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Are IT Training Institutes a rip off in Pakistan?
- Muhammad Arslan Aslam
Which IT training institute is best in Lahore? Do I need to get a certificate for getting a job? Should I do a course from some institute to learn programming? -- These are some of the questions that I get asked a lot these days.
And to be honest, before I started my career, I had those questions as well and that's exactly what I did. I went for a course and got a certificate from a well reputed institute myself. The teacher was amazing, the course was good for a beginner, I got to know people from the same industry as well. But did I learn programming? Did it help me land a job? Did any IT firm ever ask me for a certificate in interviews? The answers to all those questions is a big "NO". And answers to all of the questions mentioned at the top depends a lot on the course itself. I will explain what that means in a while.
Before we proceed, please note that this article is based on my own experiences and from people sharing their experiences. None of this is a result of any affiliation with any institute or any platform.
What are IT Training Institutes?
IT training institutes are special places offering IT trainings and certifications. With IT industry booming a lot these days, they are popping up everywhere. Apart from these institutes, some well known private colleges and universities are offering short courses and trainings for learning computer programming and other IT related skills. In this article, when we refer to IT training institutes, I will be referring to all of these institutions.
What kind of certificates these institutes offer?
Most of these institutes only offer certificates with their own names on it -- and some of these institutes aren't even registered. So that brings the question of credibility of these certificates. But this question doesn't apply to all the institutes. Some chartered universities offer well credible certificates.
Some institutes also offer programs to prepare for online exams to earn certificates from international institutes. But those programs are quite rare and not a lot of institutes are offering those programs. There could be a lot of solutions to this one problem -- but we'll discuss those in a while. And that brings us to the next question:
Is staff at these institutes qualified enough for trainings?
This is one of the biggest question -- and currently a concerning point when it comes to picking up an institute for learning IT skills -- especially computer programming.
IT training institutes in Pakistan employee people from the IT background, of course. But having a degree in IT doesn't necessarily mean that you have mastered IT skills. Which in its own is a big dilemma, but a debate for another day.
We all know that teachers are underpaid. Most of the experienced and seasoned teachers at some of the biggest institutes with higher fees, teachers aren't paid quite well at all. While the boom in IT industry, and software export being one of the biggest industries and a growing one at that -- salaries for software engineers are much higher than an average college teacher. So why would a computer programmer quit his job and join a college to teach kids? So where do the teachers come from at these institutes? Let's not base our answer to this question purely out of assumption.
I joined a well reputed institute to learn computer programming a couple of years ago. In the first few days, I had realized that the teacher was not a programmer. But this was a question that I couldn't ask directly in the class, purely out of respect and not to embarrass the teacher. Upon asking the teacher privately -- I got "tagged" and became the target of the teacher's bullying in the class. It turns out, the teacher was a student of MCS in GCU. He had no experience working as a programmer, and never had done any programming in his career. His only experience was a teacher's assistant and the course that I was enrolled in. I wanted to get a refund and leave the course, but I was not allowed to!
On another account, I went to attend a seminar at a very well reputed IT training institute. During the seminar, I asked the speaker about his programming background, and I was asked to leave the seminar. Upon inquiring the receptionist -- I was told that the instructor is a teacher at a private college and conducts the programming training in his spare time.
However, this is not just limited to computer programming. I am sure most of us are familiar with Pakistan's one of the most famous vloggers and video content creator Azad Chaiwala. I had been following the "King of Business Ideas" since the start on YouTube -- purely for entertainment purposes. A while ago, Azad Chaiwala raised the same questions that we are discussing here. His solution to the problem was to create a new institute that would address the same issues and also offer cheap courses that locals can afford and get jobs based on those skills.
One of the first courses offered by Azad Chaiwala was video editing. His announcement was quite charming and fun as the rest of his videos. He claimed that the course was being delivered by the top industry expert video editor. But was it true? No. His course was being delivered by one of his editors that he had been employing for his own YouTube channel. Was that person qualified enough for the training? I hope so. But soon enough -- his so-called "new kind of institute" fell victim to the same thing as other institutes.
These are some of the many examples, but I think we all got the point. Having non-experienced trainers kills the whole point of the training in its own -- let alone questioning the credibility of the certificates offered.
Is the training material up to date with current industry trends?
This is one of the biggest questions that I have asked myself ever since I have started hunting for a job myself. Institutes are offering courses and degrees, charging hundreds of thousands or rupees in fee and sending students out with little to no knowledge of how the industry actually works and what to expect when they land their first job.
Most of the institutes that I have found, they only offer courses for beginners. Which is a good thing in a sense -- given that, having someone to show you the way is the easiest and quickest to walk upon it. But the course content for even those beginner-friendly courses is neither worth the fees nor sufficient for the job market.
One of the biggest culprits would probably be our education system itself -- especially the higher education institutes. It's painful to see people paying so much fee to get their computer sciences degrees and still not passing out as remotely job ready. Syllabus offered is at least 15 years old with minimum to no updates in a long time. Teachers teaching those courses are not required to keep up to date with industry standards themselves. It feels like we are teaching our kids in 2005 and sending them to find jobs in 2022.
Can this be improved?
I highly doubt that we can even expect to revolutionize the entire education system. That is a big political debate on its own. But there's still a lot that we can do to produce job ready engineers and IT personnel.
- Updated Course Materials: Implementing industry standard tools and providing trainings for in-demand skills would certainly be helpful in producing job ready candidates.
- Trainings by Industry Experts: Conducting these trainings with the help of actual industry experts who have hands-on experience and are also able to teach people would be more effective in expecting a positive outcome from these trainings.
- Preparation Programs for Certifications: Instead of offering cheeky certificates with no spine -- it would be better to have programs that help students prepare for certificates that can actually be validated. With the introduction of nondegree programs like Udacity, it makes more sense to do a degree that is actually prepared and taught by world-class experts and costs less than most of the trainings offered by our "top-notch" institutes.
I have seen many programs launch with the optimism to change the entire education system for the better or the worst. That is highly unlikely given our nation's political stance at the moment.
But it's easy to take smaller steps towards a common goal. Institutes need to recognize their mistakes and shortcomings and try to implement constructive changes.