These people needed new careers. They found them in coding boot camps

Alejandro Calzadilla, 36, has worked as a freelance professional cellist in Quebec City for more than a decade, playing frequently with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and offering cello lessons.

But when public health restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 dried up all his work in early 2020, Calzadilla decided it was time to “reinvent” himself.

He had been drawn to the tech industry for a while — coding sounded creative, he said — and decided to take the plunge in October 2020 when he started an intensive web development boot camp. nine weeks with Le Wagon, based in Montreal.

A few months after completing the program, he landed a job as a software developer at Zilia, a Quebec medical technology company.

Alejandro Calzadilla has completed an intensive nine-week web development boot camp with Le Wagon after his work as a professional cellist dried up due to the pandemic shutdowns. (Submitted by Alejandro Calzadilla)

He said the change was definitely worth it.

“I miss regular gigs, but coding takes up a lot of my time and it’s very rewarding,” he said.

“I play music, but I do it for me.”

Boom in coding boot camps

Like Calzadilla, a about 24 percent of workers in Canada have considered changing jobs or careers due to the pandemic, according to a report by human resources firm LifeWorks, formerly Morneau Shepell. Companies that run online boot camps to train people looking to “requalify” for jobs in the tech industry say they have seen a significant increase in the number of people interested in their courses.

The schools, which charge between $8,500 and $10,500 for their full-time programs, do not require applicants to have a computer background.

Instead, schools are starting from scratch, plunging students who pass the application process into a whirlwind of lectures and group work, all with the promise of being employable upon graduation.

Lighthouse Labs, which offers tech boot camps across Canada, has seen a 45-50% increase in applicants since the summer of 2020, according to CEO and co-founder Jeremy Shaki. CodeCore College in Vancouver, which also offers tech boot camps, has seen its class sizes increase by 25% since fall 2020, said chief operating officer Miranda Kennedy Smith.

Marie-Gabrielle Ayoub, co-founder of the Montreal campus of Le Wagon, said her training camps were receiving more and more applications from workers in sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as arts, culture, tourism and industries. Services.

“Our students have always been very diverse, but we didn’t have any musicians or restaurant workers in training in boot camp before the pandemic,” she said.

Marie-Gabrielle Ayoub is the co-founder of Le Wagon, a Montreal school offering boot camps in coding and data analysis. (Raja Ouali)

Meghan Hein, a waitress and bartender at two restaurants in downtown Toronto, also switched to tech after losing her job due to the pandemic.

“I didn’t have a lot of savings to fall back on, so it was pretty stressful,” Hein said.

“I was worried about how I was going to support myself, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go back to those restaurants anytime soon.”

She said she was introduced to the tech world by her brother who owns a software development company.

Hein found an online coding boot camp with Lighthouse Labs, and she signed up. Three months later, she had completed the course and secured a job at a tech start-up with the help of the school’s career services.

“The learning curve for getting into a new industry was obviously quite steep, but it’s been really rewarding,” she said.

“I feel like I have a lot more job security now.”

Meghan Hein was working as a waiter and bartender at two restaurants in downtown Toronto when the pandemic hit, but she has since retrained as a software developer and joined a tech startup. (Richard Grundy/CBC)

Taq Bandhal, a recruiter at BIPOC Executive Search, said she’s seen more people with artistic backgrounds applying for tech jobs.

She said many people are drawn to tech jobs because of the high salaries.

“They are among the highest paying jobs, even at junior levels, and everyone is hiring for them,” Bandhal said.

the median web developer salary in Canada in November 2021 is $30 per hour, and for a data analyst it is $37.50 per hour, according to data from the Government of Canada’s job bank. Bandhal said those jobs typically include generous benefits.

Bandhal said people with non-science backgrounds who take short courses like boot camps are highly employable, although some companies still require a bachelor of science degree.

Growing popularity of short-term programs

Bandhal said she sees more and more people turning to short-term programs or certifications to further their careers, noting that many people don’t want to leave the workforce for three to four years to get a job. diploma.

Kelowna resident Russell Yearwood is one of those who chose a short-term boot camp over a degree.

The 28-year-old signed up for a 12-week data science boot camp with Lighthouse Labs in January 2021, after dropping out of his bioinformatics undergraduate program at Langara College after three years. He now works as a private technical consultant on data science projects.

Russell Yearwood signed up for a 12-week data science boot camp with Lighthouse Labs in January 2021, after dropping out of his bachelor’s degree program in bioinformatics at Langara College in Vancouver. (Submitted by Russell Yearwood)

He had previously struggled to learn in a university setting, but said the shift to remote learning during the pandemic was the breaking point for him.

Although his training camp is also remote, Yearwood said he excels because the job is more project-based and hands-on.

Yearwood said that despite the high price of boot camp, it cost less than his university’s tuition for a full degree.

But Gary Hepburn, dean of Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, said some students might not do as well in the fast-paced learning environment that many boot camps provide.

“Students should consider their own learning styles and their ability to engage deeply with a topic over a short, intense training period,” Gary Hepburn said in an emailed statement.

“It’s important for students to recognize that compressed learning periods have their own limitations in terms of the types of content that can be taught, the depth of engagement with that content….”

Hepburn said universities offer more “credibility”, “recognition” and “deep” learning than boot camps, which he says gives graduates a significant advantage when seeking employment.

He said Ryerson also offers shorter programs and crash courses and that “universities have rigorous approval processes and quality assurance oversight for all programs.”

Tech jobs are more ‘pandemic proof’

According to Viet Vu, a senior economist who studies tech workers at Ryerson University’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Toronto, tech jobs have proven to be much more resilient than most other jobs in the world. start of the pandemic.

“Even though we were seeing job declines in many different industries around the early days of the pandemic, tech jobs were really unaffected by the job declines,” Vu said.

Viet Vu is a senior economist studying tech workers at Ryerson University’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He says tech jobs have proven to be more “pandemic resilient” than most other jobs. (Submitted by Viet Vu)

Figures from Canada’s Labor Force Survey show that as of December 2019, there were about 1 million tech workers in Canada, compared to about 19.1 million total workers nationwide.

By December 2021, the number of technology jobs had increased by 19% to a total of 1.2 million, while the total number of workers in Canada had increased by 1% to a total of 19.3 million.

Vu said the demand for tech workers has grown as businesses and people increasingly rely on digital technology. Canada faces a skills gap in highly technical jobs, such as web development, Vu said, and is losing many of its tech workers to the higher-wage United States.

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