Computer career classes bear Apple co-founder’s imprint

Steve Wozniak clapping (© AP Images)
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak believes online education can open doors for many to computer industry careers. (© AP Images)

In the digital age, possessing tech skills can lead to challenging, rewarding careers. But obtaining those skills requires training. And sometimes people can run up heavy debt getting it.

That’s why Apple computer pioneer Steve Wozniak is helping future tech workers stay out of that hole.

Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and helped design its first personal computers, is lending his name to a new venture in the growing field of online education.

Woz U” is rolling out courses to help students break into the computer field as software developers and computer support specialists. It plans to offer cybersecurity and other specialties later.

It’s a commercial venture arranged through the for-profit Southern Careers Institute, which already offers its own software development and other career classes.

Online providers such as Coursera and Udacity, as well as universities, compete in this space with both free and fee-charging “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) that anyone with access to a computer anywhere in the world can take. Courses cover a wide range of topics — from science and math to management and liberal arts.

Three men standing behind a computer, one holding a keyboard (© AP Images)
Steve Jobs, John Sculley and Steve Wozniak unveil the Apple IIc computer in 1984. (© AP Images)

Wozniak, in announcing this venture, said: “Our goal is to educate and train people in employable digital skills without putting them into years of debt. People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can’t do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how.”

In the United States, where low-cost public community colleges compete with for-profit companies to offer career certificates and degrees, some students rack up large debts with no guarantee of a job when they finish.

But demand is growing for those with coding and other tech skills. The number of students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences jumped 74 percent between 2009 and 2015, according to the National Academy of Engineering.

Woz U says it hopes to start offering in-person classes in 2018 in as many as 30 cities around the world and to provide remote students with access to a live instructor online. It also offers an app to guide prospective students on career choices.

Wozniak, 67, urges people unhappy in their current occupation to consider a switch. “Start studying,” he says. “If you have any free time at home, don’t waste it. Make something big for yourself and it will last for the rest of your life.”