Coding “bootcamps”—short, intensive programming courses designed to help students get jobs as programmers—are becoming more of a fixture in how major technology employers source talent, Josh Mitchell reports at the Wall Street Journal:
Employers are increasingly hiring graduates of the Flatiron model—short, intensely focused curricula that are constantly retailored to meet company needs. Success, its backers say, could help fuel a revolution in how the U.S. invests in higher education, pushing more institutions toward teaching distinct aptitudes and away from granting broad degrees. The Obama administration will soon allow an initial batch of students at private academies like Flatiron to spend federal grants and loans, a sharp break from the normal requirement that institutions first win approval from regional accreditors.
Ted Mitchell, the Education Department’s undersecretary, says the pilot program represents a shift toward getting government to focus “in a laserlike way on outcomes,” rather than on simply increasing Americans’ access to college.
On the other hand, these bootcamps don’t offer the same breadth as a college degree in computer science, and aren’t sufficient to meet all of these organizations’ talent needs:
Google, which has hired workers from Flatiron and other academies, recently studied the efficacy of coding camps. The company found that while the camps have shown promise, most of their graduates weren’t prepared for software engineering without additional training or prior experience, Maggie Johnson, Google’s director of education and university relations, said in an email. … Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, says coding academies offer an alternative to traditional degrees, but is skeptical the model can work broadly outside of technical fields. “The bachelor’s degree is still critical,” for a broad base of knowledge, said Mr. Kelchen.
Nonetheless, bootcamps do offer an exciting opportunity in terms of getting nontraditional candidates in the door at technology companies. CEB is proudly participating in TechHire, a White House initiative to increase the employment of nontraditional candidates, such as coding bootcamp grads, to fill IT vacancies. Last year, we developed a free employer playbook to help organizations cope with the challenges they face when hiring candidates who don’t have the traditional four-year degree, and this year we’re lending our insight to Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit spun off from the executive branch to support the TechHire initiative, by creating tools to help make the business cases for hiring nontraditional IT talent, and to assess that talent.