Linux is everywhere these days. It runs our phones, the web servers that underpin everything from Facebook to Google, even our cars. That means there’s a bigger demand for people who know how to work with the operating system than ever before, and those jobs often pay good money.
The Linux Foundation is a non-profit that not only helps maintain and develop core parts of the Linux operating system but also provides education and certification to information professionals who manage Linux servers. Today the organization announced The Extended Learning Linux Foundation Scholarship Program, an educational initiative aimed at helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds gain the skills they need to start careers in information technology.
Most importantly, the first course, Intro to Linux, assumes little to no computer literacy.
Eventually the Linux Foundation hopes to expand its scholarship program throughout the world, but it will start in Austin, Texas, through a partnership with job training and placement organization Goodwill Central Texas. The scholarships will be available to students at Goodwill Excel Center, a public charter school in Austin for adults seeking to complete their high school diplomas, and the Goodwill Career and Technical Academy.
Under the scholarship program, the Linux Foundation will offer eligible Goodwill students access to the organization’s Intro to Linux and Essentials of System Administration courses, as well as allow students to take its Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator exam, all free—just like the operating system itself.
Tech Within Reach
Politicians and business leaders have touted better technology education and training programs in recent years as a solution to growing inequality. After all, the tech industry is constantly complaining about a shortage of skilled workers, and tech jobs tend to pay far more than the national average.
To solve the problem, entrepreneurs have launched code bootcamps, private schools that try to prepare students for careers in fields like computer programming or web design in a matter of weeks, as well as a wide variety of internet-based courses that can be completed at home. The trouble is these programs are often expensive, assume a fundamental understanding of computers or even some previous programming experience, and/or require access to broadband internet to complete, often putting technology training out of reach for the people who need them most, including the homeless, single parents, felons, and people with disabilities.
Goodwill Central Texas hopes its training program will be different. The Linux Foundation’s courses are online and self-paced, but that doesn’t help students who lack internet access at home. This new program will provide that access on campus, where students can get career counseling and find more structure and guidance than someone trying to complete the courses on their own. For example, Williams says professional Linux server administrators will be available to help students understand the material and answer any questions they may have.
Real Life Experience
Perhaps most importantly, the first course, Intro to Linux, assumes little to no computer literacy, says Michael Cortez, a 29-year-old former restaurant manager who is part of Goodwill’s pilot program. Cortez has long been interested in a career in information technology but didn’t have much experience before starting the program and hadn’t even heard of Linux. “It’s a challenge, don’t get me wrong,” he says. “I guess it’s just learning the computer language itself.”
To be clear, the Linux certification program doesn’t teach students to code and won’t prepare them for a career in programming. Rather, it focuses on what it takes to se tup and maintain Linux servers. Austin is a prime location to test such a program because of the large numbersof cloud computing and other tech companies clustered in the area, such as Rackspace, which has just expanded its Austin operation. But the big question is whether the program will actually prepare the students for the jobs. Most companies want to hire people with extensive experience, not people who have only just completed a certification program.
“That’s where it falls on Goodwill, to be frank,” Williams says. “We need to give them real-life experience, not just training in the lab.”