It came especially in the middle of the fall of some leading national programs. And yet, during this same period, bootcamps and similar technological education programs aimed at adults have grown in markets like Wilmington: locally, the number of bootcamps has increased through the COVID-19 era. You could even say that the model is booming in this small market.
Coding camps first came to Wilmington via the nonprofit Technological impact That works program, which is aimed at adults ages 18 to 26 who do not have a college degree. Tech Impact has a permanent basis in Wilmington today and is heavily integrated into the Delaware tech ecosystem, but when he began hosting cohorts in Wilmington, instructors came from Philadelphia and delivered classes in spaces provided by local partners.
The first entirely Wilmington-based coding bootcamp was nonprofit Wilmington ZIP Codefounded in 2015 and based in The mill A common workspace. Zip Code has seen some leadership changes since its inception, but that’s only increased and diversified its programming. And came Code differently, which took the bootcamp model and made it more flexible and accessible, especially for low-income parents and community members. To finish, technical lifta bootcamp network founded in Cleveland, opened a school in Wilmington in January 2022, with the support of Tech Impact.
These aren’t the only coding education programs in Delaware. Local colleges and universities have certification training in software development, and there are many location-independent online bootcamps you can access from the First State. But when you talk about bootcamps in Wilmington, these are the most important.
Predictions of the demise of coding bootcamps in the mid to late teens were based on two things: First, there had been an explosion of for-profit online coding camps that did not keep their promises high placement rates, tarnishing the reputation of the model. And two, the original bootcamp template that stemmed from the ultra-competitive Silicon Valley culture of the 2000s didn’t necessarily translate to the rest of the country.
Based on the old-school version of coding bootcamps, they may be dying out. But what evolved from the concept – that a person can learn software development relatively quickly if they dive into it, without a college degree – survives just fine.
So, Technically asked the leaders of Tech Impact, Zip Code, Code Differently, and Tech Elevator: How have Delaware’s coding camps evolved over the past five years? What they said was, for those who want to become technologists, there’s something for just about everyone if you compare and contrast programs – and that’s just one thing that’s changed in recent history.
Bootcamps promote inclusive tech workplaces
Early coding camps taught companies to rethink some of their hiring practices as they produced quality, certified entry-level candidates.
“More and more employers are realizing that a four-year degree isn’t essential to being a productive, contributing member of the application development team,” said Patrick Callihan, CEO of Tech Impact. “They are more willing to hire non-traditional students through workforce development programs/bootcamps. This is now necessary to stay competitive for the talent in the market and to meet their growing demands for tech talent.
As diversity, equity, and inclusion become more important to tech employers, coding camps — especially tuition-free ones like Tech Impact’s IT Works — have become part of the diversification pipeline.
Bootcamps follow growth
The number of coding bootcamp graduates has skyrocketed in recent years.
“In less than a decade, the coding bootcamp landscape has gone from a desert to a jungle,” said Desa Burton, executive director of Zip Code Wilmington. “According to a study by Course reportthere were 6,740 bootcamps [graduates] in 2014. This figure rose to 24,975 now until 2020 and maybe closer to 30,000 now. Even so, there are still only hundreds of full, in-person bootcamps across the country and only a handful of those that are nonprofits like Zip Code Wilmington.
Zip Code originally offered a course, focused on Java. After hearing the needs of her partner companies—those who hire postcode graduates—she launched her data engineering and analysis course, focusing on the practical applications of data collection and analysis using software tools such as Python, Panda, and Spark.
In nine months, Burton said, “we were able to develop a program with input and guidance from our business partners, announce the program to the public, and launch the first cohort in 2020.”
Other postcode programs launched in the past two years include the B1ue N0te Youth Training Program offered by Delaware high schools; the Coding Builds Community Loan Programdeveloped through a partnership between Discover the Bank and Springboards Community Federal Credit Union; and the Break Into Tech Scholarship and Stipend Programavailable to low-to-middle income Delaware residents who are admitted into a ZIP code program.
Bootcamps focus on communities
Otherwise Code, founded in 2018 by Tariq’s Hook and Stephanie Eldridgetook the basic coding bootcamp model and made it more intentional in its goal to help underrepresented people, especially Delawares of color, access careers in software development – often high-paying careers that could potentially transform families and communities.
Its programming is experiential and intensive, but it does not require students to give up working for an extended period like a more traditional bootcamp. Code Differently is also non-profit, its cohorts are tuition-free, and if a participant is struggling financially, they may be eligible for a stipend. Depending on a student’s needs, they may receive additional help such as childcare or transportation.
“They really got to where it fits in real life so it’s doable,” said Curra LathamCode Differently student and technical consultant with partner Code Differently ServiceNow. “It’s easy to tell a group of 18 and 19 year olds who live at home with their parents to stop everything you do for 13 weeks, but for many of us we are adults with kids and bills and houses and mortgages. So for me, the part-time option allowed me to keep my full-time job while gaining additional technical knowledge.”
Options like part-time learning don’t make cohorts less connected than more traditional fully immersive programs, Code Differently project coordinator Anthony Robin said.
“It’s a very unique training provider because with everything they offer, it’s not just a bootcamp, it’s like family,” Robbins said. “We go the extra mile for the family and make sure we’re here to hold each other accountable – because we know that at the end of the day we’re trying to develop progress. It’s just the culture.
Bootcamps teach a range of skills
Anthony Hughes, co-founder and CEO of Tech Elevator, has a national perspective and a Midwestern base. Just over a decade ago, when coding bootcamps first started to take off, they were largely coastal and largely aimed at people looking to launch tech startups.
“What we’ve seen emerge as the industry has matured is greater representation of the full stack and greater representation of enterprise languages,” Hughes said. “And what I mean by that, in our particular case, we teach both Java and dotnet, where the original bootcamp started was a high concentration of startups that were more likely to use languages like Ruby on Rails because that it’s fast, it’s easy to spin things are accelerating rapidly Now you’re using more enterprise languages like dotnet, and we’ve seen an increasing share of the industry represented in those languages, in part driven by the fact that organizations like Tech Elevator have increasingly grown and gained market share and more and more people are coming to us because of our results.
Another major change is the focus on more than technical skills. Each coding bootcamp highlighted in this story, including Tech Elevator, also teaches soft skills and tips for the job search process.
“With the first coding bootcamps, there was such pent-up demand that they were able to focus only on technical skills,” he said. “They were in markets like New York, Boston, San Francisco where early graduates could find jobs quickly. But as the industry started to proliferate and become a bit more mainstream, what started to happen was that placement rates started to drop – it wasn’t just enough to having the skills, you had to navigate the job search process. And so, when we started Tech Elevator, we asked ourselves a fundamental question, whether people come to us to learn to code, or they come to us to get a job as a software developer and learning to code is right a means to this end? And really, the answer to that question is that it is the last. And if you want to be absolutely sure that you can be effective at helping people get where they want to be, then you can’t just teach them to code. You must support them.