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The rise of Silicon Valley-style coding bootcamps promises cure for skills crisis

George Nott | April 28, 2017
Is it really possible to produce a fully-fledged developer in a matter of weeks?

GA - the more established of the three which started in New York in 2011 and now has campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - offers a number of full-time 12-week development courses for $15,500.

"It's technical training that helps to set people up for a successful career in tech, without them having to commit years of their time," says Ryan Meyer, GA's senior regional director in APAC. "Our programs are appealing because they send students down the most efficient path to achieve their career goals."

The bootcamps' continuing rise in Australia is inevitable, adds Nambiar.

"There's only really three ways to get those skills," he explains. "One, from overseas, number two is universities and there are only so many of those grads being pumped out each year; and number three is an alternate education model like a bootcamp."

Nambiar added that he was aware of a number of US providers that were eyeing the local opportunity.


Practical makes perfect

"Australia's universities closely monitor developments in industry and amongst other education providers. Our universities are demand driven and continue to do what they've always done - evolve to meet the needs of each new generation," Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson told CIO Australia.

"Our best evidence is that there continues to be a very strong demand from Australian employers for university computer science graduates."

Australian universities offer a wide range of computer science, software development and related degree courses. The likes of Mike Cannon-Brookes have recently dubbed them "amazing" but lamented the "brain drain" of graduates to overseas.

At last count - in a report published by Graduate Careers Australia - recruiters said graduates of information technology related disciplines were the most difficult to source and a point of concern.

Coding bootcamps seek to provide a quicker, cheaper fix to the problem. Robinson said she didn't consider them a threat to university computer science courses.

"We don't see it that way," she said. "The higher education sector in Australia is highly dynamic. It's constantly innovating and evolving to meet the changing needs of prospective students and employers. Our universities are constantly adapting content and delivery.

A common criticism levelled at coding bootcamps in the US, is that they fail to provide the foundational knowledge a degree course does. Coder Factory's Nambiar concedes he had heard this on industry steering committees in Silicon Valley.

"But in terms of practical skills they find that pretty much on par with the university graduates," he added.

GA's Meyer said there was a place for both bootcamps and degree courses: "Of course there will always be a place for people with in-depth theoretical knowledge of a field - that's where long form degrees step in. But when it comes to technical knowledge in a fast-evolving sector like digital, bootcamps and intense immersive courses play a huge role in keeping our workforce competitive."


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