For the last 8 years I've worked in the computer retail & servicing sector, and during that time I've handled various tasks, including contact with customers and product distributors, building and fixing desktops and laptops, and Web site maintenance on the side.
But two big events have happened since I started at my current job, which have forced me to consider my future.
Firstly, the proliferation of online resellers has ramped up industry competition to the point where bricks & mortar outlets have been left in the dust. To rub it in, a regional downturn aggravated by public sector cuts hasn't helped. We've been doing our best to keep our heads above water, and knowing that we can't always compete on price, we aim for actual customer service and to give people a reason to do repeat business. I've been working 6 days a week and I've hardly ever taken annual leave except over the Xmas break, since there aren't enough of us to cover for at any other time of the year. I've effectively joined the club known as the precariat - a club that no one wants to join - and now that I'm in my mid-30s, I feel the need to jump to a bigger ship before I miss the boat.
Secondly, I've been diagnosed with a rare dental condition that is slowly but surely destroying my teeth from the root, despite a regimen of regular teeth cleaning, and my dentist has not been able to find any obvious causes. Unless the local health board and/or my father can foot the bill, the cost of getting dentures could potentially drive me to bankruptcy or otherwise a lifetime of involuntary debt. I feel for those Americans who can't afford even the most basic of healthcare, and that's just the middle classes.
I definitely know there's a skill shortage in the Wellington ICT sector, the trick is which specific disciplines. I do know that helpdesk operators aren't one of them, which is what my father suggested if I quit my current job. In any case, I've been back to square one before, and I'm hoping not to go there again.
I studied Info Science at Otago years back - mostly on database theory and development - but didn't finish after flunking out on a major final-year paper twice in a row. That paper involved distributed computing with Java and CORBA - the latter I especially found harder to grasp than a greasy pole - and the tutors weren't particularly helpful. I was on and off the scrapheap for a short while, taking odd jobs and temp work at a time when the fallout from the Tech Wreck was still radiating. I subsequently had a crack at studying electrical & electronics trades at WelTec, and finding out the hard way that the trades weren't for me.
As my current workplace is too small to pay for any formal upskilling, I'm looking at 3 possible options within Wellington where I can study part-time while my job still lasts.
The first option is the 1-year Web development course at Yoobee, but I'm not sure how seriously the job market takes it. I've long had an interest in both design and computing, although the design side has been a bit neglected for a while.
The second option is the Bachelor of Applied Science, also at Yoobee, which has a broader and more advanced focus. Again, I'm not sure how seriously it's taken, although I do recall one of my former workmates went there while it was still known as Natcoll, and he landed some decent Web work at a major IT firm across town.
The third option is a BInfoSci major at Massey, which has only recently been implemented for distance learning. They accept cross-credits from other universities, but making an application doesn't come cheap, and last time I checked the student loan system doesn't cover such an application. Also, it's been more than 10 years since I dropped out of Otago, and ICT has advanced rather a lot since then, so there may be no guarantee what I did at Otago will be accepted. Otago doesn't offer distance learning for InfoSci, and I can't justify the expense and inconvenience of uprooting myself (again) to complete it in Dunedin.
I still know how to draw up a many-to-many ERD, and a vague idea of how dev projects work and to avoid debacles like INCIS. I've worked in PHP, ASP and Visual C#.NET - the latter of which I had a crash course in my current job, due to the need to smooth out the imperfections of a poorly-written web catalogue system. I can admit to being a bit rusty in those, but I wouldn't mind getting back up to speed as well as picking up new languages.