The IT sector is a growth industry with employers paying attractive salaries to attract candidates amid a serious talent shortage – yet many US colleges and universities are producing graduates who can’t fill the gap. That’s the view of Terry Kim and Jacob Hess, the founders of NGT Academy, a training business currently trying to raise $31 million for its vision of placing a million people into technology sector jobs by 2030.
Kim and Hess are Air Force veterans who trained thousands of IT engineers during their military career. On leaving the Air Force for roles in the private sector, they couldn’t get over how poorly qualified many IT graduates from college courses appeared to be, despite having spent as long as four years supposedly learning their trade. “We could see there was a problem,” Hess says. “Graduates had the right certificates, often from prestigious colleges, but when it came to the practical stuff, they didn’t even have the basics.”
“The truth is that you don’t need to go to college for years to prepare for a career in technology,” adds Kim. “We knew we could train them in a matter of months, because that’s what we had done with 18- and 19-year-olds coming out of basic training and needing to be taught the skills they needed to set up mission-critical infrastructure in places like Afghanistan.”
Kim and Hess launched NGT Academy in 2016, convinced they could teach IT skills more quickly and affordably than colleges – and certain that employers would find their students better equipped for work. “Students were paying $85,000 for a college degree and then not getting a job,” Kim says. “By contrast, employers could see how our students had real practical skills – we’ve had students go on to work in high-paying roles at employers like Google.”
Initially, Kim and Hess had envisioned NGT offering its training from a campus facility, but early-stage investors urged it to consider an online model. Kim and Hess, plus some early recruits, spent much of 2016 building the network required to deliver NGT’s training, before launching courses. The training offers a mix of live teaching and training that students can undertake in their own time – ensuring they can fit study in around other commitments – and, crucially, it’s a 20-week course, rather than taking several years.
NGT Academy founders Terry Kim and Jacob Hess
The emphasis is on equipping students with the practical skills they will need in the workplace, explains Kim. “We start with a foundation course that gives them a really solid basis of knowledge,” he says. “Then we layer on three projects to given them that experience.” The course offers students the opportunity to explore multiple areas of IT as they work out which aspect of the industry interests them most. Kim says students qualifying from NGT may end up in as many as 30 different types of job.
As for tuition fees, students certainly aren’t going to pay as much as a college degree would have cost them. Until recently, NGT Academy has charged through an income-sharing model, with students paying no fees upfront but diverting a portion of their post-graduation earnings to the business; they don’t pay until they’re earning at least $40,000 and NGT then earns a share until the student has paid $25,000.
Now, however, NGT is shifting to an upfront model, asking students to pay $6,500 to go through its course. It’s partnered with a finance business to help students arrange loans if they don’t have that the funds available, but Kim believes this type of structure ensures that “students have more skin in the game”.
So far, NGT has trained around 1,000 students – a small number in the context of the company’s ambition to get 1 million into IT jobs within the next eight years. But Kim and Hess are ready to step up the pace; this is one reason why they’re now fundraising.
A good chunk of the $31 million target will support NGT as it returns to its original vision of setting up a campus. Kim and Hess are developing a facility in Phoenix where students will live and learn onsite. Students will enjoy the same training as their online counterparts, but in a physical location. Part of the initiative is to offer scholarships to military veterans with security clearances.
Still, the company expects online students to account for 80% of the intake over the next few years. Part of the challenge is to build brand awareness. This is one reason why NGT has opted for a Regulation A fundraising, through which retail investors can back the company alongside the institutions for whom these exercises are normally reserved.
The fundraising is also being featured on Going Public, the TV show that features early-stage companies as they try to raise money from investors. “We could see a real opportunity to tell our story and build our brand,” says Kim.
Certainly, the potential market is huge. The IT industry is expected to create almost 700,000 completely new jobs over the next few years, NGT points out, and to pay an average salary that is twice as high as average earnings. “It’s a marathon not a sprint, but we’re giving people the real-world skills they need to secure those jobs,” Kim says.
Source by www.forbes.com