New York City creates guidelines to help coding schools go legit

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(Bloomberg) -- New York City is trying to bring some legitimacy to coding schools after the industry was shaken by several unexpected closures and students were left jobless and in debt.

Officials were scheduled yesterday to unveil a set of optional guidelines for bootcamps to follow based on input from three schools. The partner schools are Fullstack Academy, General Assembly, and the New York Code + Design Academy.

“To grow our city’s tech sector, we need a well-trained, qualified workforce with in-demand skills,” said Gregg Bishop, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Small Business Services. “We are taking new steps to better ensure that students have a reliable pathway to good jobs that companies need to fill.”

The coding bootcamp industry is booming as demand for programming skills grows across all sectors of corporate America. Although the schools barely existed five years ago, the U.S. now has 95 full-time institutions across 40 states, according to research group Course Report. New York is home to 23 of them, more than any other state except California, which has three dozen.

The average full-time bootcamp lasts 14 weeks and costs $11,400 for tuition, Course Report said. Most are for-profit institutions. While some students have gone on to desirable technical jobs, many have struggled. Bootcamps lure students with outsized promises, only to find themselves unprepared when they enter the workforce, Bloomberg reported last year. Many technology companies shun graduates of the programs, and some schools provide misleading statistics about job-placement rates and salaries.

Early leaders, including ones that strived to provide accurate data, are beginning to fizzle out. In July, Kaplan Inc. said it would close Dev Bootcamp by the end of this year due to its failure to find a viable business model. The last class is set to graduate next month. Another bootcamp, Iron Yard, said it would shut down all 15 of its locations this year.

New York City officials said they hoped to curb such problems. In a new report called “Key Practices for Accelerated Tech Training,” the city lays out a dozen guidelines for schools to follow. Transparency is one. It also calls for bootcamps to help students land paid internships, connect them with jobs and offer fair loan options.

“The quality of bootcamp providers varies considerably,” said Lauren Anderson, director of the city’s Tech Talent Pipeline, which compiled the report. “We wanted to pull together inventory of the 12 key practices that are really essential in order to help them focus on improving job prospects.”

Others have recognized that the industry is in need of guidance. The National Consumers League, an advocacy group, issued a guide this summer to help people identify fraudulent claims in bootcamp job placements. A group of schools formed a council to encourage transparency in the industry. One of the New York City partner schools, Fullstack Academy, is a member.

Bloomberg News