We at The Portal believe that 1–2 years of experience during university is critical to successfully landing a job out of graduation.

Colleges, universities, and higher educational systems are vital for laying the foundations of knowledge and hard, technical skills, but they face problems of accessibility and the fluctuating standards of a rapidly shifting, technologically-evolving job market; universities can’t keep up with the growing skills gap. There is an opportunity to open access to higher education through community colleges, which are more flexible and committed to market-based career and skills-development learning above academia. We believe community colleges are the emerging, local platforms through which to build alliances with local business ecosystems in order to develop new talent and channel job seekers into the market.

In parallel to higher education, new technologies and private sector programs are bringing skills-focused alternatives to young talent seeking job readiness. Self-learning tools such as Codecademy, Code.org, Coursera, and Lynda.com have democratized subject-specific learning into training modules, tutorials, and online degree programs. These are empowering and important tools; however, we have found that youth still require hands-on, real world experience to receive competitive offers in technical fields in the technology industry. Therefore, immersive, offline programming coupled with online, self-learning tools have yielded the best results in our own work.

We also look to private sector-led training programs as a compass for changing trends in technical and other professional skills across the technology industry. Companies like Amazon, AT&T, and IBM provide new and experienced talent with the chance to prime themselves for an increasingly competitive job market. Their programs provide training to potential hires, developing and honing the skills that they need in order to thrive in their new positions.

Ultimately, the skills of job markets continue to fluctuate and evolve over time, stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors must adapt and collaborate for the benefit of new talent. More must be done to leverage each other’s resources and know-how to make the career preparation journey more transparent, accessible, and hopeful for young graduates.

“The Portal has offered me a plethora of opportunities to grow and learn. It has been more than just a place to develop web applications for local startups. It has been a gathering of some of the brightest and most motivated individuals ready to surmount any challenge. The Portal fosters in everyone the notion of teamwork being paramount to success. Working with the people at the Portal has been a wonderful experience; there is so much to be gleaned from being in a team of developers with unique and diverse skillsets.

It is thanks to the Portal that I have been able to garner ‘real world’ experience (and the ‘real world’ challenges that come with it). Being involved in all stages of a complex software project is not something that everyone can say they’ve done. For me, seeing the fruition of my work is one of the most rewarding parts of being part of The Portal.”

– Andy Feng

This article was originally posted on Medium, April 10, 2017.