“Learn to code” and the complicated promise of a technology training camp

“Learn to code” and the complicated promise of a technology training camp

At first glance, the idea of ​​a technology training camp sounds pretty nice. It takes you months to learn coding or web development or user experience design or anything else, and voila, welcome to your “resistant to the future“Career. Some training camps only make you pay when you get that great new six-figure technical job, which, they say, you certainly will. They have all sorts of facts and figures about employment rates and success stories of graduates who got to Google, Apple or Facebook.However, you may not look too much at the fine print.

Boot camps are intensive, impressive, programs designed for students to acquire the skills they need to get a job in a technical field such as software design or data analysis in a short period of time. If a lot of that promise sounds too good to be true, it’s partly because it is. “Learning to code” is not as easy as it seems, nor is the path to a lucrative career guaranteed. Training camps work for some people, but not for everyone, and the caliber of different schools can be a real situation – your mileage can vary. Some students end up with thousands of dollars in debt struggling to repay or receive stuck in revenue-sharing agreements who have been cutting their salaries for months and years – salaries from jobs that are far from what they were promised.

“The biggest problem with training camps is that there are a lot of them, they’re ready everywhere and there’s no real quality control, so you don’t know what you’re getting into,” said Erin Mindell Cannon, director of training and human development at Paradigm Strategy Inc. who has spent more than a decade at Google. “It’s really hard to judge anyone.”

I have always assumed that technology training camps gave money for their money – as a journalist, I am familiar with “learn to code“Twitter responds that the country is whenever there is a layoff. But the reality is much more complicated. Training camps sell a version of the 21st century American dream – one in which you can get out of your boots and enter the technical lifestyle of Silicon Valley in a short period of time.

It is easy to see why the perspective is attractive. Despite the technology sector recent troubles, it is still an enticing arena. Traditional paths to technological jobs through higher education are not perfect, especially with increase student debt. It is also easy to see why a career in technology is harder to get than training camps would make you think. Programming is difficult and takes time to learn; The best thing you can do in a few months of the course is squeezing. These mostly for-profit schools often target marginalized people who really can’t afford to fail, and then fail them.

“Not everyone wants to be a developer, not everyone can be a developer,” said Zed Shaw, a software developer and author of several coding books. But “there’s money in selling sleep,” he said. And so do training camps.

It is harder to get that successful technological career than it is to advertise

You don’t have to look for examples of bad behavior in training camps. In 2017, the New York Attorney General reached a settlement with one school operating without the necessary licenses and deceiving employment and salary requirements. Last year, former students of the second coding academy sued, stating that they were involved in predatory revenue-sharing agreements (ISAs). Just this month, the Washington Attorney General sued technology sales program, which states that students are “tricked” into paying thousands of dollars for an alleged “guarantee that you will receive a job offer of $ 60,000 + (from the technology company you choose).” The executive director of that training camp, Prehired, filed hundreds of lawsuits against alumni seeking to repay unpaid student loans taken for those guaranteed jobs they did not receive.

Problems with the Lambda School coding training camp, which has been there ever since rebranded such as BloomTech good documented. (One person I spoke to for this story jokingly called her “Scambda.”) She was accused of inflating their outcome metrics and paste students with bad ISA. One former student, Krystyna Ewing, attended Lambda’s UX Design 2019 program. school suspended program in 2020). After that, they did another training that gave them a job – but they did still on the hook for Lambda ISA. “I still have to pay them if I find a job,” they said, although Lambda did not help them get one.

If you do sign up for a training camp though, try researching in advance. Schools can increase the number of employees by hiring a bunch of their graduates as teaching assistants, or qualifying many questionable jobs as “technological” among other tactics. It’s a good idea to try to talk to alumni, look for reviews and ratings online, and see if the training camps are partners with companies you’d like to work for (and find out what those partnerships mean).

There are about 100 coding training camps in the United States, graduating about 25,000 each year and costing an average of about $ 14,000, according to Course report, which helps students compare programs. There is a lot of diversity in the space, and not all training camps are created equal, nor are they all questionable in their tactics. Most training camps are not accredited.

I can work for some people. I spoke to one graduate who was doing a stand-alone boot camp so she could thrive within the progressive organization she works for. I spoke to another graduate who has successfully transitioned from technical consulting to software engineering. Both had some advantages: her job helped pay for her training camp; he graduated in computer science.

Chloe Condon, a senior developer relations engineer and former actress who went through the Hackbright boot camp in 2016 and is now a mentor, had someone in her life to help her navigate the industry. She says getting a job after school is a laborious process. That is why she emphasizes that it is “really an individual matter” to choose a program and achieve success.

But how difficult it can be to get a job after graduation is something that schools are not always open to. Carolyn, whose last name is hidden to protect her privacy, has been looking for work for a year and a half after attending a 17-week training camp for women and non-binary people. Her tuition was eventually forgiven, except for the $ 3,000 she paid in advance, but she suffered a major financial blow because she was out of work for a year. “Given the length of the program, how short it was, it was impossible to even scratch the surface of everything the companies expected for the roles they were trying to fulfill,” she said. It is worth noting that there are some training camps complete closure because the business model can be difficult to understand.

The camp trick works because many other things don’t work

The attractiveness of the technology training camp is completely understandable. Higher education in America is expensive and messy. According to college board, a degree from a four-year institution can range from $ 11,000 to $ 38,000 a year. The job market is difficult to navigate. Workers are currently gaining power and decent raises, but then there are inflation. If a recession come, none of this will last. Boot camps are positioned as a way to hack a mounted system. It’s a romantic idea.

Ben Kaufman, director of research and research at the Center for the Protection of Student Borrowers, says the training camps broadly reflect the country’s refusal to recognize education as a public good. Instead, it is seen as something that people should pay – often quite expensively – to access. And when you pair it with the landscape of many dead-end jobs, here you go.

“We don’t want to tackle the difficult issues of how you educate and pay for workforce education, and in the absence of that, whether or not people should really learn to encrypt, you had people who were willing and willing and very well funded to fill emptiness and sell people the dream of being a great person in Silicon Valley, ”Kaufman said. “We’ve put that on a pedestal for so long.”

This is an awkward situation: technology companies can be elitist, and they are not good at bringing in people from different backgrounds. There are no clear answers on how to improve the situation – more people I’ve talked to about this story have suggested that people without a degree in computer science might have to try to learn programming on their own, which, you know, is also difficult (though not super expensive), or see what it is. available at the local community college.

The training camps are “too promising and under-delivering,” said Ben Sandofsky, app developer and co-founder of Halide’s photo app. He says that technology needs more diversity and people from different backgrounds, only that the approach to the boot camp may not be the best way. Career changes can be difficult and rare. “It’s usually a way to fool people into things that are beyond their means,” Sandofsky said.

The people who need to be most careful in deciding whether or not to participate in a training camp are people who are already underprivileged – they are the people they often target. “If you can’t afford to lose that money, then it’s not worth the risk,” Mindel Cannon said.

What do you do when the road to one of the most attractive areas in the economy is long, winding and full of mines? Of course, people will look for shortcuts, no matter how imperfect they may be.

We live in a world that is constantly trying to seduce and deceive us, where we are always surrounded by big and small scams. It may feel impossible to navigate. Join Emily Stewart every two weeks to see all the little ways our economic systems control and manipulate the average person. Welcome The Big Squeeze.

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Do you have ideas for a future column? Something in the economy that just bothers you that you can’t quite touch? Email emily.stewart@vox.com.

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