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Coding bootcamps: The end of an era

Lets face it. Developer training has become boring. We see the same training programmes doing the same things with each using fancier words to tell the same story.

From bootcamps to digital talent accelerators to whatever else it may be called. At the end of the day it is the upskilling of developers to produce “industry relevant” talent.

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At Zaio we ask ourselves how relevant is this talent; when the same methods are used over and over again just by a different organisation. As the old adage goes, same… never mind.

It has become clear that there is a technical skills shortage in South Africa where we see an average of three jobs available per developer.

Yes, as a country, we have a 29.1% unemployment rate and an even higher youth unemployment rate sitting not so pretty at 55.2% (Stats SA, 2019). Everyday we see new training programmes looking to address this problem.

The claim is bridging the gap between what is required in industry and what is taught in institutions of higher education. With almost three years of experience in the field, we have learnt just how dynamic this task is.

We — I say “we” because we recognise our footprint in this upskilling community — need to innovate around how we tackle this heavy responsibility of cultivating the technical leaders of tomorrow.

New approach needed

We cannot continue to use production-line methods that were invented in the 20th century to teach young people.

The world has long shifted away from demanding students that are taught to assimilate in the production line of a factory. The world needs free-thinking, proactive talent that embraces life-long learning.

At Zaio, we found ourselves frustrated with the status quo. Why is it that while companies are looking for talent that will drive the transformation of their digital strategies, they are receiving talent that has been upskilled using archaic training methods, have never used relevant tools and quite frankly have not even worked in a simulated working environment?

As a community we knock on doors of companies, tell tales about our learning programmes and get frustrated when the company decides to back the next bootcamp but never stop to think that the training being offered just isn’t as innovative as we think.

This is a narrative we no longer want to subscribe to. We have opted to curate learning journeys specific to each company’s needs. We realize that each company deserves a unique pipeline of talent.

Creating bespoke learning programmes

We have opted to serve each company differently; to walk the journey with the leadership of the development team to co-create a bespoke learning programme that will equip each person that goes through it with all the tools needed to successfully assimilate, work and create value in the business.

It isn’t enough to have the hard skills in an organisation. It is in understanding the importance of soft skills, knowledge about company specific tools and frameworks and having a taste of the company culture through simulated work readiness that we have begun to base all we do.

Companies that have reaped the benefits of this from us include the LaunchLab who gave us the task of hosting an eight-week programme to produce a pool of talent that their cohort of startups could tap into.

Others include F-Secure, a security company that worked with us to upskill 40 students from the University of Cape Town and more recently Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Fasset) and the Youth Employment Service to upskill unemployed matriculant youth to transition them into technical jobs.

As much as efforts have been made to evolve the methods of upskilling, we realize that there is still room for innovation. What should be done?

What needs to change for the community to create thought leaders in the tech space without sucking the fun out of the process?

Gamification is one such solution. To produce Next-Gen talent, we have aggressively ventured to a gamified approach. Our next programme, #DevJam, is where we will be challenging the best developers from six continents over a six-week, solution-focused journey to hone their skills in a game show based coding challenge.

Making coding enjoyable

We want to make coding enjoyable, inclusive and an adventure. And yes, there is a monetary incentive but hey why not make a bit of dough while you’re at it, #BringBackTheFunInCoding.

In reality, as a country, we need these skills in abundance to rapidly accelerate in this Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) world that we envision but how we are going about it needs to be relooked. We challenge everyone in the community to work together and think differently.

Spice it up, go back to the drawing board and start again. We have an amazing opportunity to really make a change at the grassroots level.

It takes listening to what the organisations we work with want and, equally, the youth that we expect to crunch through our curricular in order to produce progressive learning journeys that will actually produce industry relevant talent. And if I hear about another bootcamp well… Snore.

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