They’re called Code Schools. Scattered now across the U.S. is a growing number of usually short-term (i.e., 12-week) intensive training programs aimed at providing core skills to a growing army of tomorrow’s workers: coders, aka programmers. These may well be the bricklayers of the 21st century.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal Christopher Mims points out one such enterprise in Akron, Ohio, that charges about $14,000 for its three month course of study. Graduates include Alex Mathis who said “If you’d told me several years ago that I was going to be a computer programmer and working for a software company I wouldn’t have believed you.” Mathis went from being a shipping manager to a higher-paid programmer upon graduation.
As Mims notes, “Across the U.S., change is coming for the ecosystem of employers, educational institutions and job seekers who confront the increasingly software-driven nature of work. A potent combination – a yawning skills gap, stagnant middle-class wages and diminished career prospects for millennials – is bringing about a rapid shift in the labor market for coders and other technical professionals.”
Mind you, these code schools aren’t necessarily creating rock stars. These aren’t the top of the food chain programmers who end up at Google or Facebook. These schools, rather, are designed to turn out the junior developers and apprentices that will later be dropped into teams of other, more experienced programmers, to ply their craft at today’s industrial and knowledge companies, while furthering their educations there.
Most are engaged in the truly productive work of transferring and translating business processes into code, or mining data for business advantage, or maintaining and upgrading legacy systems. In short, they’re doing the work that stokes the American business engine. Critical infrastructure work designed to help companies grow.
On a personal note, firms like ours can perhaps be allowed a touch of pride for providing exactly that sort of work for clients (for, in our case, these past three decades). In this blog we’ve bemoaned the dearth of effective programs for training the next generation of productive workers for this economy. We’ve noted the successes of Germany and Japan in realizing that not every student was meant to go to college, and so have built apprentice programs and guilds that help ease young people from the realm of highs school students into the professionally employed – especially in manufacturing.
And so we can only nod approvingly when Mims concludes his piece as follows:
“U.S. manufacturers have spent decades developing guilds, vocational training programs and in-house retraining efforts to keep workers up to date… What is happening now with code schools is very much the reinvention of that system, but for professionals who work with bits, rather than widgets.”