Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Jumps Into Tech Training, and K-12 Curriculum

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, attends a conference titled 'The Innovation Summit', in
Milan, Italy, Monday, July 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has launched a company focused on giving people online training for technology jobs—a project that is meant to encourage K-12 students to enter the field, too.

Called Woz U—a play on the inventor and entrepreneur’s nickname—the company will seek to provide workers with training and retraining through a variety of channels.

The company says it will work with tech businesses to recruit and train workers through a subscription-based curriculum and programs customized to workers’ needs.

Currently, Woz U is focused on preparation for jobs as computer support specialists and software developers. But jobs in data science, mobile applications, and cybersecurity programs will be coming soon, Woz U said in a statement.

On its website, Woz U says its online course offerings give students video-based curriculum, coupled with access to instructors and student mentors, “without the high cost of traditional degree programs.”

The curriculum for software developers is not merely a “traditional coding boot camp,” Woz U argues. The training goes beyond teaching enrollees how to code, and preps them to become “professional software developer[s] in the world of start-ups and technology companies.”

“Our goal is to educate and train people in employable digital skills without putting them into years of debt,” Wozniak said in the statement.

“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.”

Curriculum and Teacher Certification

In addition, Woz U says it is providing school districts with customized curriculum in “STEAM”—or science, technology, engineering, and math, plus the arts.

The goal of the K-12 efforts is to expose students to digital engineering “at a younger age” and “nudge them toward a possible tech-based career,” the company said.

So far, buyers of the curriculum have included schools and school districts, and there is now interest at the state and regional level, Karen Young, the CEO of Woz U Education, the organization’s K-12 division, told Marketplace K-12.

Woz U is aligning its materials to the postsecondary programs it runs with the goal of creating “career pathways” from the K-12 system through the process of obtaining degrees or certificates. Those career pathways include coding, engineering, robotics, Drones, and 3-D Printing. Pathways in cybersecurity and mobile development are in the works, Young said.

The company, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., says it has also created a mobile app to help match people with tech-based careers suited to their needs.

Additionally, the company’s website says Woz U is offering a “certified educator program” that will give K-12 teachers skills to become a “co-collaborator with students engaged in technology-driven, project-based learning.”

The cloud-based version of the certification program launches in June of 2018, Young said. Workshop-based training on the competencies is available now.

Young said the K-12 products will be priced “for every implementation, particularly when there economies of scale.”

If districts or schools request packages that don’t leave room for a discount based on quantity, the cost is roughly $190 per student for the first 30 students served, and $10 per student after that, the Woz U CEO said. That model makes sense in K-12 media centers where the relevant equipment is used repeatedly with multiple groups of students during the course of the day, Young argued.

The certified educator program averages $900 per teacher, she added.

Woz U will be part of the Southern Careers Institute, a for-profit higher education and training program with seven locations in Texas. But Woz U will seek to partner with other colleges and institutions as it grows, the company says on its website. (Neither Woz U nor the institute has returned requests for comment.)

Over time, Woz U says it will establish brick-and-mortar campuses in more than 30 cities around the U.S. and the world.

Wozniak has had a storied career in technology and computer science. In the mid-1970s, Wozniak, while working at Hewlett-Packard, and friend Steve Jobs began working on trying to create and market a user-friendly personal computer, a period of intense bootstrapping and invention.

Toiling out of Jobs’ garage, the two men eventually formed the company Apple Computer, which would evolve into Apple Inc., now one of the world’s largest technology companies (and a big player in the K-12 market). Wozniak left Apple in 1985.

Photo: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak addresses attendees at  ‘The Innovation Summit’ in Milan, Italy, last July. –Luca Bruno/AP-File

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