Bootcamps Could Be Your Solution to the Talent Shortage

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The pandemic has caused significant shifts in the workforce, driving a growing skills gap.  According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, before the onset of the pandemic, it was estimated that 7.9 percent of US workers would need to transition to new occupations due to job loss. Now, McKinsey estimates 10.1 percent of American workers will need to change occupations.

The shift has affected some more than others: Workers without college degrees, members of ethnic minority groups, and women are more likely to need to change careers.

Prior to the pandemic, employers were already struggling with skills shortages. In another McKinsey survey conducted early in 2020, nearly 90 percent of executives said their companies were dealing with skills gaps or would be within the next five years. If anything, the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

What can recruiters do to help companies plug their talent gaps?

Bootcamps Can Play a Key Role in Getting People Back to Work

Retraining programs offer one way to produce candidates with the much-needed skills organizations are looking for — and they can also provide recruiters with valuable talent pipelines amid a talent shortage.

Bootcamp-style training programs offer several advantages over more traditional education paths, such as four-year degrees. Bootcamps can quickly adapt their curricula to changing industry needs. That’s especially important in fields like software development, where the tools of the trade are constantly evolving. As a result, bootcamps can produce graduates whose skill sets are more relevant to companies’ current needs.

Additionally, the people who participate in bootcamps often come to these programs after having careers in other fields. Because of this, they tend to have broader skill sets than traditional candidates. For example, prior jobs in retail and customer service roles can give bootcamp graduates the coveted soft skills that employers value just as highly as hard skills.

By thinking outside the box and considering candidates with non-traditional education paths, recruiters can build larger talent pipelines and secure more hires, particularly for positions that are difficult to fill. For that reason, recruiters should consider reaching out to bootcamps to learn when their classes graduate.

Trevor Fry, development director at DELMIAworks, has hired candidates from a software development bootcamp and was impressed with the talent pool.

“I really liked that the graduates were well skilled and had a lot of hands-on experience, more so than traditional college students,” Fry says. “They were also personable and ambitious. Most were eager to start, willing to learn and take on whatever challenges would come their way, which was fantastic.”

Retraining Programs Offer More Diverse Talent Pools

Bootcamps can also produce more diverse candidates, particularly post-COVID, as Black, Latino, and women workers were among the most likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Thus, these workers are likely to need reskilling, and they may be attracted to retraining programs because they’re shorter and less expensive than returning to school.

“The graduates always have such diverse backgrounds,” Amy Pruett, chief of operations at SoCreate, said of a bootcamp program she worked with. “They could have been massage therapists or mechanics and not realize how valuable their skills are.”

Chris Smallwood, vice president of cloud operations and IT at DELMIAworks, also appreciated how diverse the classes were: “There were a considerable number of women in the program that I didn’t expect to see. The high-tech industry is about 90-95 percent men, and it can be difficult to address that when the candidates you’re looking to hire are also mostly men. I wanted the best person for the job, but it was also important to further our goals of gender diversity.”

Helping Candidates Upskill

Recruiters should consider referring the candidates they work with to retraining programs. Given that they don’t require as much commitment as going back to school, bootcamps are often a more feasible option for candidates looking to change careers. Many bootcamps are part-time, which can offer flexibility for those with other commitments such as childcare or day jobs.

“I wouldn’t have been able to fill the role I’m in now if I hadn’t taken the bootcamp,” says Connor Stennet, a coding bootcamp graduate. “I was able to gain all the important skills I needed from the course —not only data science and developing but also the ability to pick up and learn new technologies and terminologies I didn’t know. It was a night and day difference for me, as I went from working as a lifeguard to having decent pay and being rewarded for my hard work.”

Paula Mathias-Fryer is program director at SLO Partners.

By Paula Mathias-Fryer