Coding boot camps have soared in popularity since their inception in the early 2010s. Course Report, an organization that conducts yearly market studies on boot camps, reports that nearly 25,000 coding boot camp graduates entered the job market in 2020 — up 39% from the previous year.
With the growth in popularity, however, has come an increase in price. Course Report also reports that the average coding boot camp costs more than $14,000. As costs increase, new opportunities for students to defer payments have surfaced, such as income share agreements, or ISAs, in which students don’t pay tuition until after they land jobs.
Rising Costs Mean Greater Risk
But many payback models come with risks. For example, a recent lawsuit filed against a coding boot camp is based on claims of false advertising around job placement rates that directly impacted students’ ISAs. And throughout history, there have been many predatory educational programs that have sold lies to bring in more revenue. Such instances resulted in rulings and regulations to protect students. However, it’s still true that tech training programs in the U.S. from for-profit enterprises face a complex balance of wanting to help students access better careers but needing to generate profits and returns for investors.
The bottom line is that the tech industry needs to look to new models for teaching coding skills that reduce students’ risk and financial burden.
Workforce initiatives and skilling pathways need to be more accessible to all Americans. While traditional college or university career pathways are an excellent option for some, there’s a large and growing pool of people in the U.S. for whom earning a four-year degree is unfeasible. The cost and risk of taking out student loans is a huge barrier, and many students can’t commit the necessary time while they work other jobs or care for families.
It’s Time to Create Realistic Opportunities
But the time and money it takes to get a degree or go through a for-profit boot camp is often not an option for many.
For similar reasons, the same individuals who can’t take the traditional higher education pathways are still being left on the sidelines by boot camps.
It’s time to make opportunities more accessible and realistic for all. Exploring the following strategies can help the tech industry reduce the risk and financial burden of gaining new skills:
1. Create and support accessible, accelerated skilling pathways.
Coding boot camps do create a great talent pool. Still, to widen that pool for tech companies and create more accessible opportunities for job seekers, the tech industry needs to support other skilling pathways, such as free and accelerated digital job training courses, that open doors to individuals often shut out of other options.
Some options are not only free or affordable, but they also offer opportunities to learn skills part-time.
Because this format breaks down barriers presented by traditional education pathways and for-profit boot camps, it’s more accessible to those looking for career changes. It can produce a more diverse talent pool for tech companies.
Plus, getting more career changers into tech means bringing a wide and diverse set of transferrable soft skills into the industry.
2. Formalize apprenticeship programs.
Apprenticeship programs are great models for opening the door to more people. They allow entry-level workers to gain the specific skills they need to fill roles at a company while on the job and earning a wage. In this way, it minimizes risks for both employees and companies.
As employees learn precisely the skills they need while on the job, they can be sure they’re not risking time, money, and effort to learn potentially irrelevant skills or skills that could become irrelevant in the near future.
Companies benefit because they can mold apprentices to whatever skill sets they need. Instead of hoping candidates’ past experiences and education will serve them well in filling open roles, companies ensure candidates can do exactly what they need to fulfill current or future job responsibilities.
3. Upskill existing workers.
Even people who are already employed with a company might be interested in educational opportunities to learn new skills or sharpen their existing skill sets. Companies looking to fill tech roles can benefit from looking within their companies first to see whether anyone desires to learn new skills and move into a more technical career path.
When companies provide upskilling opportunities to current employees, they retain the talent they already have, provide accessible opportunities for employees to develop their careers, and contribute to a talent pool that will be able to fill future skills gaps.
Pursuing a career in technology has long been a hefty financial commitment for students — whether they’re following traditional university pathways or paying for coding boot camps.
Meanwhile, the tech industry has struggled for years to fill its skills gap and find adequate workers. Closing the gap will require the tech industry to support more accessible, financially viable opportunities for all.
Image Credit: pepi stojanovski; unsplash; thank you!