This article originally appeared in Chicago Inno. As tech bootcamps grow in number and popularity, organizations are starting to take a deeper look at where their graduates go once they invest thousands of dollars in full time programs that promise jobs in the growing tech sector.
While the initial numbers of this nascent education option show promise, the next steps are figuring out how this success could translate to large-scale change in a shifting workforce and economy.
Take Startup Institute. The tech bootcamp started in Boston in 2012 and now has locations in Chicago and New York. It's a two-month, full-time program that costs about $6,000. Students choose one of four tracks (front-end, back-end, marketing, or sales) to update skills, and work on projects with partner startups in the city.
In an external audit of their spring 2015 cohort (about 80 students) by education group edBridge, they found 63 percent of its recent graduates accepted a job offer within 30 days of completing the program, 77 percent after 60 days, and 86 percent after 90 days (after the audit, it climbed to 92 percent). 80 percent are either working at a startup or scale-up level company. 74 percent report the same or a higher salary than their previous job.
In addition, 80 percent said their new job aligns well with their personal aspirations, and 88 percent said their new job is better or significantly better than jobs prior. Those are pretty encouraging numbers, given that though about 93 percent of recent college grads are employed, an upcoming Gallup poll (reported by the New York Times) found only 39 percent of recent college graduates said they had serious commitment to and enthusiasm about their job.
"It was actually more positive than we thought," said Lisa Schumacher, head of the Chicago program. "We experience the day to day emotion of all of the students as they are going through the journey, so a third party audit was yet another measure of success. It was certainly consistent with the internal scores we have gotten, but we were a little surprised."
"It really validated the way that our program is structured," added Dana Cordova, vice president of marketing at Startup Institute. "The entire program is infused with an immersion in our network. From day one they are meeting people working on partner projects."
The immersion in networking opportunities through partner programs also translated to options students were offered once the program was done: 51 percent had five or more interviews and 57 percent received two or more job offers. 27 percent were employed before the program ended.
However, part of that success can be attributed to the fact that the program is tailored to the hiring process. First of all, Startup Institute's admission rate is just under 20 percent, putting it on par with some of the most selective universities nationwide, which means they choose students who are most likely to be successful. Second, the program's hands on components are built into every part of the program, which means students are able to show off their skills over a longer period of time, grow a network, and gain mentors right away. In addition, 67 percent of the cohort surveyed already had a bachelor's degree, and 16 percent had a graduate degree.
That begs the question: is this success scalable? Both Cordova and Schumacher see a need, but aren't sure what the future holds.
"We attract the people who are ready to take that jump and take that two month pause to reset their paths," said Cordova. Compared with quitting a job for two to three years to pursue graduate school or other career paths, that isn't a huge price to pay to get to the next job, she pointed out.
"Job satisfaction is the outcome but the impetus is about more and more people are seeing how tech is reshaping virtually every aspect of our lives, and they see an opportunity to be hands on and build something," said Schumacher. "If [bootcamps] can respond to that, we are going to do a really great service, not just to those individuals but our economy as a whole."
This is the first time that Startup Institute has had an external audit of their program, though they've internally kept track of their numbers up until this point. Going forward, they hope to measure long term employment and satisfaction rates with their employed graduates. Schumacher also added she is aiming to increase the diversity of partner programs going forward to allow for more opportunities for Chicago students.