An industry is born
Late in 2011, someone put out a clarion call on Hacker News for students willing to intensively learn Ruby on Rails. No computer science background necessary. His reason: “There is such high demand for good ruby devs right now. I’m willing to invest my time, money and energy upfront to get you in good enough shape to land a job as a Junior Rails Developer.” He offered to teach for 5 days a week, 8 weeks. The companies that hired the new talent would render the $6k payment.
The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, hundreds of full- and part-time coding bootcamps popped up across the U.S and Canada. Today, the coding bootcamp industry is valued at $260 million. In 2013, 2,148 developers graduated from coding bootcamps, and 22,949 developers will graduate in 2017, a 1000% increase from its inception. The promise of an in-demand and lucrative skill appeals to many students; and many tech companies depend on these bootcamps for talent. Dev Bootcamp and Iron Yard were among the first coding bootcamps. They offered an alternative to the 4-year college computer science learning path: short term, practice-intensive classes. And thus, an industry was born.
For 5 innovative years, coding bootcamps all over have provided talent to local tech companies. These schools graduated students who are well-prepared for careers as Junior Developers. And companies lined up to hire them. In fact, the presence of a coding bootcamp was a contributing factor for where Virginia app developer WillowTree would base their development operation. And in 2015, Obama initiated the TechHire program, designed to educate 100,000 developers by 2020.
The beginning of the end of coding bootcamps?
Because of the popularity and necessity of coding bootcamps, news that two first string players are benched before the end of the season is understandably shocking. But Dev Bootcamp and Iron Yard aren’t alone. According to Course Report’s 4th Market Size Report, 6 coding bootcamps closed their doors in 2016-2017, including Silicon STEM Academy, Coding House, and Guild of Software Architects. Several others were consolidated into larger coding bootcamp machines; for example, MakerSquare, Mobile Makers, and Telegraph Academy all became part of Hack Reactor. To some folks in the tech community, this is the writing on the wall, signs of the times.
But Duncan Kabinu, founder of Gainesville Dev Academy, doesn’t think so. “For the late consumer, the closing down of these schools may be concerning,” says Kabinu. “But the shutting down of these schools isn’t a reflection of quality of education provided by these bootcamps.” Indeed, both Dev Bootcamp and Iron Yard cited their unprofitable business model as the reason for their closing, not their education model. This is why Kabinu isn’t too worried about Gainesville Dev Academy’s future. “Both Iron Yard and Dev Bootcamp were operating at a far larger scale than Gainesville Dev Academy,” Kabinu says. Dev Bootcamp and Iron Yard were both acquired by Kaplan and Apollo Education Group (parent company of University of Phoenix), respectively. “And at the scale at which they are operating,” Kabinu says, “they have even more financial concerns than Gainesville Dev Academy.”
Justin Dennison, web development instructor at Gainesville Dev Academy, agrees. “We have a single area that GDEV operates within, where our small team can focus on issues that crop up,” he says. “Moreover, by having a single operational area, the management of people, finance, and space are not things that can lead to unexpected hardships.”
The success of the coding bootcamps has caused people to forget that it is still a relatively new industry. But its infancy just means more changes lie ahead. Dennison hopes that Gainesville Dev Academy “can continue to innovate in the developer education landscape. Education involves so many unknowns that being resilient and agile is necessary to reflect on the practices employed at Gainesville Dev Academy. I think that through further reflection and refinement, that Gainesville Dev Academy will continue to support the Gainesville area in technological growth as well as provide opportunities to individuals that are looking to break into the software development field.”
It is sad that these two giants have closed their doors; but their closing speaks more to their wallets than to their necessity. Hopefully, the necessity and success of the surviving programs will inspire continued improvements in the business model. Kabinu believes that more consolidations are about to come because people have taken note of the industry’s success thus far, especially traditional four year colleges. He noted that University of Central Florida acquired their own 24-week coding bootcamp. Perhaps more higher education institutions will seek to combine this intensive skills training with their traditional, theory-based curriculum.
Hopefully Gainesville Dev Academy and other coding bootcamps will benefit from future improvements in this genre of education. Dennison believes that if the public can overcome the misconception that all coding bootcamps are the same, “Gainesville Dev Academy continues to have a bright outlook.”
Classes start August 28.