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Bootcamps: Quick Fix, or Innovative Solution?

Cengage
Cengage

 When bootcamps first made a splash on the scene several years ago, they were predicted to be the answer to the tech industry’s problem: too many jobs, not enough qualified programmers and developers. As Sarah McBride stated in her December article for Bloomberg Tech, “ Companies complained they couldn’t hire programmers fast enough, and meanwhile, many jobseekers said they couldn’t find employment. Just give those people an engineering crash course, the reasoning went, and voila, problem solved.”

 

However, the bootcamp model proved to function more as a band aid than a fix-all on the tech industries employment problems. While many bootcamp graduates were indeed able to find a job post-graduation, they were often unable to adequately perform the job tasks. Mcbride explains further, “interviews with more than a dozen coding school graduates reveal that when they do land a job, often their [software] engineering education doesn’t cut it. Many admit they lack the big-picture skills that employers say they want. Training them often requires hours of hand-holding by more experienced staff...”

 

Spokespeople from Cisco and Autodesk as well as Google’s director of education and university relations have all said publicly that they do not actively hire from coding schools as experience dictates these graduates are often technically unprepared for engineering roles.

 

In practice, bootcamps take a traditional educational approach: in-person instruction and high student-to-faculty ratios. While this model works well in theory, because bootcamps lack accredition, the students are not eligible for financial aid. This combination of factors makes the tuition an extremely sizable expense typically running between $10,000 and $20,000. One woman says she and her partner decided to get married to raise money for her to attend a bootcamp buy using the money given to the couple as wedding gifts. However, as  of late July, Congress passed the Perkins Act Reauthorization that will provide funding for students enrolled in apprenticeships, bootcamps and other technical programs. A new crop of nonprofit coding schools as well as schools that do not charge tuition but instead take a percentage of the salary made post-bootcamp have also started cropping up around the world.

 

Earlier this summer, Dev Bootcamp (owned by Kaplan) and the Iron Yard, two of the leading coding Bootcamps announced their impending closures citing that they could not find sustainable business models

Stephen_J_Padilla
Not applicable

While I cannot speak specifically about coding bootcamps, I can say that certification bootcamps are quite helpful.  Very few people actually perform the majority of the tasks for which one is expected to demonstrate proficiency, so going to a bootcamp to get a CompTIA or Cisco certification can give a person the quick firehose version of the knowledge that might stick just long enough to pass the exam in order to get the job.

ProfessorCorinn
Not applicable

Some great thoughts on boot camps have already been posted, but one consideration.

 

My son was an engineer for years in NYC and made decent money, but not enough for living in the city. He attended a 12-week boot camp in Data Science at General Assembly in NYC, which cost $14,000. It was worth it to him. He is now making twice his previous salary, but I am still not thrilled with boot camps on the whole. My reasoning is that most of these boot camps do not accept financial aid. Consider that most of our students would not have the background to handle the rigor of most boot camps nor the up-front cash. I want to take the boot camp concept and adapt our technology-based curriculums quickly to handle the job growth in these sectors at community colleges, career schools, and four-year universities. 

eshepard
Not applicable

I agree with Corine. Bootcamps are hard and fast paced. How much are the students really going to retain?  Modifiying our curriculum to react to the needs of the computer sector makes more sense. 

Cengage
Cengage

I love these thoughts. @eshepard @ProfessorCorinn could a company like Cengage help develop the curriculum for a bootcamp-like program? If the model at some well-known bootcamps aren't working as this article stated, I wonder if there's a way that a company like Cengage could help for institutions looking to start a bootcamp-type program. 

Cengage
Cengage

@Stephen_J_Padilla I hear what you're saying about learning what you need to in order to pass the exam, and a bootcamp definitely seems like it can provide that. But my question is if the firehose version equips people with the right skills for the job? 

Stephen_J_Padilla
Not applicable

@CassieC, no.  No, they do not (at least in the case of the certifications of which I am speaking, as I cannot speak for coding boot camps).  Bootcamps give people just enough in recent memory for them to barf it right back out on the exam, but certification exams are not very realistic either.  It's a sad case, but the cramming method is probably one of the best, unless the person is a subject matter expert of the level capable of writing the exam.

Kelly_Hinson
Not applicable

A boot camp is running in our area for the first time this fall. We would like to use them to promote our degree programs because we feel that students still need a degree to move up in the world. Right now, Continuing Ed is running the boot camp. We were not consulted. But we are thinking of running some of our own just to pull students to our curriculum courses.

Stephen_J_Padilla
Not applicable

@Kelly_Hinson, that sounds like a great idea!  I teach at a career college.  We are accredited and grant diplomas, but we also (in my program) prepare students for CompTIA A+ and give them the exam vouchers.  I encourage my students to continue into a degree program after they secure employment so they can advance even more. 

 

I do realize that many of our students consider the diploma and first job to be all they need, and several will never seek anything more, but I try to ensure that they know they can go farther.

Sandy_Keeter
Not applicable

Our Dean is thinking the same thing Kelly!  Offer a few community ed classes, or bootcamps to entice students to our college and then get them into our degree programs..Smiley Happy

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Cengage
Cengage

@Kelly_Hinson @Sandy_Keeter @Stephen_J_Padilla yes, Kelly, that does seem like a great idea to pull students into your program. Since I'm constantly googling this stuff, I get pop ups all the time for a $10 a month Java bootcamp -- who wouldn't be enticed by that? 

 

I have the opportunity to interview IT Employers later this fall for a potential whitepaper on this. I am meeting with Cengage's research specialist to refine my questions, but this is what I've come up with so far -- if anyone has any question ideas to throw my way, I'd love the input/feedback! 

     1. Please introduce yourself. What company are with you? What is your education background?

  1. What technical computing careers do you hire for?
  2. What is your biggest challenge in hiring _________ (answer to #2) ____?
  3. Are changes or new technologies in your industry creating difficulties in finding the right candidates with the right skills?
  4. Explain the skills you’re looking for?
  5. What skills are most important for job success in your industry?
  6. Are new hires/new graduates prepared with the skills needed for jobs in your organization?
  7. Do you actively hire from coding schools or bootcamps?
  8. If yes, are these candidates prepared for the job?
  9. If no, what skills do you think they are lacking?

 

Stephen_J_Padilla
Not applicable

@CassieC, I would ask what certifications they are looking for.  There is a dizzying array of possible certifications in the IT world, but not all certs are created equal.  I have learned that some, like CompTIA Project+, are nearly worthless.

Cengage
Cengage

great advice! Thank you @Stephen_J_Padilla !!!!

Stephen_J_Padilla
Not applicable

You are most welcome, @CassieC.  My goal is to serve the community. 

 

I recently heard again on the news that there is an employment gap where we currently have almost the exact number of unemployed as we do advertised positions.  Obviously, that cannot be a 1:1 match because not everyone will be able to match their skills to the openings, but employers are making job listings that do not have realistic expectations for the candidates and the filters are kicking the résumés out because of a lack of keyword matches.

 

We need to get qualified prospects to write useable résumés and we need to get employers to stop putting wish lists in the job announcements.  I recognize that we will never have full employment because some people just don't want to work, and shifting market forces in an economy our size precludes having perfect geographic alignments between supply of workers and demand for workers, but we can do better than we have been now that we live in the Information Age.