Every week, it seems, there’s a new announcement about a coding school opening, expanding, or graduating a class of students. These short-term training programs in software development, also known as development bootcamps, are popping up around the nation — and particularly in Seattle.
Right now, the demand for software and web developers still outpaces supply, but even those responsible for the boom agree that if growth continues at the same rate as the last two years, there will be a market correction at some point in the future.
In other words: the bubble is bound to burst. Then, things will get Darwinian and some schools will survive, while others will close their doors.
“It’s like the Wild West now,” said University of Washington computer science professor Ed Lazowska, who has been outspoken on the topic. “There are all sorts of bootcamps, some good, some a total waste.”
So which coding schools will survive? GeekWire spoke with a range of players in the industry, each of whom had different ideas about what would ensure a bootcamp’s longevity.
“I don’t think bootcamps will go away, but I think looking ahead into the future, there will be far fewer players in the space,” said the CEO of Coding Dojo, Richard Wang. In next three to five years, there’s going to be just five to eight brands left within the states.”
Coding Dojo, based in Bellevue, Wash., has been growing its bootcamps rapidly, recently announcing plans to open new locations in Dallas, Washington D.C and Chicago, in addition to its existing sites in Los Angeles, San Jose and Seattle. Coding Dojo says its revenue has increased 300 percent over the past year, with a 700 percent increase in applicants.
“Mom-and-pop shops will definitely not last in the next two to three years,” Wang said. “We’re already seeing attrition in terms of people closing doors. … Now it’s a question of who will continue into the long-term and that’s determined by student success and quality of instruction.”
The CEO of CodeFellows, Dave Parker, agreed, saying in an interview that there will be “a shakeout over the next couple of years” where schools will differentiate themselves. Winners will emerge, “some through financial consolidating” and others through producing better student results in terms of training and subsequent job placement.
However, leaders of the coding schools differed when it came to which factors, exactly, would lead to longevity, and which would produce quality education and job success.
Nick Ducoff, the founding director of Level Boot Camp, Northeastern University’s data analytics training program, says a key factor will be regular testing, as there is in traditional educational institutions.
“I understand that some of the other companies providing these boot camps don’t provide direct assessments to their students,” Ducoff said. “Think about school — there were quizzes and tests, that was how progress was measured. Coding schools that don’t measure their students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills don’t seem very viable in terms of education.”
Lazowska, who spoke highly of Ada Developers Academy, agreed that there needs to be standards across the industry, quipping that at many bootcamps, the standard is, “can write a check.”
He said that bootcamps should have regular assessments and also should give students a full year of full-time instruction, split into six months of classroom training and six months of job training through an internship, since “a short boot camp doesn’t provide adequate preparation.”
Parker cited a different issue: legal licensing for post secondary schools.
“Code Schools are by definition a ‘Licensed Post Secondary school’ and need to be licensed in the state before they can hold classes here,” Parker said. “That doesn’t mean that all of them do, however.”
Wang put his money on coding schools that treat students like customers.
“We don’t see ourselves as an educational institution,” he said. “We see our students as customers and we treat them as such. We give them customer satisfaction surveys every two weeks to make sure they feel they’re getting what they paid for.”
Last year, there were 67 full-time coding bootcamps in more than 200 locations in North America, according to a 2015 market size survey conducted by Course Reports. The bootcamp market was estimated to grow by 2.4 times to around 16,000 graduates in 2015, up from about 7,000 in 2014. By comparison, there were just 49,000 undergraduate computer science graduates from accredited U.S. universities in 2014.
As the economy has moved toward more agile, web software development, college computer science classes haven’t kept up, Ducoff said. Colleges also aren’t teaching skills in big data, cloud computing, or data analytics, though those skill sets are in high demand in the tech industry, he said.
“There isn’t a big pipeline of graduates with those existing capabilities,” he said. “Most people learn those skills on the job or are self-taught. That’s creating a big skills gap that coding schools are coming in to fill and that’s why you’re seeing so many right now.”
Currently, job placement from coding schools is strong with an industry average of 89 percent of graduates being placed within 120 days of graduation last year, according to Course Reports. But it’s clear that the sunny days for coding schools won’t last forever, if the overall growth in capacity continues at the current pace.