When I went to college, I never really even considered other options. Though now that I look back, I wish I had taken at least one of the various offers I had for internships and similar things.
That term internship has gotten a bad name over the years, and for good reason. It asks people to trade income and time for the chance to get their foot in the door in a field they want to work in. They're often exploited by people for low wage work doing things that may not have anything to do with the job they want to get. The real thing they're trying to trade their time for is education and experience, as well as potential acknowledgement when viewed on their resume.
It's basically the worst version of an apprenticeship.
Yet we don't often see apprenticeships anymore in America, except in small artisanship crafts.
I now wish I could have gotten some form of apprenticeship in programming. Such a thing doesn't really exist as far as I know though. You still work with a lot of people that may be new to programming, and others that may know a lot more than you, but you don't often have that sort of relationship of a master and apprentice.
I think that's a mistake.
Colleges are good in a lot of ways. You learn a lot. Although a lot of it isn't applied and is so far removed from the application that you may not see the use at the time. They rarely even speak of the application of many subjects.
I didn't feel at all prepared after years in college. I still feel like a novice after years and years of programming and dozens of books. I lost count of the number of programming books I've read many years ago. I personally have more books than the local library on the subject of programming, and I've read all but the most useless ones, and the ones that are outdated or on a subject with little application to what I do. Now, it's likely that a lot of the way I feel about being a novice is partially imposter syndrome, as well as the tendency for people to be far more aware of how little they know as they grow to know more about a subject.
Haven’t you read Plato? Abee5, CC BY (source)
I feel as if some of that would have gone away with more of an apprenticeship type of situation though, because I often work alone, and I don't get that feeling of acknowledgement of skill by anyone even remotely skilled themselves. I've also missed out on learning quite a bit. I don't know any of the tricks I might learn from seasoned professionals unless during some casual interaction they mention it, or we're reviewing code or something.
Lately for some reason I've started to be interested in metalwork. It's been a growing interest for years now. Just recently I've been thinking about doing jewel smithing as a hobby. For a brief moment I fantasized about going to another country and learning under a master jeweler.
It was then that it struck me that our system is only one of many types of education, and how much we are missing out.
Many read books. I read quite a few. It's a requirement of my field. Those books aren't listed on my resume. Yet this is one form of education.
You can learn a lot these days from videos. I educate myself quite a bit while doing other things, just watching informative videos, or listening to lectures. Those too aren't listed on a resume, if they even could be.
You also can learn a lot yourself and take various tests for certification. Now those you can list on a resume, with limited affect. Many discount them quite a bit, because so many have them in many fields.
Somehow we have caught ourselves in a capitalistic Catch-22 where the primary means of acknowledged education is expensive classes that everyone in various fields knows don't actually prepare you for the jobs they need done. So you need experience. Yet you can't get experience because even entry level positions often require experience. Now they may hire you even if you lack experience, but you'll have to basically ignore their ad and impress them in the interview.
What is missing? Apprenticeships really.
And acknowledgement and testing for knowledge that you can self-acquire.
People who can't really prove their skills need a chance to learn from those more educated than themselves, but also have their skills acknowledged.
We need more than just college.
And we need better colleges.