job. No – nothing is so simple.

It has become more difficult for juniors to get a job, schools are not improving their programs, but are figuring out how to push graduates into work. Especially those courses that do not charge money, but teach in exchange for payment after employment. They inflate resumes and push their graduates as middles. Employers know about this and try to track down and filter out such people. The more inflated resumes are, the better recruiters learn to notice them.

However, schools still promise employment. Few say that they won't even look at graduates' resumes. In these conditions, the best advice is to look for any jobs and practical experience, without aiming for something great at first. Work in a team with other developers who will help you avoid mistakes and point out shortcomings. From the outside, problems are much more visible. The chance to work somewhere, even for minimal money, is very valuable.

Some schools, including ours, are working to give students real practice. In real companies, not on fictitious, but real commercial projects.

Small businesses do not have the money to develop solutions for their needs. Students do not have work experience. We aim to find small projects from small businesses and do them with the help of students at very low prices, under the guidance and supervision of our developers. As a result, businesses will get their IT solution cheaply, and students will get practice and an entry in their portfolio. This paradigm seems to us to be the most correct and practically useful.

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