The demand for technical careers, such as programming and computer engineering, seems to grow larger every year. Organizations don’t have time to wait for new employees to graduate from degree programs; they need coders now. In response to this demand, the IT training market has developed an innovative solution: the coding bootcamp.
Coding bootcamps are intensive, accelerated learning programs that teach digital skills in weeks-long, full-time programs. They got their start in 2011 with Code Academy (now The Starter League). In 2016, the 91 full-time coding bootcamps in the U.S. and Canada generated revenue of almost $200 million and produced almost 18,000 graduates. Also in 2016, Training Industry released a list of top coding bootcamp companies to help buy-side organizations search for bootcamp training providers. Twelve companies made the list.
Coding bootcamps offer programs in a variety of computer science topics, including:
- Cybersecurity (IT security skills, including protecting networks and data from hackers)
- Data science (using tools such as Python, Hadoop and modeling to understand big data and inform business decisions)
- Full-stack web development (website development on both the back end and the front end)
- Mobile development (creating apps for iOS and Android smartphones)
- Product management (managing the development of technical products)
- User experience (UX)/user interaction (UI) design (optimizing the user’s experience and interaction with a website)
There are also several coding bootcamps that focus on underrepresented groups, such as women, people of color, low-income students and refugees.
Coding bootcamps are targeted at professionals with degrees in areas other than computer science or engineering and at organizations looking to reskill employees to fill coding-related jobs. However, it’s also possible that soon, some coding jobs will not require a college degree. In fact, some industry leaders have called for development programs—like coding bootcamps—that focus on practical preparation for technical careers without four-year degrees. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, calls these jobs, like cloud computing, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, “new collar jobs.”
IT organizations and coding bootcamps are also working to diversify the tech workforce, in which women and people of color are severely underrepresented. While programming was originally considered the purview of women, the rise of computer games led to a decline in the number of women studying computer science, and today, only 14 percent of computer science graduates are female, and 19 percent are underrepresented minorities—despite data indicating that diversifying the tech talent pool is correlated with increased revenue.
There is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of coding bootcamps, with detractors saying that short courses cannot adequately provide the skills needed to be a qualified programmer. Critics also point to a lack of data due to the newness of bootcamps, as well as a lack of regulation. They compare bootcamps to for-profit colleges, which seem to be plagued by scandal.
However, the more established bootcamps are gaining investments rapidly, and many are working together to measure impacts and provide some form of standardization. Colleges and universities are partnering with bootcamps and creating their own, lending some credibility to the market. The federal government has also invested in nontraditional technical training, including bootcamps, through the TechHire Initiative, South Central Appalachia TechHire and EQUIP (Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships).
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