shutterstock_424695085.jpg
Traditional academic institutions face a lot of formal scrutiny. In the United States, colleges and universities must submit to national accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, a host of publications and websites keep constant tabs on schools’ status; for instance, the influential U.S. News & World Report annually evaluates the “top” national universities and liberal arts colleges. As coding bootcamps and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) evolve into established channels for tech pros seeking to improve their skills, the question inevitably arises: should these institutions collectively face the same rigorous examination as traditional schools? That’s a very thorny question, and opinions vary. Although some bootcamps have attempted to seize the brass ring of accreditation by pairing up with universities, others have declined to submit their curriculums for external approval. The nonprofit Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) has paired with bootcamps to develop a transparent framework for reporting graduation and hiring rates, and so has EducationQA—but with 95 full-time bootcamps currently operating in the United States (and an estimated 22,949 students enrolled), there are clearly gaps in reporting coverage. In a bid to give the bootcamp industry a little more oversight, at least locally, New York City’s municipal government has issued a list of “voluntary” guidelines for bootcamps. “As demand for qualified talent continues to grow, New York City needs educators that are prepared to reliably deliver a broader pool of students into tech jobs,” reads the introduction to the city’s downloadable report, which includes those guidelines. “To help achieve this goal, TTP is sharing 12 key practices that promise to improve connections to tech careers for a broader student body, delivering successful results for bootcamps, students, and employers alike.” (Hat tip to Bloomberg for the link to the report.) The key practices include “provide clear up-front information on all requirements” (practice 6), and “conduct assessments frequently and provide targeted support (practice 9). It’s pretty straightforward stuff, in other words, but potentially helpful as more bootcamps spring up across the city. For New York City, bootcamps are an important element in maintaining the local tech hub. Although the city boasts a nice portfolio of startups and established enterprises, it faces fierce competition for businesses not only from Silicon Valley, but also up-and-coming towns across the country that want to grow a tech ecosystem (and the tax base that comes with it). And in theory, the more locals who join bootcamps and learn marketable tech skills, the more attractive the city becomes to tech firms. If you’re considering joining a bootcamp, check out the downloadable report, as well as the EducationQA and CIRR websites (for example, CIRR offers a page of data from schools “committed to transparency”). That information can help you make an informed decision about the right institution to attend.