Here’s how coding boot camps like BloomTech and Flatiron are changing

  • Coding boot camps promise to help students land their dream job, but their track record is mixed.
  • Boot camps like BloomTech (formerly Lambda School) and Flatiron are rethinking their approaches.
  • Boot camps will increasingly focus on professional training rather than academic coding training.

In recent months, news outlets including Insider have reported on actors, line cooks and teachers who claim to have pivoted their careers and landed six-figure salaries after attending a camp. coding training.

These boot camps promise to give anyone, no matter how inexperienced, the programming training and networking they need after only weeks or months of intensive training.

The programs, in turn, have raised tons of venture capital, including a collective nearly $180 million in the first six months of 2021 alone, according to a report by analyst group Course Report. It’s no wonder boot camps seem well-positioned to help solve an industry-wide talent shortage.

But it’s also become clear that the hype around training camps hasn’t always matched the reality. Recent Insider reports showed that Bloom Institute of Technology (BloomTech) — the Y Combinator-backed boot camp formerly known as Lambda School — may have misrepresented its placement rates. This coincides with growing criticism that the bootcamp industry as a whole is failing to deliver on its promise to diversify the tech industry.

Austen Allred

Austen Allred, CEO and co-founder of BloomTech, formerly Lambda School.

Lambda School

The root of the problem, experts and students tell Insider, is whether these boot camps are doing enough to actually prepare students for a career in tech: Graduates from many different programs have come forward over the years. years to say that they sometimes had to pay thousands in tuition fees. for poor training that still left them unqualified for many tech jobs.

As early as 2016, Bloomberg reported that companies like Google, Facebook, and Cisco were hesitant to hire bootcamp graduates on the grounds that their skills were generally not up to snuff. More recently, companies like Facebook, Asana, and Twilio have launched programs specifically aimed at helping these graduates close the skills gap and get to work.

There are now early signs of change in the world of boot camps: well-known programs like Turing and NYC Data Science Academy have gained accreditations as continuing education schools, while others like Flatiron School have developed closer ties with tech giants like Amazon to better ensure their students are ready to get to work right away.

And amid its rebranding, BloomTech has largely moved away from the revenue-sharing agreement tuition model it once championed (those so-called ISAs, which instead of traditional tuition fees require students to be paid a percentage of their earnings after finding a job that pays above a certain amount has proved controversial, with critics saying they often engage in deceptive marketing practices, have little oversight and profit at the expense of the students.)

Flatiron School Classroom

Flatiron School.

Flatiron School

All of these moves reflect a larger trend away from focusing strictly on teaching students coding and toward the thing that matters most to students: finding a job after graduation. With so many options now available to would-be programmers, only boot camps with the highest placement rates will succeed, experts say.

“Booting camps are trying to show applicants that their incentives are aligned and that the school can bank its success on alumni getting jobs,” said Liz Eggleston, co-founder of Course Report, a training company. analysis that follows the educational technology industry. Initiated.

Students see a gap in how boot camps market themselves and what they experience

Coding boot camps can be a valuable route to tech jobs, with many graduates finding they’ve opened up opportunities that would otherwise have been closed to them. For this story, Insider spoke with Caroline Artz, who dropped out of grad school in 2014 to attend Dev Bootcamp (which has since been acquired by education company Kaplan and closed) — and now works as a senior software engineer. in a developer-tools Start. Seventy-nine percent of graduates surveyed by Course Report say they got jobs that required the technical skills they learned in boot camp, with an average salary increase of $25,000.

But it’s equally undeniable that it’s not a universal experience, with many programs being criticized over the years by graduates who say they’re ill-prepared for the job market. Insider spoke with Clare, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym but whose identity is known to Insider and who signed up for New York Pursuit boot camp in 2017. She says her training focused more on writing resumes and cover letters than technical training. , leaving his dream career out of reach.

Still others say that simply attending a boot camp has worked against them in interviews for some companies: “Coding boot camp grads need to be proven or they won’t get not the interview,” said Aidan Legaspi, who graduated. Dev Bootcamp in 2016 and now working as a senior software engineer. “A lot of the time you don’t even get that interview. You get turned down outright.”

Dev Bootcamp co-founder Shereef Bishay reviewing a student's code on a monitor.

Dev Bootcamp co-founder Shereef Bishay, left, talks to student Ryan Guerrettaz during a class at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco in 2013.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Today, factors such as the continued shortage of talent have caused some Silicon Valley companies to change their minds while implementing programs to essentially complete the training of a boot camp graduate on the job. .

“To expect boot camp graduates to have both the skills needed to write code and the skills that surround engineering success is an unfair demand. It’s probably a recipe for failure. unfairly,” Ben Stein, head of research and development at Twilio, previously told Insider.

Results matter

It’s hard to gauge the overall effectiveness of coding boot camps. There is no standard for results reporting, although the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting does publish the results of boot camps that choose to participate. That largely leaves it up to boot camps themselves to report numbers, though high-profile programs like BloomTech have faced allegations that they obscured and inflated their placement numbers in their promotional materials. .

Some critics say it’s an incentive problem, given that boot camps are essentially businesses – many of them venture capital-backed – looking for growth and revenue in the form of new students. .

“For-profit schools deceive people and choose their own profit over student benefits at every stage of their pipeline,” said Ben Kaufman, head of investigations and senior policy adviser at the Student Borrower Protection Center. “Boot camps in particular have been known to lie to students and use deceptive marketing about their programs and results.”

Perhaps looking for a way to change that perception, BloomTech is now promising to refund students 110% of their tuition if they don’t find a job within a year. Eggleston, at least, thinks it’s a good step, but it’s no substitute for accurate information — and she pointed out that BloomTech stopped reporting data to the CIRR in 2018, publishing its own reports instead.

“All of these are great, but the most effective way to demonstrate that your alumni are actually getting jobs in the field is to post transparent results data,” Eggleston said.

BloomTech and Pursuit did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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