Issue #7: New Bootcamp Models
A day late, a buck short. Searching for a better noun.
Sidenote: I’ll be at the HolonIQ conference in Paris next Tuesday. Maybe you will be too? Let me know!
Beyond bootcamps: Or, trying to find a better noun
Since 2012, the number and variety of accelerated training programmes has exploded. Today there are 600+ providers globally focused on reskilling and upskilling.
What people tend to refer to as the "bootcamp industry" now involves a huge amount of variability, both in terms of the visions and the strategies of different providers.
In 2019, a group of researchers identified five distinct types of bootcamp:
Across all providers, 90% of delivery happens through Immersives, Courses or University-Affiliated Programs. But even within these categories, there is significant variation in the models each provider uses.
The “Immersive” category has seen the most innovation in the last 3 years. So I find it useful to break this one down even further, into four distinct models.
The biggest differentiator is in who pays for the learner’s education.
Let’s take a look:
#1 Consumer-funded, career-change
Still the overriding model and the most established one. This is what we think of as a typical bootcamp. A 12–16 week accelerated period designed to retrain someone into a new career (usually as a software engineer, UX designer or data analyst).
Funded by the learner either up front through a loan or an Income Share Agreement (ISA), or via a deferred payment method (a percentage of salary after graduation).
E.g. General Assembly, Flatiron School, Ironhack.
#2 Employer-funded, upskill
A newer breed of bootcamp. These providers typically offer an upfront accelerated training bootcamp as an on-ramp for a learner's career, followed by ongoing, structured support for the learner and sometimes their manager for the first year (or more) of employment.
This will usually take the form of asynchronous content through the provider's platform, 1:1 coaching with a mentor, or other consulting services.
The difference with #1 is the employer funds the learner's training. Typically the provider will do a lot of up-front screening of applicants to identify a set of characteristics (e.g. screens for the top 1% of candidates).
E.g. Academy, Polygo, iO-Sphere
More of an all-in-one agency-type feel to this one. As in #2, these providers all screen and train their learners, but the key differentiator is learners are employed by the provider.
Training costs are free, but the learner commits to spending one to two years working as a consultant or employee of the training provider after the course.
Unlike an ISA, the learner doesn't pay back their training cost to the provider. Rather, the provider takes a percentage or recruiting fee from their partner companies.
These programs look a lot like #2 and #3 in structure. Typically, there's an accelerated upfront learning period followed by on-the-job support provided by a coach for the first year of employment. Learners are employed by the company they work for throughout the training.
The difference is that all funding is through government funds. In the UK, this is through the Apprenticeship Levy; in France, through programs like Pôle Emploi; in Germany, through the Bildungsgutschein; in the Netherlands, through STAP.
To access funding, providers need to be registered on a government-approved list.
E.g. Multiverse, OpenClassroom, Spiced Academy
Moving forward, I still see the biggest growth being among providers who can figure out how to shift payment from the learner to the organization.
The most innovation is happening around how to shift the burden of paying from the student to the company, but it’s also the least well-defined. There are few proven models to replicate.
But perhaps the biggest barrier for providers in this category is the education they need to do in the market to differentiate from bootcamps.
We can see this with the push Multiverse is having to make in the US. The company is well-established in the UK, but is spending a lot of time and money to educate the US on how to access apprenticeships.
As Don Taylor pointed out at the HolonIQ conference in London this week. For startups doing new things in a new way, it typically takes 5-7 years of marketing and education for people to really understand what you’re doing.
The question for companies operating with a new model will always be: do you have the runway to educate the market?