Are you always keen to learn about the leading edge of tech? Do you have a magic touch for fixing phones and computers? Do you look at a website and know how it could be better? We’re immersed in digital technology all the time—which is exactly why tech skills are what today’s companies are hiring for.
According to Uwe Helm, Head of the Technology Professional programs (TPP) at BCIT, the tools we use and the environments we work in are undergoing a momentous shift as information systems continue to evolve. “It’s a combination of the incredible growth in technology-focused businesses, as well as the fact that traditional industries have increased demand for people with applied computing skills,” he explains. “We’re all much more connected in our personal lives, and this expands in the professional space as well.”
Offerings such as TPP were designed for this purpose: to equip professionals with the tech skills they need to take their careers to the next level. If you want to make a professional pivot, start with a growth mindset and a willingness to gain new credentials. And then follow this friendly (and practical) advice for honing your new skills and preparing for the modern workplace.
Pursue your passion
Whether you love obsessing over spreadsheets or are artistically-inclined, chances are you can align your hobbies, interests, and creative pursuits with the expertise that organizations are looking for. For instance, the skills students gain in each of the Technology Professional programs at BCIT can be applied in pretty much any modern workplace.
“Everyone suddenly has a need for a good website, IT infrastructure, or user experience,” says Helm. “You have all these non-technology industries that have a need for programmers, that have a need for data analysts or web designers, they need security and privacy to be ensured.”
Grow your professional network
Even if you have a good idea of what you’d like to do for work, you shouldn’t rush to fill out school or job application. Instead, start by finding and connecting with professionals who are working in the field. “Just talk to people who are in the industry that you would like to enter; then you find out what’s there, what the average day is like,” suggests Helm. “How did they get there? What are their recommendations?”
There are plenty of places where this can happen: job fairs, information sessions, free industry-specific conferences. Helm notes that social media is also a great way to hear from professionals, as they tend to provide personal anecdotes and keen insights into the highs and lows of their work. By following individuals and joining online groups, you can also keep tabs on formal and informal gatherings where you can build business connections and talk about your goals.
Hone your skills
When you know what kind of career you’d like to pursue, then it’s time to seek professional education and experience. Based on his own expertise heading TPP at BCIT, Helm suggests looking for:
A program that lets you earn credentials quickly without short changing yourself
Too often, you’ll see programs that are meant to be completed in one or two months—and while this can help you acquire the basics, it’s not enough to truly gain the skills employers are looking for. You can learn simple coding quickly, but devoting eight months to full-time software development training is a much more effective way to master all manner of web applications so you can get a job straight out of school.
Find a fast-paced, intensive program where you can graduate in less than a year, but be sure it’s not a “crash course” that will leave you looking and feeling like a beginner.
A learning environment that simulates the workplace
Along with technical skills, you need to know how to collaborate, adapt quickly to new tools and systems, and learn from your failures so you can problem solve and innovate with agility. The Technology Support Professional (TSP) program is specially designed to bring together students with diverse knowledge and skill sets, allowing them to collaborate — just like what you’ll find on the job.
“All learning revolve around hands-on projects that directly translate to the workplace,” says Helm. “The hardest thing for a newcomer in any industry is experience, so experiential learning is key for us.”
A curriculum that’s constantly evaluated to adhere to current industry expectations
“The incredible pace of change in industry requires an updated skill set every few years,” says Helm. Take secretarial work, for example, which has become much more dynamic in the digital economy. That’s why the Office Administration with Technology (OAT) program features everything from Photoshop and web design to modern accounting platforms and more advanced uses of Microsoft Office.
A faculty team that can support students with firsthand knowledge and contacts
Alongside technical courses and projects, BCIT students also have the opportunity to attend workshops and hear from industry speakers. “Due to our small class sizes, students develop a very close relationship with the instructors,” says Helm. “It’s the perfect time to bounce around business ideas or get advice on what your next steps should be.”
Most TPP curricula include work experience, allowing students to learn from industry insiders as well as faculty—for example, the one-year Network Administration and Security Professional program (NASP) includes ten months in class, and two months out in the field.
A focus on tangibly proving your skills to potential employers and clients
“We aim to work with the same technology and the same patterns that someone would later encounter on their job,” explains Helm. “The learning becomes a body of work that the student has in their portfolio.” Certain BCIT programs, such as Technical Web Designer (TWD), are especially geared towards helping students graduate with a professional body of work that will wow employers—or attract clients, should they decide to start their own business.
Of course, it’s also important to look at the outcomes of the program you’re considering. On average, 95% of TPP graduates credit their program with getting them a job once they finished school.
Be true to yourself
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve never thought of yourself as a tech expert. “You don’t need to be a math wizard anymore to do programming, for example—it’s getting more accessible and easier to digest,” advises Helm. “And everyone is learning all the time, too. So there’s no best time to start out, and nobody’s missed the boat at any point.”
Ultimately, it’s your unique combination of skills that helps you stand out from the rest. Recruiters can always hire someone who knows computers inside-out, but your educational and career experience—whether it’s in philosophy, nursing, paralegal research, construction, or fine art—is what sets you apart.
Pivoting into a STEM career can open a path to a whole new industry, or it can help you pave a way forward in your current field. The opportunities are all yours—you only have to seize them. If you need help, talk to a BCIT advisor.