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2016 November 7 - 10:38 am

Solving the Stem Crisis: Coding Bootcamps Offer an Innovative Solution

New Approaches Needed To Boost the Ranks of Software Developers

Talk to the average recruiter at a Fortune 500 company or listen to recent news reports and it’s clear the U.S. is in the midst of a growing STEM (Science Technology, Education, Mathematics) skills crisis.

What isn’t as clear? How to fix it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the current rate, the U.S. will need approximately a million more STEM professionals than the nation will produce over the next decade in order to remain a leader in science and technology. BLS cites research showing that software development is among the most critical of all private sector STEM shortages.

Historically, companies have filled the void by outsourcing STEM jobs to other countries. But they’re now finding that outsourcing is stifling innovation and isn’t cost effective.

Sure, many organizations are now making strides to boost STEM interest among younger generations. States are working towards implementing computer science into education systems. STEM for kids programs seek to start engaging the next generation early, while other non-traditional programs are offering skillsbased courses to older students. As a country, these are just the type of initiatives we must put more resources towards.

But when it comes to the most in-demand jobs, like software development, we also need innovative, real-world solutions that can help close the STEM skills gap and quickly increase the pipeline of skilled American workers. We need real solutions available today.

Fortunately, an innovative solution does exist and is growing in popularity for one very good reason: it works.

The Bootcamp Phenomenon

Coding bootcamps have exploded in popularity. According to a recent Course Report survey, 18,000 students will graduate from in-person coding bootcamps this year in the U.S. and Canada, with about 100 options to choose from. And since bootcamps are such a good business — the industry banked approximately $200 million in gross revenue this year — more continue to open up shop.

Galvanize, General Assembly, Coding Dojo and other bootcamps have made a name for themselves by offering students the opportunity to learn in-demand coding skills and launch their careers, all in a highly condensed time frame.

Dig deeper into the Course Report findings, however, and another truth becomes apparent: Coding bootcamps are expensive. On average, they cost $11,500 for 13 weeks of courses.

Time and again, education has proved to be one of the best investments one can make to increase future earning potential. But if we’re going to meet the demand for highly-skilled software developers, we’re going to need additional options that break down financial barriers, don’t leave students with more debt, and appeal to more people from a broad range of backgrounds.

We need options that keep the technical rigor and flexibility but lose the high cost.

Business Models Matter

Cost-free coding bootcamps almost seem too good to be true.

Revature, a technology talent development company, for example, partners with top universities, such as CUNY to provide free coding bootcamps to graduates with a four-year degree, from any major. The model is rolling out in universities across the country such as the University of Missouri, Davidson College, Arizona State University, and more.

Under Revature’s model, those that complete the training are hired by Revature, given two-year contracts, and go to work on-site at top U.S. companies on a contract-to-hire basis, where they immediately apply their education in an enterprise setting. Students learn hard skills such as programming and agile methodologies but also necessary soft skills like business etiquette and professionalism.

Other programs like Apprentice.io and App Academy offer variations on the no-cost approach to training in areas such as mobile app development and web design.

These approaches make sense. They make money for the companies providing the training and, critically, for students, because there is such high demand for software developers. It’s cost effective for bootcamps to take on the expense of training highly skilled developers because companies will pay a premium to have access to them. It’s a win-win-win solution. Companies meet the demand for high quality entry-level developers, students are guaranteed placement at great companies and jump-start their careers without more debt and the bootcamps make a profit.

Real STEM Solutions Are Possible

The STEM skills crisis is a real and growing threat to American business and prosperity.

The causes are complex and there is no simple fix. To address the challenge, we’re going to need a broad approach that tackles the problem from all sides, with early childhood STEM learning initiatives, like STEM for Kids and Google’s Code Next and broad-based campaigns that increase participation of young girls and minorities in STEM education.

For the most in-demand STEM jobs, like software development, we also need new, innovative approaches such as coding bootcamps that quickly and effectively increase the number of U.S. software developers. Indeed, some of the best “bootcamp” business models could also be applied to other critical STEM fields, such as data science, and cyber security.

These cost-free bootcamps, and the partnership between universities and private industries that makes them possible, are an example of the real progress possible.

By combining innovative business models with new ways of approaching the STEM crisis, we can make a difference in the lives of thousands of students from diverse backgrounds.

We can meet the corporate need for skilled STEM workers, all while strengthening American innovation and global competitiveness.

Sound too good to be true? Thankfully, it isn’t, and students across the country today are busy proving it.

As senior vice president for academic partnerships at Revature, the author works with universities to help prepare graduates for successful careers in the tech sector. Revature has trained and hired more than 3,000 college graduates since 2008 and is now partnering with universities to make Revature's program more accessible to college grads across the country.

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