The mantra “knowledge is power” has long been a phrase many of us have heard since we were in grade school. While it might sound cliche, it does reign true as knowledge can jumpstart our careers and help us move up the ranks within our organization. However, the need for a college degree has recently come under fire with many questioning whether it’s worth the investment due to the hefty price tag or the lack of flexibility of some higher education programs. The IT sector in Indianapolis and beyond is no exception to this challenge with many employers dropping degree requirements for some positions as a means to fill those in-demand roles. 

While the pressure to fill those open jobs is very real, as leaders in IT we cannot dismiss the immense value that a college degree can have on our employees and business as a whole. Earning a college degree goes beyond honing in on a single skill to eventually get a job in a certain field. It teaches students how to think critically to solve problems that we know will arise day-to-day. Team members who can think through those issues and be solution-oriented will undoubtedly help push your organization further toward its larger goal.

When a student is earning their degree, they are often required to take certain elective courses, which in turn help them have a more well-rounded education. I’ve found that this leads to employees who hold a college degree are more likely to have a holistic understanding of how their role fits into the bigger picture of the organization. As a leader, I need to feel confident I can send one of my analysts into any meeting with employees from other departments and speak to how the project they are working on will ultimately impact the business and move the needle.

I recently returned to school – many years after earning my bachelor’s degree – to earn my master’s degree in IT management from Western Governors University Indiana because I noticed the leaders around me held advanced degrees. I knew if I wanted to continue moving up in my field, I would need to explore further learning and add another credential to my experiential and educational portfolio.

After graduating from the fully online, accredited and competency-based university, I was selected to join WGU Indiana’s Distinguished Alumni Council to further its mission to close Indiana’s skills gap by providing flexible and affordable pathways to higher education. This aligns with TechPoint’s Mission 41K initiative to address the largest problems facing Indiana tech employers today – namely, finding, hiring and retaining top talent. If we want to address our state’s tech talent shortage, the solution is not employers forgoing degree requirements for prospective candidates but instead create access to degree programs, certification courses and micro-credential opportunities. We must cultivate a culture where Hoosiers feel empowered to skill-up with a combination of experience and education.

More About Tom Braden: Tom Braden is Vice President of Information Technology at IMMI in Westfield and a member of the WGU Indiana Distinguished Alumni Council. WGU Indiana is a nonprofit online university offering 60+ degrees in the four colleges of business, teaching, I.T. and health/nursing. WGU Indiana is the first-ever state model within Western Governors University and prides itself on being the nation’s first accredited competency-based university as well as having a diverse student body across the entire state of Indiana.