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Developer bootcamps -- good or bad?

Sarah Putt | May 8, 2013
By all accounts software developers are in demand.

Computerworld asked Prime Minister John Key at the opening of Orion Health's new headquarters last year if it reflected badly on the New Zealand education system that companies are creating educational material because schools aren't providing it.

"I think what they're trying to do is to encourage and excite youngsters to see that there is a real opportunity in technology and IT," Key replied.

"It's quite standard for companies around the world to work with their education systems. I think we should celebrate it rather than be offended by it."

Catalyst IT

Catalyst IT has run an Open Source Academy, a two-week internship for senior high school students, for the past three years. Academy co-ordinator Ian Beardslee and Catalyst director Don Christie expressed slightly different views, when asked about the bootcamp concept.

Beardslee says bootcamps would have some success if they attracted post graduates -- people who had already demonstrated the ability to focus and learn.

He says the Academy is designed to inspire teenagers to take up technology careers. It's important to attract people to the profession who are excited about what technology can do, rather than what it pays, he adds.

"I'd hate to think that people starting off [in software developing careers] with the attitude of 'oh, lots of money' rather than being excited to be able to do amazing things with great people, and getting paid to do it," he says.

"For the industry to grow we need to be able to have people keen to grow with the industry rather than just look at it as a quick buck, a shortcut to riches."

Christie points out that there is a big difference between being able to write code and being a good developer. "There is a reason we used to be called analyst/programmer."

He says it's unlikely that someone graduating from a bootcamp-type course would earn $80,000 to $100,000 immediately (as was reported in the AP article).

"But coming to IT after a first degree has worked for a lot of people, being able to apply logic is the core skill required."

Christie says the purpose of Catalyst's Academy is to give students a grounding in computer science. "A good developer does need to know how the internet works, how databases are structured, and how queries are resolved (efficiently or not). That comes with education and experience."

The key to addressing the skill shortages is attracting more high school students to the industry, he says.

"New Zealand made a big mistake in the late 1990s by downgrading IT in the curriculum. I gather this is changing. We also need to work out why we have managed to be so off-putting to females as a sector with numbers falling over time. This is a shocking state and something that people (mostly men) seem unable to face up to or address."

 

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