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  • The Future of Coding Bootcamps

Dev Bootcamp, known as one of the first, if not the first, coding bootcamps, is closing by the end of the year, saying, “We’ve determined that we simply cannot reach a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that remains accessible to a diverse population of students.” Today, The Iron Yard also announced, “In considering the current environment, the board of The Iron Yard has made the difficult decision to cease operations at all campuses after teaching out the remaining summer cohorts.”

Dev Bootcamp was founded in 2012 and acquired by Kaplan two years later. Over its five-year history, the company says over 3,000 students have graduated from its six campuses. The Iron Yard was founded in 2013 and has offered full-time and part-time programs to “thousands” of students since then. Last year, it launched a corporate training program to work with businesses to recruit, onboard, reskill and upskill technical employees.

Other bootcamps will need to ensure that they have a viable business model to continue to operate. “The concept of a ‘bootcamp’ has become too narrow,” says Tarlin Ray, president of Dev Bootcamp. “We suspect that bootcamps will start playing a bigger role in how employers are retraining employees with outdated skills, adopting more of a B2B business model.”

Certainly, this model could support bootcamps’ revenue streams. With an average bootcamp tuition of $11,498 but only 23,000 graduates across 94 bootcamp companies, tuition alone is likely not enough to keep a bootcamp operating. “The Dev Bootcamp announcement is representative of a transition phase for the bootcamp industry,” says Cahlan Sharp, CEO and founder of DevMountain. “Everyone is experimenting with growth strategies, business models and instructional models.”

For example, Big Nerd Ranch and Ironhack not only offer a bootcamp but also technical training to corporate teams needing to develop their skills. Ironhack raised its first funding round last month. The $3 million funding will help the company open new campuses in Latin America and Europe. In contrast to the bootcamps that are shutting their doors, José María Hernanz, an investment associate at JME Venture Capital (the organization that led the funding round), is quoted in the press release as saying that Ironhack’s “very strong brand … amazing culture … exceptional operational strategy … [and] superb product” demonstrate its ability to “continue to grow.”

“As long as bootcamps evolve with changing market demands, the bootcamp model will continue to provide a valuable education and a valuable source of talent,” says Daniel Alvarez, growth manager at Ironhack. For example, when Ironhack was founded, it focused on teaching Ruby on Rails, but based on industry changes and feedback from students, it changed its curriculum to teach JavaScript on a MEAN stack. “I think that type of flexibility is any bootcamp’s best friend,” Alvarez says.

Michael Zaro, CEO and founder of V School, says that “top schools are investing heavily in outcomes to remain strong.” Regardless of model or curriculum, he believes that it’s that investment in ensuring good outcomes for students and clients that will help a bootcamp survive. Many entrepreneurs “do some back-of-the-napkin math, thinking that they can just hire someone technical to plug into a class of paying students and hope it all works out,” Zaro adds. “But that’s a disappointment waiting to happen and a risk for the industry as a whole.”

A recent Glassdoor study found that over the past five years, software jobs have increased in non-tech industries and in regions outside of Silicon Valley. Researchers concluded that “every industry is in some measure trying to transform into a ‘tech’ industry,” and industries like retail, finance and manufacturing are hiring increasing numbers of software engineers and developers. This trend is not likely to end anytime soon, and companies looking to hire and upskill technical employees are looking to partners that include coding bootcamps to help. In order to meet this demand, bootcamps, in turn, will need to examine their business model to ensure that they can sustainably provide the training every industry needs.

Taryn Oesch, CPTM, is an editor at Training Industry, Inc.

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