By Patricia Faulhaber
Photos by Thomas Skernivitz
The Akron-based training company offers 12-week programs that they call Bootcamps. The training consists of 40 hours of classroom time with 30 hours of project work per week.
Eric Wise, the chief academic officer of the Software Guild, says the training program is structured like an apprenticeship program, in which students are mentored by a senior level programmer as they learn.
“All of our instructors are senior-level programmers, and they work with the students in an apprenticeship model of learning,” Wise says.
“Students have to apply and take a programming assessment test that asks questions about logic and reasoning, pattern matching, and basic algebra. Applicants also participate in a personal interview with one of our mentors. We look for people with high aptitude and drive,” he says.
Wise was a software architect for many years before co-founding the Software Craftsmanship Guild, which has been renamed to the Software Guild. While trying to hire entry-level programmers at his previous employer, he realized there just were not enough entry-level applicants.
Plus, the people he did interview were still being trained in the same manner he completed in the 1990s. Wise saw an opportunity to develop the boot camp and apprenticeship approach to help people transition to the technical world.
The program trains on two of the most commonly used enterprise languages today, Microsoft.net and Oracle Java. Other vital components include teaching problem solving and communications.
Students represent the entire United States. While most students have four-year degrees in some area, Wise says many linguistic majors enroll in the boot camps.
“Generally, close to 90 percent of our students want to get programming skills, and they want to obtain them quickly. Average age is 25 to 40 years, many are career changers, and some are underemployed. We average 20 to 30 percent female enrollment,” Wise says.
The company has 12 cohorts planned for next year, with 14 to 16 students per cohort. The program is experiencing 96 percent placement rates. Graduates are receiving job offers weeks before completing the boot camp.
Wise says the demand for entry-level programmers is growing. By 2020 there is expected to be a shortage of 1 million qualified programmers. The shortage is expected to slow the growth of startup companies. Regionally, the high level of demand was a bit of a surprise to Wise. Graduates are quickly getting junior software developer positions upon completion. It is important, Wise says, to bolster the talent base in the region to where it is sustainable for both smaller and bigger companies.
“Startup companies typically hire experienced programmers from the pipeline because they don’t have the time or funds to train entry-level developers. They want to hire mid- and senior-level programmers from the bigger companies. If the pipeline dries up, then salaries go up, and it becomes more difficult for startup companies to hire the people they need,” Wise says.
Wise says using the apprenticeship model to address the need allows students to work with a mentor and to work on progressively harder IT projects. Students get constant feedback. They learn how to build applications, how to work with different technologies, and how they work together. They also learn how to structure and organize things in a way a real-time enterprise would do.
“This is what the economy needs right now and for the foreseeable future. We need more technical talent. And we need to find more creative ways to train and nurture that talent, and that’s what we do at the Software Guild,” Wise says.
For more information: swcguild.com
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