Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is back on the startup scene – this time with his new education app, Woz U. The platform, which promises to “get people into the workforce quickly and affordably”, offers a wide range of career-focused programs with which users can equip themselves for high-tech industries like artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.
Woz U, which uses the famed entrepreneur’s nickname “The Woz”, runs a variety of video-based curricula to prepare students “to get through interview exams, create resumes, and build a portfolio to showcase projects and skills for employers”.
Billing the company as education “for the masses”, Woz U runs five K-12-level programs: full-stack software developer; computer support specialist; data science; mobile application and cyber security. Users can also access the Woz U curriculum via a learning management system called Atlas.
“Innovation to me was always having the skills that, if you had an idea, you could figure out a way to get there – and I call it ‘writing the book yourself,'” says Wozniak on the company’s homepage. He should know: the 67-year-old California native developed the Apple 1 in 1976, before creating the paradigm-shifting Apple 2, just two years later.
Woz U, too, comes amid a major tech skills gap in the United States. Nine in ten parents want their children to study computer science. But only one in four US schools teaches computer programming, according to the K-12 Computer Science Education Week team. The country only graduates around 1/12 of the people needed to fill its computer science roles.
At the same time there has been increasing public outcry over increasing higher education costs, and yawning gender, sexuality and race gaps in the technology industry. Woz U, which describes its team as “change agents”, will hope its home-based learning platform can plug some of those gaps.
However that does not mean that Wozniak’s latest challenge is a shoo-in for success. Plenty of other firms have already stepped into the tech education space – not least Udacity, the 2011-founded Mountain View brand that has 1.6 million users and hookups with industry leaders like Google. Many tech leaders also believe that online courses lack the depth and employability of degrees or other training.
That will not deter Woz U, and the company expects to add physical locations to its digital offering in 2018. A year later it will inaugurate an accelerator to endow students with skills necessary to build a successful startup, including finance, raising capital and founding a company.