The market for qualified software developers and web developers is enormous and growing incredibly quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the demand for Web Developers and Software Developers is projected to grow by 20% and 22% respectively. The pay and the benefits are great and there is no shortage of people who would like to work in the industry yet over the next 6 years in the United States alone, one million programming jobs will go unfilled. This problem is not unique to the United States, but is instead a result of ever advancing technology that has evolved (and continues to evolve) at a pace never before seen. The rate of change leaves the world's university system unable to develop the right kind of talent fast enough for the market. And so the demand for workers and the supply continue to skew further and and further from one another. For any qualified software development vendor, this schism serves in the short term to accelerate higher rates and the demand for services, however long term the increasing competition for qualified workers will hurt the entire industry. For companies looking to develop in-house team there is no upside. Ultimately the current trajectory will create a class division in the work force and reduce software innovation as costs continue to climb.
The (Partial) Solution
In order to address the gap of qualified entry level workers, scores of vocational programming schools have popped up around the country to provide a solution. These educational programs can be entirely online or in a physical location, be completely independent, mentored or in classrooms. They vary significantly in terms of their core languages taught (Ruby, Drupal, Angular.js, etc.) and they also can have particular cultural bents (women only, etc.). They can also be part-time or full-time, and the duration can range from a few weeks to a full year.
We've created a publicly viewable Google Spreadsheet to track these schools:
I believe that these schools with be an important supplemental educational system for the future software workforce. It will not do away with the traditional Computer Science degree from four year university (we need all the workers we can get), but it does provide a cost-effective entry into the market, especially for people looking to switch careers. Someone who has been the manager at the Gap already has many of the communication, management and critical thought soft-skills for success in any career, but they do need to add specific technical skills to their roster.
The challenge for all vocational schools is three-fold:
- creating effective curriculums
- connecting with the companies who are looking to hire
- convincing students and hiring managers that their programs turn out valuable graduates
The schools that ultimately succeed will be the ones that think about the long term success of their graduates. It's not enough to get people to sign up and pay for a school - the trick is ensuring they get into the job market once they've got their jumpstart.
With this in mind, the right schools should be paying very close attention to where the jobs in software are. This data especially easy to access today in open source, not just for core language (php, java, etc.) but also toolset and processes that are most closely mirrored to what is actually being used. Modern programmers are a fickle lot, and they are on an almost constant hunt for "the best".