Student coding

Member Article

Why ‘learning to code’ isn’t a career and tech bootcamps need to do more

Patrick Lynott, Head of UK admissions & placement, Boolean

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of people to take stock of their careers. Whether people are looking for greater stability, higher pay, more job satisfaction, or they have recently finished a university degree and are struggling to find a job – there are more people than ever looking to make a radical change.

Indeed, a study from Aviva in early 2021 suggested that as many as 53% of UK workers plan to change their career this year. These shifts in the job market are also reinforced by government policy with initiatives such as the Lifetime Skills Guarantee designed to make retraining and lifelong learning easier than ever.

For career switchers, one of the biggest opportunities is in the technology sector – particularly in areas such as coding and web development. Data suggests demand for software engineers already outstrips supply, and TechUK has forecast that “a further three million new jobs that will require digital skills will be created in the UK by 2025”. Aside from the opportunity, coding also represents an attractive career that can provide flexibility and strong salary prospects.

So, what’s the problem?

While there is a massive opportunity, many people who might consider a switch to software development may have a bit of an interest in tech. But usually, most people haven’t done any actual coding before.

As a result, education is absolutely crucial to help people capitalise on the coding opportunity. But are the educators geared up to deliver on the demand?

Finding the right path

On the one hand, the past five years has seen huge growth in technology education and reskilling programmes. As a result, there has never been so much choice for those seeking to develop their tech skills. But on the other hand, the vast majority of these programmes come with significant drawbacks.

Of course, a university course in computer science remains the most comprehensive option out there in terms of content and obviously provides a formally recognised qualification at the end of the process. But it is also a considerable investment of both time and money – with three years of study and at least £27,000 of tuition fees. It’s a substantial cost, and most career switchers can’t afford to take three years out to reskill.

At the other end of the spectrum are the rapidly proliferating ‘bootcamps’. These offer nine to twelve week courses costing roughly £7k – £10k. It seems a good option to jump start a new career – but it’s still a significant investment. Is a three-month course really enough to ensure you have everything you need to move into a successful career?

If people are going to quit their current job and pay for a course, they need to have a high degree of confidence that there will actually be a solid career opportunity on the other side.

Increasingly value-savvy students and career-switchers are looking carefully at this. The onus is very much on education providers to meet this need.

Skills are not enough on their own

If reskilling academies, bootcamps and the rest are going to deliver on their promise to students – and to actually help meet the growing need for software developers – they need to be much more focused on the end goal.

We need to be absolutely clear that these courses are not just about ‘teaching someone to code’. People need substantial, proven and proactive career support services as well as the skills training. And frankly, not enough institutions currently get that balance right.

The key is focusing on outcomes. While a degree programme might, quite fairly, see its priority as imparting knowledge, shorter courses have to be designed around getting people into careers.

Once you start with such a well-defined outcome it is much easier to design courses appropriately - working backwards in the construction of processes and curriculums. It’s vital that the programming languages taught are both in-demand in the job market and also have longevity, such as React and Javascript.

After the curriculum comes dedicated careers services. The best courses should be built on robust careers platforms that connect graduates to employers through extensive partner networks across the country – helping people apply their skills without necessarily needing to relocate.

Courses can also do more to emphasise their focus on careers. For example, Boolean offers a money-back guarantee for any alumni who fail to find a role in tech within six months of completing the course. It’s a bold pledge, but it aligns the goals of the educators with the learners and demonstrates confidence in the course.

These are not nice to haves. As educators we need to provide a totally careers-obsessed experience for outcome-conscious students. Without this focus we are simply letting down people who are taking the plunge on switching careers.

It’s certainly something we take extremely seriously at Boolean, and as more people decide to switch careers it only becomes more important. More candidates, more roles, more competition. We have to arm people with all of the skills they need - not just the technical ones.

As an industry, we simply cannot lose sight of the outcomes.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Boolean .

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