by Sharon Florentine

Want a more diverse workforce? Hire bootcamp graduates

Jan 25, 2018
CareersIT LeadershipSoftware Development

Coding bootcamps are producing more than double the number of graduates as the U.S.’s largest traditional CS programs, and those graduates are far more diverse.

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Credit: Thinkstock

While the IT industry struggles with diversity and inclusion, bootcamps and apprenticeships have been producing diverse graduates for the past few years – and 2018 could be the year those graduates shift the industry’s demographics for the better.

Bootcamps and apprenticeship programs attract applicants and students from all walks of life, including all socioeconomic classes and every race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability and sexual orientation. And the number of people enrolling in bootcamps and apprenticeship programs is climbing. In fact, as of October 2017, Coding Dojo produces more than double the number of graduates than the largest computer science program in the U.S., says Jay Patel, Coding Dojo’s COO and CFO.

Disrupt the pipeline

One of the major contributors to technology’s lack of diversity is a lack of diversity in the tech education and talent pipeline. Even with greater emphasis on STEM, computer science and tech careers, women and people of color are often turned off from the possibility of a career in tech early in their educational path, which can greatly reduce diversity in the tech workforce later on.

“It starts early and continues all the way through traditional secondary and university computer science programs,” Patel says. “Now, there are increasingly programs aimed at getting young girls and people of color into tech, but that doesn’t really help tackle the current lack-of-diversity situation.”

That’s where bootcamps and apprenticeships come in; these programs are often much more affordable and can be completed in weeks or months, not years, which means graduates can circumvent the more traditional educational path, says Patel.

“The average age of people in these programs is 30. The average bootcamp is 14.1 weeks long and average cost is $11,469,” says Lauren Stewart, communications and operations manager at Course Report, which provides online research, rankings and data on bootcamp programs. “And we see from our research, that 39 percent of bootcamp graduates were women in 2016, compared to approximately 14 percent women in CS degree programs,” she says.

“It’s not just about racial, ethnic, gender diversity — traditional education also excludes people from different economic backgrounds and those from lower income brackets, as well,” says Heather Terenzio, CEO and co-founder of Techtonic Group, a software development and applications company that offers an apprenticeship program.

“We’re always talking about technology disrupting this and that, but nobody thinks about disrupting the pipeline process; what ends up happening, then, is companies end up fighting over the same couple people instead of actually expanding the pool of diverse candidates,” Terenzio says.

Since most larger organizations require a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, they’re making it even harder to find qualified talent — not to mention talent that reflects the demographics of the populations these companies are serving, says Terenzio.

Hire smarter

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years. And I know that, for the most part, you don’t need a degree to really thrive,” Terenzio says. “But the degree requirement makes it difficult to find talent, not to mention diverse talent, so you have to be very deliberate and thoughtful about diversity ahead of time,” she says. Hiring bootcamp graduates or sponsoring an apprenticeship program, as Techtonic Group does, can help open up the pipeline of diverse talent.

Bootcamps and apprenticeships lower the barriers to entry that can stymie applicants; they’re more affordable, flexible and accessible for potential students. But hiring companies also benefit, says Stewart.

“At its roots, the bootcamp industry was founded to address the failings of traditional education,” Stewart says. “That goes beyond demographics to encompass the incredible speed at which the IT industry evolves — bootcamps and apprenticeships can prepare people with up-to-the minute skills that sometimes traditional education cannot keep up with,” she says.

If you’re struggling to find diverse talent, it’s worth a look at your hiring practices and requirements, says Terenzio. Does your talent necessarily need a bachelor’s degree? Are there bootcamps in your area educating graduates on tech skills that are applicable in your organization? Your next great hire could be right under your nose.