Booting Up the Idea of Tech Bootcamps

The ongoing shortage of coding talent is impacting organizations in profound ways. In some cases, it’s simply not possible to keep up with the enormous demand for software and apps, leaving projects languishing or DOA.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that employment for software developers will grow by 19 percent through 2024. Meanwhile, the European Commission has warned that EU countries could be expecting a severe shortage of coding skills by 2020, and this could adversely impact the economy.

One of the interesting byproducts of this situation is the recent emergence of coding bootcamps and non-conventional schools. I recently wrote about French coding school Ecole 42, which will soon open a 200,000-square-foot campus in Silicon Valley. But that is merely one example of how the private sector and entrepreneurs are changing the table stakes—and at least partially cracking the code on teaching critical programming skills.

For example, The Wall Street Journal reports that graduates of New York coding academy Flatiron—which offers a 12-week course that costs $15,000 and does not provide a certificate or degree—lands participants an average starting salary of $74,447. The list of companies hiring these graduates includes Google and Kickstarter. Meanwhile, a conventional college degree in computer sciences requires four years and typically costs between $36,000 and $120,000.

But does this mean the learning is equal? Those on the front lines of hiring these graduates say that bootcamps and coding institutes are fine for many entry-level positions, but a bachelor’s degree is necessary for a broader and deeper knowledge of software development and IT.

A May 2016 study conducted by San Francisco-based recruitment firm Triplebyte found that students who attended bootcamps had basic and requisite skills for junior-level positions, particularly involving web development and other simpler tasks. In fact, it found that those who completed the bootcamp had similar or better skills in practical programming and designing web systems. However, they performed much worse in areas such as writing algorithms and dealing with low-level system design.

What’s more, the report found that all bootcamps aren’t equally effective at teaching skills, and not all companies benefit by hiring these coders.

Nevertheless, bootcamps are catching on and the concept may provide a 21st century framework for technical learning. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the Obama administration will soon allow students at private academies to use federal grants and loans. In the past, these institutions had to first receive approval from regional accreditors.