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There’s code in them thar hills: Toronto’s boot camp boomtown

There’s code in them thar hills: Toronto’s boot camp boomtown

Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, is undergoing a boom of coding schools. Workers disgruntled with high job churn are seeking to improve their prospects by learning to code. It seems to be working for them: one coding school states that 95% of its graduates are employed within 90 days. Boot camp coding and web development schools require no previous experience or background in computer science. The courses are brief when compared to university coding courses – a few weeks rather than a year or three – and are suitable for a quick career turnaround. But they aren’t cheap, averaging about $9,000 Canadian. The number of graduates is growing fast, which suggests this price tag is seen as good value for the doors it opens to future employment.

New coding schools are springing up in response to graduate numbers, and existing ones are seeing spectacular growth. Several of the leading schools are registered as private career colleges. Lighthouse Labs has a downtown ‘campus’ called DevHub, which will graduate over 250 web developers in 2017 – ‘Bigger than, for instance, most comp sci courses in university’, says its co-founder Jeremy Shaki.

RED Academy, with locations in Toronto and Vancouver, runs 12-and 24-week courses ranging from Full-Stack Developer to UX Designer Professional. It has seen a 367% increase in its student numbers since it opened – last April. BrainStation, whose strapline is ‘powering the next generation of creators’, is seeking more space to hold all the students it is signing up. Its founder and CEO Jason Field says, ‘There's been more interest from the general public … I think it goes naturally alongside with the job market itself. Every company is a technology company at this point. These skill sets are so invaluable.’

Andrew Mawer, CEO of Bitmaker, another successful and growing coding boot camp, says, ‘About 40 per cent [of students] have taken some kind of post-secondary education, primarily focused on softer skills, let's say history or social science. They are finding that they don't have a lot of tangible skills that employers want.’

Start dates are typically spread throughout the year so that a desired course is never more than a month or two away. Career switchers do not need to wait for the university matriculation year to roll around – these courses are designed to be just-in-time and easy access for those who want to keep their job change momentum going.

Before shelling out a chunk of change on a coding course, however, it might be wise for Torontonians to get their feet wet with an introductory adult-ed course or learn-to-code event. This will help to tell them if it is for them or not. Nobody should spend $9,000 to spend the next 3 months working out which way round to hold their mouse or searching for the ‘any’ key.

One good entry-level course is Coding For Beginners from IOA.