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Serious Students Only: Coding Bootcamps’ Success for Workforce Preparation

The EvoLLLution | Serious Students Only: Coding Bootcamps’ Success for Workforce Preparation
Bootcamps provide prospective students with access to specialized programming that can lead to success in a growing industry, and improving ties between bootcamp providers and higher education institutions only strengthens the opportunities available to this demographic of learners.

Coding bootcamps have emerged as an alternative to a traditional computer science degree. According to Course Report, there are over 300 camps operating in 51 US and Canadian cities.   These are immersive programs with students in class 8 to 10 hours per day for 8 to 12 weeks.  The bootcamp market is expected to grow “by 2.4x, to an estimated 16,056 graduates in 2015, up from 6,740 in 2014.”

Many may wonder what the impetus is behind the rise in popularity of these bootcamps. Geared towards an older student—one who has work experience and is seeking a career change—bootcamps recruit highly motivated, high-aptitude candidates. They often employ established, experienced professionals with years of coding experience eager to teach those students who are just as eager to learn.

Many bootcamp students quit their jobs in order to enroll in full days of classroom instruction, plus homework, to learn the coding skills they will need to secure one of the many jobs available in the rising tech sector. They work closely with their peers to solve real-world coding challenges they will likely face in the workplace. The accelerated learning environment is fast paced, however the students’ drive to learn new skills coupled with their goal of entering a well-paying job market, create an ideal teaching/learning situation, to which we can attribute the interest in and success of coding bootcamps.

Coding bootcamps are designed to teach software developers a custom curriculum that focuses on relevant job skills. Students typically pass an aptitude test and a soft skills interview to be admitted.  Students and instructors work closely to hone the skills they need to use in the workforce. Curriculum at The Software Guild, a division of The Learning House, Inc., for example, includes lectures, lab exercises, and a series of mastery projects where the students build functioning applications.  The Guild employs experienced coders as instructors with at least eight years of industry experience who can teach students what the entry-level coder will need, sans theory. Faculty ensure that students are prepared to address potential on-the-job challenges from day one, and during the final weeks of the program, instructors manage this classroom like a job site and students function as employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical occupations are expected to add 785,700 new jobs to the workforce between 2008 and 2018. Driven by the continuing need in all market sectors to adopt the latest technologies, demand for computer specialists is likely to account for the vast majority of this growth, increasing by 762,700 jobs. New com­puter specialist jobs will rise in almost every industry, but roughly half will be located in the computer systems de­sign industry, which is expected to employ more than one in four computer specialists in 2018.

Traditional computer science programs have not been able to keep pace with the demand, and coding bootcamps were created to fill the need. The combination of highly motivated students in an immersive environment with veteran practitioners as faculty, coupled with a competency-based curriculum focused on entry-level knowledge, in an industry with a shortage of talent results in an ideal learning environment. The Software Guild has a 95 percent placement rate within 90 days of graduation.

Colleges and universities can participate in the bootcamp development through partnerships.  For example, the Software Guild has articulation agreements with Stark State College in Ohio and Concordia University – St. Paul whereby graduates can matriculate at the college or university, receive credit for their prior bootcamp knowledge, and proceed to earn their AS or BS degree.  The US Department of Education recently announced the EQUIP program whereby traditional institutions of higher education can partner with coding bootcamps and students can use Title IV funds for tuition.  Clearly the time for coding bootcamps has arrived and they present both challenges and opportunities for colleges and universities.