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Steve “Woz” Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer and inventor of the Apple II computer, announced on Friday the launch of his latest startup, Woz U.
The venture is a “digital institute” meant to help people gain skills in computer science to fill gaps in high-paying technology roles. Wozniak, beloved for his affability, said Woz U was created to make tech less intimidating.
“People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can’t do it,” he said in a statement. “I know they can, and I want to show them how.”
Many economists predict that robotics and artificial intelligence are poised to replace sizable chunks of the American workforce, particularly those working in low-skill jobs. Without the proper training, these predictions suggest, millions of employees could be out of a job.
Woz U was launched in an effort to give people relevant skills as a kind of insurance policy. As tech becomes even more of a dominant presence in the US economy, America’s tech sector will need more people to fill new roles. According to Wozniak, there’s a way to do that without racking up thousands in college loans.
“Our goal is to educate and train people in employable digital skills without putting them into years of debt,” he said in a statement.
Woz U is hardly the first coding school designed to make seasoned engineers out of novice techies. Udacity, for instance, was founded in 2012 and boasts more than 1.5 million users. Around the world, there are dozens more bootcamps with a similar mission. Critics, however, have said the tech industry rarely hires the bootcamp graduate over the person with the four-year degree, arguing the skills they gain still tend to fall short in the workplace.
Woz U wants to separate itself through its various divisions. The primary one is the collection of online classes that people can enroll in to learn the basics of computer support and software development. In time, the curriculum will expand to include data scientists and cybersecurity experts. Woz U will also focus on getting students career-ready by helping them with their resumes, practice coding tests, and building out their portfolios.
In addition, Woz U will look to enter schools to encourage kids in K-12 to pursue science, tech, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); it’ll build an accelerator program to “develop elite tech talent”; and it’ll work with companies to recruit and train new talent on-site, through Woz U programs.
Over the coming years, Woz U will set up 30 brick-and-mortar locations around the US to expand its digital institute into the physical world. The company said it will announce the specific locations within the next couple months. The accelerator school will be based out of Arizona.
Woz U couldn’t disclose exact costs for students, but a spokesperson said “cost of tuition would vary based on the students program or retraining needs.” The flexible approach comes from Wozniak’s lifelong belief that technology should be available to everyone, beginning with Apple’s earliest computers, which his cofounder Steve Jobs believed should be sold, not given away.
Woz U is the tech veteran’s latest project intended to stick to his original and enduring vision.