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Even those familiar with tech education opportunities in Baltimore may have noticed one new entrant in our recent roundup of local learn-to-code resources: The Coding Boot Camp at Johns Hopkins Engineering will be holding its first classes in September at the university’s Homewood campus in North Baltimore.
Even though a familiar name is attached, the program also marks the entrance of a new for-profit tech education company into the city. JHU is launching the bootcamp in partnership with Trilogy Education Services, which itself was acquired by Lanham, Maryland-based 2U earlier this year.
Trilogy is currently working with 48 universities to provide tech training programs. The company builds a curriculum based on its experience with thousands of classes, but JHU has oversight and ensures it is up to its own standards.
Billed as a part-time program, the bootcamp is offered over two three-hour evening classes during the week, and a four-hour class on Saturdays. Plus, there are about 20 hours a week of homework and projects. It’s geared toward adult learners and working professionals.
In making the pitch to expand to Baltimore, Trilogy Chief Academic Officer Ahmed Haque said the juxtaposition of two key stats stood out: The median household income in Baltimore was 20% lower than the national average, but developer salaries are 20% higher. Add that with the 36,000 open tech roles in the area last year, he said, and the company concluded that gaining tech skills presents the opportunity for upward mobility.
“A big thing we were emphasizing is we were building a curriculum that is really well designed for taking someone who has any kind of background and helping them learn the skills over the course of six months that gets them to where they want to go,” Haque said.
"As important as it is to emphasize skills and proficiency, it's equally important to emphasize confidence and a sense of self efficacy."
When it comes to the skills that will be taught, Trilogy looks to align what the market wants. One choice to that end is focusing the course on becoming a full-stack developer. That means being able to build for the frontend, or what the user sees, and backend, or the databases and other technologies that power an application.
Understanding how an entire application is put together is increasingly important to employers, Haque said. He also noted a shift observed in the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey: More than half of respondents identified as full-stack developers — a change from past years when devs would specialize.
When it comes to web frameworks, Haque said the focus is on React.js and jQuery. React is a more recently developed technology which Trilogy focused on early on, while jQuery is older and continues to be used widely. When it comes to database languages, the company bases the curriculum around MySQL, which was used by more than half of respondents on the survey.
It’s designed so students will leave knowing five or six technologies — yet gaining the tech skills to help succeed on the job is not only about learning specific languages, Haque said. Since every company tends to have a different stack, being able to learn new technologies quickly and contribute is important for getting a job. So the question becomes: “How do you confidently adapt to whatever the technology need is in that environment?”
In gaining that experience, students build projects that they later present, and will often go out and find a new technology to learn and incorporate.
And it’s not only about what’s inside of a computer, either.
“If you think about the bootcamp environment where you’re helping adults transition into new careers, as important as it is to emphasize skills and proficiency, it’s equally important to emphasize confidence and a sense of self efficacy. You need to really believe that regardless of your background you can be a developer,” Haque said.
And when it comes to working, there will always be other humans involved. So the ability to collaborate, solve problems and communicate will be just as much a part of any future job.
“Those soft skills really translate in the job market, especially when you have the tech skills that we’re teaching in the program,” Haque said.
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