The New York Times Asks: Do Coding Bootcamps Work?

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Fascinatingly, over the last few years, the attention given to coding bootcamps, an alternative vocational model for intensive, fast-paced, practical learning, has grown exponentially. Curiosity about the efficiency of the model has exploded, and the question on the lips of so many involved in both traditional and non-traditional education, is of course, do they work, and if so, how do they work? The New York Times, in their article addressing Web-Era Trade Schools, recently took this question down to its bare bones, interviewing students, professors, industry professionals, and employers just how viable this new educational methodology can be, and whether or not it can challenge the traditional educational route for young coding talent.

One would think that programming skills, a highly nuanced skill-set honed over years, through university, self-tutelage, and any number of practical, open-source resources that reside online, cannot be taught in a matter of weeks. So, the community has voiced their concern, thrown down the gauntlet even, and it appears that coding bootcamps have answered the challenge.

Are Coding bootcamps en route to becoming part of traditional higher education?

The philosophy of the vast majority of these institutions seems very similar- maximum learning, in minimum time, all for the sake of acquiring skills that immediately improve an individual’s employment prospects. It is very much an institutional answer to a traditional educational infrastructure that doesn’t seem to be producing enough coding talent to meet the expectations of the market. It’s an acknowledgment of a talent drought, particularly in light of just how long it takes programmers to go through the trials and tribulations of a 4 year university education. Employers have taken to questioning whether the wait is worth it.

‘These boot camps reflect the start-up ethic: small for-profit enterprises that are fast (classes are two to four months), nimble (revising curriculum to meet industry needs) and unconcerned with SAT scores or diplomas. Most are expensive, but some accept a share of the graduates’ first-year earnings or a finder’s fee from employers as payment.’
‘Most important, at a time when so many young people are underemployed, most graduates, especially those from highly selective boot camps, quickly find well-paying jobs. In a recent survey of 48 boot camps, Course Report, an online boot camp directory, found that three-quarters of graduates were employed, with raises averaging 44 percent from their pre-boot camp pay and an average salary of $76,000.’

However, there is very much an elephant in the room that’s going largely unaddressed- is it actually feasible, and how can it be proven to be a viable form of developing a skill that supposedly takes years to acquire? From these initial concerns, further questions inevitably followed- how many of these pop-up programming bootcamps and code schools were legitimate means of career-advancement? Can this education truly be bought, and more importantly, can these skills truly be taught in such a limited period of time..? Where was the security- the guarantees? What if, after 4, 8, or 12 weeks, all an individual is left with was a piece of paper certifying their participation, and a job interview with a disinterested employer who didn’t place any faith in the educational model whatsoever?

‘Many boot camps emphasize that software developers need more than technical expertise, and aim to develop students’ ability to work with diverse partners and meet new challenges’

This is where true coding bootcamps were separated from pretenders. Vast numbers of data was provided detailing the immediate success of coding bootcamp graduates, ranging from just how incredibly soon they received their first job offer, to the impressive, even unbelievable, growth in their salaries before and after the transition. Potential students, and both the educational and tech environment, started taking notice. For every doubter, there was a success story.
‘Working 10 hours a day, boot camp students cover a semester’s worth of material in four days,’ said Anne Spalding, who left a tenured computer-science post to teach at Dev Bootcamp.

‘It’s a more engaging way to learn, through projects, and each group amazes me with their final projects,” she said. “My goal is that in 10 years, the boot camp approach will be part of higher education.’
As you can imagine, with such imposing time constraints of learning a significant set of technical skills, it’s an arduous, intensive learning environment. The emphasis seems to not only be on hyper-employability, but rather cultivating a programming literacy that can be immediately useful to potential employers. It’s providing the educational tools and environment for coders whose work ethic matches their ambition.

The aims of the Code Institute of Dublin are no different. While it is uncharted territory as an educational venture in Ireland, the ample evidence of success across the Atlantic were difficult to ignore. This is why the Code Institute invested enormous time and capital in sourcing working industry professionals, professors, and a syllabus that that was reflective of just what programming skills and knowledge that modern employers want to see.

In the States, astronomically high employment figures shocked the traditional educational landscape, with ‘…the most selective boot camps claiming job-placement rates of nearly 100 percent and average salaries of $85,000 to $100,000 (lower in New York than in San Francisco). But the numbers are self-reported, and some count temporary jobs and internships as employment.’

The Code Institute wants to address the shortage of coding talent in Ireland.

‘There are almost five jobs for every one web developer,” said Bethany Marzewski of Stack Overflow Careers, a computer job website. “It’s absolutely the toughest job to fill.’

The New York Times closed with what many would consider a subtle endorsement of this emerging educational model-‘At some point, the market will be saturated, but for now the demand for skilled programmers is enormous.’ Perhaps it would be best to get ahead of the curve, while the demand is still there.
Come to our next coding careers evening to hear from industry experts on the demand for coding talent in Ireland.

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