The Coding Bootcamp Implosion

If anyone is a product of Coding Bootcamps, it’s me. In early 2014 I graduated from MakerSquare’s 3rd cohort (now Hack Reactor), successfully found a job as a result, and then started a Coding Bootcamp in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2015. In addition, I’ve been a volunteer mentor for MakerSquare and more recently a paid mentor for Bloc. Now, even as the CEO of Project Shift, I have to think that sooner or later Coding Bootcamps as we know them could implode, and it may be for the best.
Back in December 2016, Business Insider put out an article saying that Google wouldn’t hire Coding Bootcamp grads because they’re under-prepared. On the same day, Bloomberg published an article citing the shutdown of Coding House, a Silicon Valley Coding Bootcamp that was caught advertising bogus stats – they were basically saying that a high number of their grads were receiving high-salary job offers from high-profile tech companies when they were not. In fact, this is the main, outrageous claim that Coding Bootcamps in general promote – come to our 12ish week, full-time program, pay around $11.5k, and when you’re finished, you have a 90%+ chance of landing a Software Engineering job at $80k+/year.
Remarkably, for some of these schools, this is true. Companies like Hack Reactor receive a high number of applicants and vet them hard to ensure that a majority of their grads perform at a high level when they finish. But what about the others? Well, the problem is, no one knows. In other words, there is nothing regulating these bootcamps, but there is a lot of pressure in the market to advertise statistics that boasts incredibly successful placement numbers. This conundrum leads me to my fear – coding bootcamp could implode if companies stop trusting these new institutions.
When a new bootcamp opens, it has to figure out some way to get students to pay the $11k+ tuition for only 3 months or so of class. I’m not saying anyone is lying, but as a 2-time coding school creator, I can honestly say that there is some real temptation to exaggerate graduate success to boost applications. If one of these bootcamps did exaggerate their stats, how would anyone know unless the company intentionally published their data? Companies like Hack Reactor are fighting for a coalition to define this data, but will it be enough?
In the end, what does it matter? All the stats still point to the same truths – there are more software jobs available than qualified developers. Old jobs are going away and new computing jobs are being created. All this means is that we have to continue innovation in education and a shift in this current phenomena (coding bootcamps) will only mean more forced innovation.
So here’s our shot at innovating – we’re going to be the best by staying small. We’ll never grow beyond 1 cohort at a time in 1 location. Our first priority will be investing wholly in our students, whom we’ll be very selective to admit and protective of forever afterward. We’ll risk being overly transparent about our stats and be sure that adapting our curriculum is the largest line item in the budget. If all that honesty is too much and all our efforts to create the world’s best software education in the free market are not enough, then we don’t deserve to stick around. I’d rather have a failed business than a dishonest one.

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Aaron Hayslip

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