In a post-Trump world where AI is increasingly eliminating jobs that aren't coming back to the states - or to earth for that matter - it's a good exercise to think about workforce development/retraining alternatives that are out there.
Let's look at one of those alternatives that has been especially hot. Coding bootcamps, which are 12- or 14-week programs that teach software engineering - are increasingly seen as failures by those who hire software developers here in the states. Here's the backdrop from a Bloomberg article:
"When they first became prevalent a few years ago, coding schools were heralded as the answer to the technology industry’s prayers. “We can’t get enough engineers because the field is growing so rapidly,” said Tony Fadell, the former head of Google’s Nest smart thermostat company, in a recent promotional video for a nonprofit coding school, 42. Companies complained they couldn’t hire programmers fast enough, and meanwhile, many jobseekers said they couldn’t find employment. Just give those people an engineering crash course, the reasoning went, and voila, problem solved.
But the great promise of these schools training a new generation of skilled engineers has largely fallen flat. Coding House’s spectacular fall is an extreme case, but interviews with more than a dozen coding school graduates reveal that when they do land a job, often their engineering education doesn’t cut it. Many admit they lack the big-picture skills that employers say they want. Training them often requires hours of hand-holding by more experienced staff, employers say. The same holds true for graduates holding computer science degrees, but those employees generally have a better grasp of broader concepts and algorithms, recruiters said.
Mark Dinan, a recruiter who works with Bay Area technology companies like Salesforce, said many companies have told him they automatically disqualify coding school grads. “These tech bootcamps are a freaking joke,” he said. “My clients are looking for a solid CS [computer science] degree from a reputable university or relevant work experience.” Startups can be more flexible than established companies, he said."
The article goes on to report that 91 full-time coding bootcamps exist in the U.S. and Canada, with almost 18,000 people set to graduate from them this year. That’s up from 43 schools two years ago, and about 6,000 graduates. Tuition averages over $11,000 at non-degree granting programs that generally last around three months, but it can go as high as $21,000. Some schools take a cut of future salary instead of tuition.
So let's say you're a former production line worker in Michigan with the right makeup for software development. You voted for Obama in 2012 and went Trump in 2016, but you're not waiting around for anyone to save you. You financed your tuition, took on debt and learned lots from a coding camp. But now you can't get a job.
You've got reason to be pissed, right?
Well, no you don't. The rise and fall of coding camps is just another chapter in book about career change. Career changers who have had success pivoting in how they provide for themselves and their families are all similar in one important way:
Career changers never believe education will deliver a new career to them. They understand that passion and the display of work in the new field of choice - often for free - are required to get employers to take a chance on them and provide the additional investment needed to complete their transition.
Think about what I wrote above. If you or someone you love wants/needs a career change, I'm here to tell you - don't plan on that happening if you aren't willing to do free work. The work doesn't have to be extensive, and it doesn't have to be particularly excellent - it just needs to show that you've got some passion about making the transition you indicatied you're serious about. You know - the transition you indicated when you applied for a job that you're not qualified to do in any way.
I mean, damn - wake up. The world doesn't care that you got 3 months worth of education - or 4 years for that matter.
It needs to understand that you're serious about the transition you want to make and you're not some old dude that's going to crush everyone's mellow from the first day you hit the cube farm.
If you or someone you love is retraining themselves, try to help them understand that they need a simple portfolio of work they've done in their transition field of interest in addition to a coding bootcamp certificate. See my posts on portfolios here.
BONUS - listen to my friend Tim Sackett's interview of Nate Ollestad (director of recruiting at Duo Security) as they dig into coding camps and the types of candidates they produce compared to top-name schools. The question, they find, is less about what type of degree a candidate has, and more about what they're doing with it. Click the link above to hear that interview or just use the player that appears below.