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Posted on September 28th, 2021 in Community Impact, Eleven Fifty Academy, Featured

Lately, I’ve been running into an interesting problem. Our offerings at Eleven Fifty sound too good to be true. For example, when I tell people that the average starting salary for our graduates is $54,000 (with several starting between $55k-82k), that number doesn’t make sense to people who are currently working jobs in the $28k range. It becomes even more unbelievable when I tell them that our bootcamps can be part-time and completed in as little as six months, allowing them to continue working while pursuing this career transition.

The Difficulty Of Building Trust

Why is it so difficult to build trust? It’s difficult to pin down a single answer, but there are several factors that I see playing into this skepticism. 

Educational scams

From financial aid scams to diploma mills, there are a lot of unreputable “educational” organizations out there. There are many online “colleges” offering degrees based on “life experience” or a quick pathway to a degree. This is a serious problem that undermines legitimate educational institutions and creates difficulties in building trust with potential learners. 

Historical imbalances of power—racism, sexism, and classism

The tech industry is seen as a white man’s world. Think of all the stereotypes about “nerdy computer programmers” and “computer geeks” that you know, or simply step into a college classroom and observe who is sitting in a programming class. Because this industry is overwhelmingly male and white, people who aren’t those things are often disenfranchised and, rightfully so, distrustful of anyone offering them an “in” to this industry. 

Exhaustion and burnout

It’s a simple fact that the 2020 global pandemic has taken a huge toll on everyone. According to a study by Indeed, burnout is on the rise. 52% of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021—up from the 43% who said the same in Indeed’s pre-COVID-19 survey. The pandemic’s toll is most apparent in older generations. Baby Boomers show a 7% increase in burnout from pre-pandemic levels (24%) to today (31%), and more than half of Gen-Xers are currently burned out—a 14% jump from the 40% who felt this way last year. When people are tired and stressed out, it’s difficult to seek out different opportunities or to have the energy to vet an organization offering them a solution. 

Why does this problem persist?

Another factor that impacts the difficulty of “too good to be true” is that folks don’t understand how in-demand software development and cyber security professionals are. The workforce just isn’t there, but companies still need to fill roles. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software development positions are projected to grow 22% from 2019 to 2029, and information security positions are expected to grow 31% in that same period. These job growth rates are much higher than the average for all occupations, and companies simply don’t have the people to fill them. At present, there are more than 500,000 computing jobs unfilled, and by 2024, there will be more than 1 million unfilled computing jobs

This desperation for qualified workers is part of what makes people think that these opportunities aren’t real. But in fact,  in May of 2020, the median annual wage for software developers was $110,140, and $103,590 for cyber security professionals. Companies are willing to pay for employees who can fill their empty positions, and it’s important for us to communicate this need so that people understand that this is a viable and potentially life changing opportunity. 

What is the solution?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is one easy solution to this problem. People are right to be skeptical when things sound too good to be true, and there are many factors that influence that skepticism. However, there are a few practical steps that I see as important, especially when attempting to build trust with minority demographics. 

The first and foremost step is to seek out relationships with community partners. I’ve been really excited about our partnership with Martin University, located in the core of the 46218 zip code. Over half of their student population is Black and female—demographics that we are focused on reaching due to the underrepresentation in the tech industry. This partnership is a unique opportunity to build relationships person-to-person, figuring out how we can support each other in the excellent work that is being done. 

Additionally, it’s important to bring in the human element. People want authenticity and genuine connection. We bring this focus digitally by highlighting the real people who are learners as well as our partnerships. We are also looking for ways to connect with the community in-person, like organizing a litter pickup or a community event. 

One other step is leveraging the real life examples that have actually done it.  Getting our alumni and our success stories out and having our alumni speak and talk about their experience and journey. We listen  and learn directly from walking , living proof.  

Building trust can be difficult, but it’s an important step in making a difference. Here at Eleven Fifty Academy, we are dedicated to showing up even if there’s only one person in the audience. We know that building trust takes time, and we’re in it for the long run because we believe so firmly in the possibilities and impact of our programs. We’re here to help, and Eleven Fifty Academy is committed to making a meaningful impact for you, your family, and your community. 

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