July 28, 2023

‍Tech Bootcamps Will Help Colleges Prepare for the Future

The economy is changing. Automation is replacing manual jobs. Workplaces are closing offices and moving operations online. In smaller towns and rural areas, businesses relying on face-to-face services are fighting to stay afloat. The priorities of adults seeking employment are changing, too.

The working adults who in previous generations would have studied at trade schools to prepare for careers in skilled labor are finding that these hands-on jobs, and the industrial and manufacturing sectors these jobs were created to serve, no longer exist. These workers are looking for the tools they need to build careers they can sustain into the coming decades.

The biggest question on many of their minds is: should I go back to college, or should I go to a bootcamp?

Source: Unsplash Image by Joseph Gruenthal

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, companies including Bank of America, Google, Apple, and IBM announced that they would no longer require college degrees for many coveted positions, even at a senior level. This is not the norm for most hiring managers––at least, not yet. In the remote and face-to-face hybrid economy experts foresee, more jobs will require digital skills.

Over the next five years, employers will create as many as 149 million new jobs in digital privacy protection, cyber security, data analysis, and especially software development. Despite this projection, employer investment in job training has decreased substantially over the past two decades. Very soon, millions of jobs requiring digital skills will open at companies without the resources to train their new hires. Job seekers will need to acquire these skills somewhere.

Graph of Digital Job Capacity from 2020 to 2025
Source: Microsoft Blog. Data Source: Microsoft Data Science utilizing LinkedIn Data.

While college enrollment stalls and wanes––this year by 3.5%, the largest decline in a decade––enrollment in bootcamps is increasing fast. 30.32% more people attended bootcamps in 2020 than in 2019. 91% of graduates of Burlington Code Academy were able to accept a job offer in their field within six months. Bootcamps cover a range of fields, such as coding, UX design, data science, and digital marketing, and offering more comprehensive training in a shorter timeframe than the typical adult education program while promising better chances of career success.

The benefits of bootcamps are clear, but not all students who want to secure one of these coveted positions will be admitted, or be able to pay full tuition to a program where they will only study in one specific field. By partnering with bootcamps, colleges can expand their own offerings and make access to modern tech skills more accessible.

5 out of 10 of the jobs with the greatest number of current openings are tech jobs, and all require some level of facility with digital technology. In a remote or hybrid economy, employers will need to hire workers with digital skills as well as soft skills like relationship-building and customer service. Coding bootcamps offer targeted and streamlined preparation for specific technical roles.

Colleges offer the opportunity to pursue continuing education in multiple areas and develop digital skills and soft skills simultaneously. Colleges where enrollees have access to coding bootcamps as well as other career-enhancing courses where they can practice skills in public-facing fields like marketing and sales will be the settings where adult learners can acquire the dynamic education most employers will be looking for.

A college where adult learners can enroll in continuing education courses while also pursuing one or more digital certifications will prepare them for the new workforce better than other institutions.

Employers are also increasingly seeking applicants with certifications in specific technical skill sets from companies like Microsoft and Google. Many if not most employers will still likely seek applicants with college degrees, but documentation of digital skills could soon become just as important. For example, the prevalence of job postings listing cloud skills as a requirement increased by 40.5% between 2019 and 2021.

Certification is the easiest way for job seekers with expertise in emerging technologies like cloud infrastructure to distinguish themselves from competitors in their market. A college where adult learners can enroll in continuing education courses while also pursuing one or more digital certifications will prepare them for the new workforce better than other institutions.

Right now, modern industry-standard bootcamps are mostly only available at bigger universities. In a stagnating economy, the smaller cities, towns, and rural areas where most colleges are located suffer disproportionately. Already struggling populations, particularly communities of color, will be at risk without the skills needed to survive in a hybrid or fully remote economy. Stepping in to serve this market is not just a wise and lucrative choice for small colleges; it’s necessary to future economic growth.

Bringing marketable skills to the workforce of tomorrow satisfies an educational institution’s mission while supporting and stimulating the economic conditions that enable it to survive and thrive. Colleges shouldn’t be deciding whether to offer bootcamps, but when. The time to start is now.

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