Students in a computer lab

Programming boot camps are a great way to learn tech skills that are in demand by employers

Programming boot camps are one of the best things that have happened in the world EVER because they can be a fast track to learning  programming skills that are in short supply. And they are an alternative to traditional post secondary education which may not lead to a career.

Imagine this. You’re a new grad. You worked your butt off for four years and spent $57,225 to get a business degree from a respected university. Now you’re struggling to find a “real job” while working as a waiter. It’s a common story I see when we hire entry-level recruiters here at Stafflink.

We are failing our youth

People joke about new grads living at home with their parents into their thirties. But that is so unfair when you consider that many of them graduated with dismal job prospects and tremendous debt. Most new grads who are living with their parents would much rather have a career that pays them well enough to live on their own. But that dream didn’t happen because when they graduated they discovered that their skills are not in demand on the job market.

CBC News reports that the Canadian youth unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 24 has been rising steadily for a year, hitting 14.5 per cent in April. The actual youth unemployment number would be significantly higher than that because many new grads are underemployed.

Bitmaker Labs shuts down as government investigates their program.

Bitmaker Labs shut down their programming boot camp due to a government probe.

Alternatives to traditional education

Code schools like Bitmaker Labs in Toronto offer an alternative to traditional education. For $9000 plus living expenses you could spend 9 weeks with Bitmaker Labs learning Ruby programming. They claim to have about an 80% job placement rate.

Sounds promising. But that particular alternative disappeared on June 24th, 2013 because Bitmaker Labs is currently under investigation by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) for operating an unregistered private career college. The potential consequences of the investigation are so high that they feel that they have no other choice but to close down.

Other schools that are partnering with businesses to teach employable skills may be in danger too. Including the amazing Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou which are also  right here in Toronto.

Flying under the radar

So far Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou are avoiding government intervention by offering courses that are less than 40 hours and cost less than $1000. Heather Payne, founder of Ladies Learning Code blogged in support of Bitmaker Labs in her post, On Education and Regulations and Innovation.  Her main point is that the current regulations stifle innovation because they create barriers to starting up tech training programs.

There’s hope.

Bitmaker Labs has succeeded in getting everyone’s attention. Their story is popular because they provided a solution to bridge the skills gap between jobs and job candidates. That’s big news:

Should the government regulate coding schools?

Yes, of course.

$9000 for 9 weeks is a big investment and a big risk for students. MTCU is there to protect people from shady fly-by-night schools that do not deliver on their claims.

I see in my crystal ball that a lot of good that could come out of this. Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come and the time has come for:

  • Affordable education that actually teaches people skills that employers need
  • An agile publis school curriculum that updates as technology evolves
  • Coding to be recognized an essential literacy skill

What do you think?

Should the government regulate programming boot camps like Bitmaker Labs, HackerYou and Ladies Learning Code? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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