Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let's all try this new software gizmo to find the perfect Alt-Ac job

The Chronicle (might be paywalled) reports that Texas State Technical College, spurred by the fact that one third of its state appropriations are now tied to graduates' starting salaries, has eliminated all majors except petroleum engineering developed software that matches graduates' skills with job requirements.

[T]he college system has created a software package designed to narrow the so-called skills gap. Part of that gap, the developers believe, is due to colleges, employers, and students using different terms to describe the same skills. That leads to misunderstanding and frustration among both job seekers and recruiters, who frequently complain that they can’t find people with the skills they need.[1]
But why should Texas State Technical College students have all the fun? It's no secret that fewer and fewer of us, percentage-wise, will ever achieve tenure-track employment.

As far as I know, no one has yet suggested using the Skills Engine to jump-start an alt-ac career (don't thank me, just cite me). What happens when you take the CV of a high profile humanities scholar and feed it into the Skills Engine?

Hmm. The Skills Engine's recommended careers are all postsecondary teaching, which doesn't seem very "Alt" at all. [2]

How about a political science CV? (I just grabbed these off the internet. Both are from tenure-track faculty in R1 institutions in the U.S.)

Now we're getting somewhere. Community & Social Service Specialists and PR Managers look like a real alternative to postsecondary teaching.

And of course I had to try my own CV. I'm happily tenured, but things change. What if I slip up in class and accidentally use curse words or tell a sexually-themed joke? What other jobs could I do?

There you go! Managers, All Other. Career Goal: Put me in charge of stuff.

You can try the Skills Engine here.

[1] The article gives one example of how this software was used: An employer was advertising a position for $15/hour when the going rate for a qualified worker was $22. In fact the "skills gap" appears to be mostly a result of employers not wanting to shell out for salaries or training.

[2] Is "Alt-Ac" simply the new "entrepreneurship," a way to ignore structural issues in the job market and place the responsibility on the individual? Discuss.


  1. Here is for a biology instructor.

    "SkillsEngine™ analyzed your data and detected the following occupations. We also pulled in employment data specific to the selected state. You can use this information to help individuals make career decisions, educators target occupations, and industries find the right talent across resumes.

    Biological Science Teacher, Postsecondary

    Biological Technicians

    Secondary School Teacher, Ex Special & CTE

    Vocational Education Teachers, Post H.S.

    Guess I should keep applying for all those jobs out there.

  2. Nonfarm Animal Caretakers

    66% Match

    Veterinary Assist & Lab Animal Caretakers

    66% Match

    Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

    66% Match


    62% Match

    * Information based on the Department of Labor data for the entite U.S.

    1. I should mention that for the CV, as job skills I put in

      * Herding cats
      * Kissing asses
      * Training puppies
      * Walking on eggshells

      and a few other things in a similar vein I no longer remember.

  3. Starting with the input text

    Neutrino roper. Build, maintain and operate neutrino detector systems based on scintillator or cryogenic TPCs. Reduce and analyze data from neutrino experiments, identify and characterize backgrounds, extract signal.

    Byte wrangler. General coder with experience in distributed and cooperative development environments. Experience in C, C++, Fortran. Some familiarity with relational databases.

    Vice president in charge of bottle washing. Maintain basic laboratory equipment. Inventory and order consumables. Supervise adherence to safety guidelines and regulation. Write operations documentation. General gofer.

    it returns:

    Maintenance and Repair Workers, General
    53% Match

    Computer Programmers
    50% Match

    Biological Technicians
    49% Match

    Database Administrators
    48% Match

    That tells me two thing. First that it uses a keyword based analysis with no natural language processing to speak of. There is probably a clustering analysis of their overall data set behind it, but it is useless for jobs that are not represented by many entries in the database. Second, that I may actually be qualified for one of my in-case-acedamia-falls-through backup plans.