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Future of Bootcamps & 5 New Ways to Quickly Improve Chances of Success

Posted by Rod Danan | May 12, 2021

Education has come a long way. It has gone from a perk of the higher classes to becoming a gateway to join them. And at the core of this has been post-secondary education - aka everything after high school.

Colleges have reigned supreme for 100s of years. Strong marketing made parents raise their kids telling them that "you have to go to college to succeed". The data has supported that fully.

But the past 10 years have changed everything. Knowledge is everywhere. YouTube has billions of videos on every topic you could imagine. Google can find you a tutorial on nuclear physics.

Why would someone go to college today when tuition grew 200%+ in just 20 years? All that with outdated curriculums and zero concern for whether students get hired.

Well, 2020 changed everything. Now, the future of education is the future of bootcamps.

Rise of The Bootcamp

To understand why bootcamps are the future, let's first dive into what bootcamps are.

What is a Bootcamp?

For those unfamiliar, a bootcamp typically has these characteristics:

  1. Short time frame (8-40 weeks)
  2. Focused on job skills
  3. Lower costs
  4. Job guarantee (deferred tuition, ISAs)

The shorter time frame has made it a viable solution for career transitioners. Instead of committing 4 years to learn full-time, people can do it in 16 weeks. There are even part-time programs too.

While colleges focus on theory and breadth of classes, bootcamps mean business. They teach a curriculum focused on what your actual job will require. Students come out ready to hit the ground running.

The financing options might be the most important characteristic though. Colleges let students take on massive amounts of debt without a care about the outcome. Bootcamps charge a smaller amount and tie it to a job.

Income Sharing Agreements (ISAs) are offered in many bootcamps. This allows a student to pay tuition using a percentage of their salary when hired. Some bootcamps defer tuition entirely until you're hired. And others offer a money-back guarantee if you don't get hired.

Coding bootcamps are most popular but there are now design bootcamps, sales bootcamps, marketing bootcamps, and more coming soon. Basically, every subject is covered.

What Changed to Make Way for Bootcamps?

Everybody had something in their life change in 2020. People in industries like retail and hospitality couldn't go to work at all. Schools shifted online. The government paid out trillions.

The first wave of people realized they needed to switch to a job unaffected by shutdowns. Something remote. With unemployment covering bills, this was the time to transition.

Then, colleges moved online but charged the same $40,000 per year for Zoom classes. Without a campus, people explored alternative education.

With all this new demand and bootcamps going online, demand skyrocketed. Career Karma reported a 30% increase in bootcamp grads in 2020. The success stories are expected to fuel another 46% increase in 2021.

Chart showing the growth of the bootcamp market in 2020


Struggles of Scale

All this newfound attention and success is great. But scaling success for bootcamps is not easy.

With more bootcamp grads, there's more competition for a limited number of junior roles in the job market. Grads come out with similar profiles which makes standing out tough too.

Most bootcamps have a careers/placements team focused specifically on working with companies to hire their grads. These teams are generally small and limited by how many emails they can send.

Looking at the numbers, you might see a 6-month job placement rate of 80% and think it's fine. Job guarantees make that a scary number.

At an average of $12,000 in tuition, a 1000-grad-per-year bootcamp with an 80% placement rate would be losing $2.4 million per year.

For the future of bootcamps to be bright, this problem has to be fixed.

Future of Bootcamps

In this new decade, the bootcamps that invest in a system to get their grads hired will win. This placement system has five key components.

People

Execution of any system requires great people. Since this system focuses on recruiting, your placements team should be made up of recruiters.

These recruiters could be from agencies or from companies. The main thing is that they have worked with candidates and companies to make matches.

The job placements team will mainly focus on relationship building and running the engine. They need to reach out to companies constantly so your bootcamp remains top of mind for talent needs. And for the engine, it's time to upgrade.

Technology

The future of bootcamps is to focus on the the hiring experience as a product. To make a great product, you need a great platform.

This platform should serve as a single portal to browse, interview, and hire grads. If built properly, hiring managers will love the experience and hire more often from your bootcamp.

Your job placements team also gets an upgrade here. With a platform, they can handle unlimited demand for talent. Then, they can focus on finding new hiring partners instead of serving them.

Prentus already has a version of this for bootcamps today. They can get a white-labeled hiring platform that does all the heavy lifting. Alternatively, creating a separate development team for this platform is an option.

Innovation

The future of bootcamps coincides with the future of hiring. Instead of competing with college grads to get hired the traditional way, bootcamps need to offer exciting new hiring options for companies.

Lambda School is a great example. Their Lambda Fellows program launched in November 2020. It lets businesses work with a grad for free for 30 days. This has been huge in converting some of the biggest bootcamp skeptics.

Lambda Fellows lets businesses trial grads and has got 75% of people hired through it

Other companies like Revature and Hatchways have popped up to try bridging the gap. Working with companies like these is an option but might not be scalable.

Some original ideas to try out would be gamifying job fairs, allowing business challenges, and tapping into alumni networks. (These are all on the Prentus roadmap).

Community

One key difference between colleges and bootcamps right now is the community.

People wear Harvard sweaters proudly. Twitter bios in tech are flooded with @Stanford. These schools are badges of honor.

The alumni community is useful too. They say as much as 80% of jobs are filled through networking. Building that network for students gives them a fast track to unposted jobs.

Bootcamps need to get to this level and beyond. This starts by moving on from stale Slack communities and into full on alumni social networks.

These networks should connect students and alumni based on common threads. Mentorship would happen naturally which will ease some of the loneliness of an early career.

Connections for job referrals would be huge for those applying to jobs. The placements team can also talk to alumni to build new hiring partnerships.

Finally, alumni serve as examples of how to succeed. Bootcamps should create an internal podcast documenting their stories. It would be huge for marketing and for inspiring students of what's possible with your program.

Distribution

If you nail the first four components, great distribution happens naturally.

Hire great recruiters for your placements team and they will bring a huge network. This typicallu includes companies they have worked with in the past and a decently sized LinkedIn following.

A great hiring platform makes viewing your grads easier for businesses. Instead of filling out a random form, a hiring manager could start recruiting on the spot. Then they can expand their search from there.

Innovative hiring options automatically get press. Lambda School got tons of free coverage because it broke the mold. Companies tried bootcamp grads for the first time and posted about the success.

And finally, your community will be the biggest magnet. A tighter alumni network will build a brand that people gravitate to. People will attend your bootcamp to join that community. Your alumni will convert into super fans. Maybe you even get people wearing your swag.

Basically, take care of your people and everything else will fall into place.

Future of Education

In case you can't tell, I'm extremely bullish on the future of bootcamps. The world is changing at an accelerating rate and having schools that can keep up is part of that.

Will colleges die? No. I don't think 100s of years of marketing can be wiped out in a decade.

What will happen is that average colleges become devalued. Community colleges might possibly be subsidized. And top colleges maintain dominance but with a pause on tuition increases.

Since top colleges are more selective than ever, that leaves plenty of opportunity for bootcamps to snatch some of the 20M college students.

Bootcamps that stay complacent might survive but not thrive.

Bootcamps that follow the strategies outlined above, however, have a shot to join the new Ivy League. A group of schools whose brand represents outlier career success.

If you run a bootcamp, it's time to choose a path.

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Prentus is the all-on-one platform for bootcamps to get their grads hired. If you work at a bootcamp and want to get a head start on these trends, head to our home page to schedule a demo.