How wide is the skills gap? According to a global workforce solutions company, it’s a chasm.
In its latest “Talent Shortage Survey,” the Manpower Group found that nearly 70 percent of employers struggle to fill vacancies for skilled workers. Leading the empty seats are roles for qualified tech professionals.
This is by no means a surprise. For years, economists and experts have warned that the onrushing waves of tech innovation will soon lead to an overflowing demand for tech talent and an underwhelming supply of it. A few years and a pandemic later, we’re finally at that point.
Several reasons have long been attributed to this gap, foremost of which is the lack of relevant training and a high barrier to entry for a tech career. Bypassing these limitations and helping individuals start careers in the technology industry is coding bootcamp CodeBoxx.
CodeBoxx: Coding Without Barriers
In 2018, three-time CTO Nicolas Genest founded CodeBoxx to fill the job market’s hunger for qualified tech professionals. Drawing from years of tech leadership experience, Nicolas created a coding bootcamp that doesn’t just teach students how to code but also transforms them into fully operational software developers.
In the years that followed, CodeBoxx has also grown to be a standard-bearer of accessible coding education. Its reputation is marked by the numerous ways with which it lowers or removes the barriers to a tech career from enrollment all the way to graduation.
Entry: Breaking Barriers
CodeBoxx breaks barriers early in the game. Unlike traditional schools and many coding bootcamps, CodeBoxx does not prescribe a set list of requirements to get into the program. Instead, it levels the playing field by making its training program available to people from all walks of life.
A case in point: its latest cohort showcases a diverse pool of talents with a significant number coming from underrepresented and underserved communities. More than half of the students (55.8 percent) do not have prior programming experience. Nearly half (47.4 percent) only completed secondary education and close to 30 percent of the student population are Black, LatinX, and Asian.
To give its students an even easier start, CodeBoxx offers a “learn now, pay later” payment option. As the name implies, this tuition model grants you access to their bootcamp program without worrying about paying out of pocket. Only once you’re earning a certain amount do you begin paying your tuition fees.
Put simply, instead of paying upfront, you pay with a promise. That is, once you land a job post-program, you’ll pay 20 percent of your first year of gross base salary. The amount you’ll pay will be calculated as soon as you bag the job. This means that your tuition cost will remain fixed during the payment period regardless of bonuses or salary increase.
The same policy holds true for CodeBoxx graduates who decide to become freelancers or return to their previous employment, albeit with different conditions. First, you’ll be required to pay a total of $14,000 post-program. Second, you’ll have a six-month window to settle your fees without accruing interest.
Note that while CodeBoxx students do not have to shoulder any upfront tuition costs, they will have to pay a fully refundable $2,000 deposit to secure their seat in the program. This enforces accountability, ensuring that every incoming student has skin in the game. The deposit also acts as protection for the school’s laptop lending initiative.
CodeBoxx Laptop Loan Program
CodeBoxx’s laptop loan initiative is the bootcamp’s attempt to equip its on-campus students with the tools they’ll need to complete the immersive bootcamp program. Giving its students the freedom to choose between a Macbook Pro and Microsoft Surface, CodeBoxx eliminates yet another barrier to tech education.
This brings us to the second point of access: the immersive training program.
The Immersion: Class Meets Work
What if the trick to learning more is in finding the right way of framing the learning experience? CodeBoxx introduces a different learning approach by eliminating lectures and standardized tests altogether. Instead, this code school teaches students programming fundamentals through its immersive training program.
CodeBoxx training begins with a fictitious company called Rocket Elevators, which acts as an employer and requires the completion of different assignments every week. Students don’t take on traditional assignments but instead, participate in project-based learning where they develop the skills needed to work in the industry.
The introduction of a fictional company serves two purposes. First, CodeBoxx seeks to reframe the goal of learning how to program: it’s not just about creating code; it’s about creating solutions for any given problem.
Second, CodeBoxx ensures that its bootcamp graduates have all the skills they need from day one of employment by equipping them with the mindset needed in the workplace. “Of course there are plenty of technologies out there, and of course there are plenty of coding bootcamps that show how these technologies are used,” said CodeBoxx Chief Program Officer Mathieu Houde.
“But instead of focusing on the technologies, we choose to focus on what the employers need because most of the time, they don’t look for people who know everything. They look for people who know how to behave in a project, in a team, and an enterprise.”
To produce these kinds of people, CodeBoxx divides its training into two levels, taken in sequence: First is the selection process, otherwise known as the Genesis program, followed by the immersion process, also known as the Odyssey program.
CodeBoxx’s Genesis Program: The Selection Process
CodeBoxx’s Genesis Program is a two-week sprint that serves two interrelated purposes. First, it acts as a ‘trial period’ for all CodeBoxx students. Because the Genesis program grants an up-close look into the world of coding, you get the chance to truly gauge your interest in a software development career.
Second, because the program immediately exposes you to coding, you get up to speed with programming fundamentals rather quickly.
Genesis Program Curriculum
“So, the story is…[Rocket Elevators] is a family business that builds elevators but has no presence online. So, we give you a requirements document of a static website that they want at the end [of the two-week sprint],” explained CodeBoxx Business Development Manager Marc-Olivier Groleau during a Q&A session with prospective students.
“We [then] evaluate [your website] with criteria that are binary. For instance, say you [were tasked] to change the color of a button [to] purple but it’s not done, then [we’ll consider that task as] not accomplished…There’s a threshold of points to attain to move on to the Odyssey program,” he said.
If, by the end of it, you pass and find yourself eager to learn more, then you can step into the Odyssey program. By then, you’ll have a better idea of the level of competency, mindset, and commitment needed to complete the program.
Now, what if you fail to reach the threshold, find that coding does not pique your interest, or realize that you don’t have the kind of availability the program entails? Then, you can withdraw from the program and get your $2,000 deposit back.
Whatever you choose, there’s no money lost nor effort wasted at Genesis; just basic coding knowledge earned. Either way, you win.
Preparing Students for Success
To date, 70 percent of Genesis starters have continued to the Odyssey program. Its high rate of success stems from the value that CodeBoxx places on transparency. Instead of leaving students to jump in blindly, CodeBoxx first equips students with training wheels courtesy of the Genesis experience.
This ensures that they have the foundational knowledge they’ll need to stay on track and not get left behind during the second half of the training. After learning how to ride the coding trail, students are then set loose as they navigate the twists and turns of the Odyssey program.
CodeBoxx’s Odyssey Program: The Immersive Process
The CodeBoxx Odyssey program picks up from where the Genesis program leaves off, with the promise of more holistic training that goes beyond learning how to write code.
Odyssey Program Curriculum
Each week, students receive a requirements document and a proprietary video from the “client,” Rocket Elevators. While the setting remains the same, the demands of the company increase in difficulty week after week.
The structure of the assignments varies from individual tasks to group tasks. You’ll be expected to adjust as the projects demand, from learning to work independently to learning to collaborate with other developers. During this time, scrums and meetings will be held every day to check your progress.
You’ll also be paired with a mentor coach for the duration of the training. A personality test taken by you and mentors prior to the program serves as the yardstick in determining which mentor would best meet your learning needs.
CodeBoxx students also receive access to online and open-source resources, proprietary video presentations, and an internal Stack Overflow where students can post questions. Several communication tools are used to make sure everyone has access to the support and the materials they’ll need to deliver.
Despite the abundance of resources, Mathieu is quick to caution students who look for an easy ride. “Coaches can give clues on how to proceed, but students are ultimately trained to find answers by themselves…There’s a process to it,” he said.
“First, you look for the answer yourself. If you still can’t figure out the problem, you may ask questions in a delegated channel like Slack or Discord. A coach will come in and try to answer the question posed. If that doesn’t work, we start a Zoom session to go over the problem with you,” said Mathieu.
“So, we approach it step-by-step. If students really do need one-on-one help, we do it. But first, you have to respect the process.”
Because of its work-based structure, the Odyssey program skips the traditional practice of holding standardized tests and capstone projects. At CodeBoxx, your success is measured through their weekly power ranking.
The power ranking is updated every week and has two components: hard skills and soft skills. Assessment of hard skills comes from the week’s deliverable where an automatic corrector validates whether all the requirements asked by the “client” were fulfilled.
Assessment of soft skills comes from the mentor coaches. Every week, mentors fill out individual scorecards that evaluate how students performed according to 13 criteria, including one’s reliability, attitude, leadership, and teamwork skills.
Every project requirement and key skills criterion is worth a certain number of points. How well you perform on both fronts determines how you move forward with the program.
The Key Takeaway
The Odyssey program is akin to a software development project. Software development projects are marked by sprints, during which developers build feature upon feature until they have a functional application ready to be deployed in the market.
In the same way, the Odyssey is divided into week-long timeboxes. The program is structured in such a way that the students’ soft skills and technical knowledge are honed and built week after week. By the 14th week, the coding bootcamp will have produced a pool of qualified tech workers ready to enter the job market.
Completion: Beyond the Bootcamp
Before entering the job market, CodeBoxx students receive a range of support from the coding bootcamp. Among these is CodeBoxx’s job placement assistance courtesy of its Human Resources Team.
The team works with the students to help them craft their resumes, build their LinkedIn profiles, prepare for job interviews, and create a continuing education plan after the bootcamp. Students also get the chance to connect and network with CodeBoxx’s circle of employer partners.
While other coding bootcamps admittedly offer similar career services and connections, CodeBoxx sets itself apart by offering another pathway: the Digital Solutions Business Unit. The unit serves as a digital workshop for graduates who wish to further their learning with CodeBoxx’s team of developers.
CodeBoxx’s Digital Solutions Business Unit provides a great environment for students to keep learning and ramping up on new technologies while under the supervision of CodeBoxx’s team of senior engineers. They get to work on various projects for a variety of clients, including major players Ebay and Lucky Brand.
Troubleshooting Tech’s Accessibility Problem
CodeBoxx recognizes the reality that while “smart is everywhere,” opportunities are not. It’s this principle that has propelled the coding bootcamp to advance accessible and market-led education. From entry to completion, CodeBoxx breaks barriers to success by putting both the students’ and employers’ needs front and center.
Its ability to meet its students halfway is reflected in its 85 percent completion rate, 20 to 40 points higher than the completion rates in public and private colleges. Its ability to meet the employers halfway, meanwhile, is reflected in its 94 percent job placement rate.
If that sounds like the education you’re looking for, visit the CodeBoxx website and jumpstart your way to the tech industry. In the words of its founder Nicolas: “Go register [and] get some rest. You’re going to need it.”
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.