For most of 2020, Covid made us think short term. Virus spikes affecting tens of thousands of people could emerge in the space of a week. The imposition or lifting of restrictions could turn fortunes within days. It was hard to plan a month ahead, and discussions about the future all seemed to pivot on one great unknown – “When will this end?”
With news of the Government’s planned roadmap out of lockdown in spring 2021, it feels like the end is now in sight. Attention will turn, as it must, to what comes next – and in particular, how we emerge stronger from the crisis, building an economy and a workforce fit for the digital age. The good news is the long-term prospects are bright. Covid has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, and if this is sustained then a recent report from the Centre for Economics and Business predicts a potential £127bn uplift in UK GDP.
The question facing many business leaders now is: How?
- How do we find the skills needed for a sustained digital transformation in our organisation, and to participate in that digitally-enabled growth?
- How do we align the skills of our existing, valued employees with the digital needs of the organisation going forward?
- How do we find jobs for the millions of (predominantly young) people whose jobs have been displaced – either by Covid, or the resulting changes to the way we shop, live and work?
Bootcamps are a powerful response to all three challenges.
The technology bootcamp concept originated from teaching new graduates software development skills – a model which has been highly successful. In anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks, a well-designed and delivered bootcamp can take an individual with little technical knowledge or experience and provide them with the skills to engineer full-stack software solutions proficiently. No-one is saying a (comparatively short) bootcamp provides equivalency to years of experience – but they are an exceptionally powerful tool to get to a base practical standard, building a solid foundation on which experience can build.
Traditionally, the attendees were predominantly young or recent graduates, but lately, other groups are recognising the power of this teaching model too.
At QA, we have delivered a number of these software development bootcamps, including 12-week Government-funded programmes in the Greater Manchester region and a number of shorter bootcamps designed to help individuals become conversant in the basic principles of software development
The bootcamp concept is equally applicable to other skills – including cloud, cyber security, and DevOps – and to learners who are further along in their careers. With The Open University expecting 37% of workers to be affected by digital disruption by 2024, reskilling will have to become far more prevalent in the future. Bootcamps are a potentially powerful tool in the armoury – they aren’t just suitable for under 25s – they are the perfect career re-start too.
Our experience tells us bootcamps deliver a different flavour of learning to a traditional course, and offer a different experience.
What makes them so powerful?
1. Duration and focus
During a bootcamp, learners are fully immersed in learning new skills without the on-the-job distraction that can arise during part-time or self-paced learning methods. By week 2, the focus becomes familiar, and previously challenging concepts quickly become second nature. The cumulative nature of learning means bootcamps are more efficient – new learning can build on recently acquired knowledge and little re-capping is necessary.
Perhaps of greater impact is that the longer duration means the learning programme can incorporate project-based work. Learners can immerse themselves in in-depth practice – coding and building real-life examples over a period of weeks. This gives the learning a greater level of practical application, creates greater understanding, and helps the individual commit the new skills to long-term memory.
The bootcamp experience is a more immersive experience than a traditional course. The teaching style is largely active (as opposed to passive) learning. Participants actively practice and use the skills they are being taught immediately – and are actively challenged with tasks they may find difficult at first. A lot of content is covered in a short space of time, and this intensity means that the pace of skill improvement is dramatic.
3. Peers and peer learning
In a longer programme, the benefit of peers, and peer learning, is greater. The intensity of the learning means individuals build stronger relationships with those learning alongside them. Bonds are built on the basis of shared experience, shared challenge and shared success. Learners understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses and seek support from each other – be that on technical topics or more broadly.
Moreover, the relationships formed during the experience last beyond the programme itself. Bootcamp participants build a network and support group, often remaining in touch well after the official learning programme has finished.
Could QA's bootcamps equip your organisation with the digital skills required to emerge stronger?
The £138 million set aside to expand skills bootcamps in the 2020 Autumn spending review is a clear stamp of approval that bootcamps are entering the mainstream. Their use will (rightly) be targeted for social as well as economic gain. For organisations faced with both a digital skills gap, and a loyal, valued workforce that lacks the skills needed to effect a digital transformation, tech bootcamps are the perfect solution.
Here at QA, we have recently introduced a 5-week software development bootcamp, with further programmes in cloud and DevOps to follow. Any organisation can send between one and 10 employees on QA’s public schedule bootcamps. Alternatively, we can tailor a programme to upskill cohorts of 10 or more individuals from the same employer.
Tom is Head of Group Strategy at QA, supporting all strategic decision-making, investments and proposition development across the company. Before QA, Tom spent 5 years in the Strategy and Corporate Finance practice at McKinsey, advising on organisational transformations worldwide. He was also a Senior Strategy advisor at the UK Department for Education.
Tom holds a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University.