Why you need a bootcamp grad

Joe Vacca of Revature talks up the value of bootcamp graduates for organizations

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Finding entry-level technology talent has never been tougher. While universities graduate 59,000 computer science graduates in the US every year there is anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million IT jobs left unfilled, according to Computerworld. That is a huge delta that cannot be solved by higher education alone and has led to the emergence of alternative training models, including coding bootcamps along with immersive programs and many new approaches to software training. These alternative training programs—some of which operate as modern-day apprenticeships—turned out close to 29,000 skilled workers in 2016, according to Course Report. Although some coding bootcamps have gotten a bad rap, the reality is that many graduates of the full range of software training programs are bringing a host of unique and highly-desirable skills to the table, along with a positive effect on diversity.

While some early bootcamps may have simply taught basic coding skills, market forces quickly took over, embracing new models of software development training in order to differentiate one offering from another. This coincided with the rise of devops and agile, which require more than just warm bodies pumping out code. The result is that today’s postgraduate training students are more likely to have the business acumen, soft skills, and real-world experience that colleges typically don’t include in a computer science degree program and that businesses require from their development team.

As the app economy accelerates, companies have aligned development and operations teams to speed innovation. This means that the IT department no longer sits apart from the rest of the organization. Instead, software programs that are written specifically for the marketing or finance department are now developed in conjunction with those functional teams. Developers need to understand the goals of the team and the project in order to meet the end goals of the application. This need for business acumen is a sharp departure from what was required of developers just a few years ago.

This shift also requires developers to function as part of a collaborative team, rather than operating as lone cowboys. Soft skills, like the ability to communicate effectively both in writing and in person; build high-performing teams; and be flexible problem-solvers, are critical skillsets for today’s developers, but are often missing in graduates from traditional higher education institutions.

Immersive training programs help bridge classroom learning with real-world experience. While higher education focuses on critical thinking and the foundational elements of software development, these programs layer on practical skills including the latest programming languages and hands-on experience that companies are now seeking, even at the entry level. In fact, many companies are partnering with new training programs to ensure that the tech talent pool is well-versed in the technical skills they specifically need in new hires, including the more traditional Java, .Net, and Salesforce skills along with specific experience in areas like microservices, Hadoop, and MongoDB. The hands-on, focused experience gained in these schools can be roughly equated to getting two years of experience in about three months.

Beyond the skills taught, technology talent development programs add tremendous value to the companies that hire their graduates because of the positive effect they are having on diversity. The traditional routes into software jobs have resulted in one of the least diverse workforces in any industry, while newer models on the other hand have become one of the most powerful mechanisms we have to challenge the status quo. This is largely due to these programs looking for candidates in many different places, including recruiting from colleges beyond the top tier of engineering programs, recruiting graduates from liberal arts and business degree programs, and partnering with universities and workforce development groups that focus specifically on diversity. This approach is paying off with increased numbers of overall candidates and with a major uptick in the diversity of those candidates.

We at Course Report found that more than 43 percent of bootcamp graduates in 2017 were female, compared to just 26 percent in the IT workforce. Hispanic students make up more than 20 percent of graduates, while comprising only about 3 percent of tech workers according to the New York Times. We have found that diversity brings fresh thinking to software development, especially in areas of design, usability, and functionality. Fresh thinking—of course—is the cornerstone of innovation.

For those companies that have hired graduates of today’s software development programs, they are seeing the value first hand. Where companies used to have months of costly internal training for new hires, they are now looking to outside partners and organisations to fill that need for them. When an entry-level candidate already has industry-recognised certifications, companies are confident they can hit the ground running. And, we may see a future payoff as well, where this generation of entry-level grads will likely require less reskilling because they will have a broader set of foundational skills that ideally allows them to adapt more quickly to whatever the market brings.

This story, "Why you need a bootcamp grad" was originally published by IDG Connect.


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