As the need for information technology skills grows, it’s difficult for traditional computer science education to keep up, and as new, high-paying technical jobs open up, professionals often don’t have the time or resources to go back to college for another degree. Over the last five years, this demand for non-traditional, rapid programming training has created a phenomenon in the market: the coding bootcamp.

How did we get here?

In 2012, according to a CompTIA study, 93 percent of employers felt there was a skills gap in their IT departments. The majority of organizations were “moderately close” or lower to their goals in technical and IT staff skills, and almost half of respondents said a main cause of the skills gaps was “the dynamic nature of the tech space.”

Around that time, the first coding bootcamps launched. The Starter League (originally known as Code Academy) was founded in 2011. Hackbright Academy, which is geared toward women, and Dev Bootcamp, which describes itself as “the instigator of” the industry, were founded in 2012. Many more followed.

Acquisitions have trimmed the coding bootcamp space a bit, from Kaplan’s 2014 acquisition of Dev Bootcamp to the 2016 acquisitions of New York Code and Design Academy by Strayer Education, Hackbright Academy and DevMountain by Capella, and The Starter League by Fullstack Academy.

The rapid rise of coding bootcamps even piqued the interest of the federal government. In 2015, President Obama announced the TechHire Initiative, a “campaign to expand local tech sectors by building talent pipelines” through “accelerated, nontraditional training.” This year, he expanded the government’s commitment to nontraditional technical training with South Central Appalachia TechHire and EQUIP (Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships), which allows students to apply for federal aid for select partnerships between higher education institutions and nontraditional providers. In an administration that has cracked down on for-profit colleges, such investments in coding bootcamps is telling.

Where are we going?

Coding bootcamps definitely aren’t going away anytime soon. According to one recent survey, 40 percent of IT leaders and 55 percent of IT professionals do not believe their organizations are filling knowledge gaps through internal L&D, suggesting there is a need for outside training to meet those development needs.

The cost of four-year degrees is rising, while their value is arguably decreasing due to the larger number of people earning them. Meanwhile, alternative credentials like certifications are gaining both popularity and credibility. As technology changes at a pace that formal education may not be able to match, the appeal of coding bootcamps as an investment for both professionals and their employers may grow. In fact, we may see more of a blend of higher education and coding bootcamps as colleges and universities enter the marketplace by creating partnerships with bootcamps or developing their own.

Will the federal government continue to play a part? As the country shifts into a new administration, it’s hard to predict. President-elect Trump has had a rocky relationship with the tech industry thus far, but a Republican chief executive and Republican-controlled Congress “may ease regulations imposed on the [for-profit education] industry by the Obama administration,” according to Fortune. On the other hand, much of his focus on developing jobs has been in other industries.

Regardless, there will likely be more of a focus on developing standards to measure coding bootcamp outcomes, especially if federal funding is involved. Learners will want to avoid the fate of Devschool students, who reportedly lost a total of $100,000 in tuition money when the school’s founder, Jim O’Kelly, disappeared in September. Bootcamps are beginning to release their own data to support their claims. For example, General Assembly and Hackbright Academy each released reports last month detailing their students’ outcomes and how they measure them.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty recently wrote an open letter to President-elect Trump to offer some suggestions from her perspective as the chief executive of the country’s largest technology employer. Her first recommendation was “creating ‘new collar’ jobs.” She said that at IBM, “relevant skills, sometimes obtained through vocational training,” matter more than four-year degrees. Her company is “creating and hiring to fill ‘new collar’ jobs – entirely new roles in areas such as cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence and cognitive business.” While Rometty didn’t mention coding bootcamps specifically, they could be a good vehicle to fill those jobs, and her letter provides some insights that the technology community should consider, not just the government.

Training Industry, Inc. recently closed the application period for its first annual Top 20 Coding Bootcamp Companies List. The insights gained from this list will prove beneficial not only to potential bootcamp students, but also to employers of technical professionals and anyone interested in how alternate education is changing the face of the training industry. Stay tuned….

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