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Boot camps: A great way to learn the nuts, bolts

Boot camps teach students the key skills for full-stack programming and soft skills.

By ELIZABETH MUGUCHU

There is more scrutiny in our educational system, with more emphasis (in the last 5 years) on vocational training and a focus on imparting the right skills to future generations.  I couldn’t help but compare the traditional training methods in Africa to the current technical boot camps.  As technical skills are high in demand these days, boot camps have become one of the most sought-after methods to obtain additional skills required to cover the extra mile in one’s career. 

Learning through technical boot camps

Technical boot camps have been around since 2012. Bootcamps are typically short, lasting anywhere from a week to a few months, depending on the structure of the course. This makes them not only affordable when compared with degree programs, but easier to fit into busy schedules for working professionals. The core elements of the program are – teaching the students technical skills. Put simply, a technical boot camp is a learning format designed in a manner to help participants focus intensely on acquiring technical skills quickly.  Like a non-technical boot camp, the primary principles here too are speed and impact.

The advantages of such a program are many as they not only provide an opportunity to study and network with peers of similar interest, but also provide experiential learning that helps an individual become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses. One learns to master self-discipline and self-drive, pushes for collaboration and team work by learning to capitalise on each other’s strengths and provide cover for each other’s weaknesses.

An organisation-based technical boot camp also ensures that prospective employers gauge your skill set and understand areas of improvement and growth whilst offering the necessary support to ensure you achieve the set outcomes.

A technical boot camp helps to impart both technical and soft skills.  Soft skills include communication, marketing, collaboration and teamwork, and negotiation.  It also helps to filter out those that are not committed to the program as the boot camp is intense and requires a high level of commitment and concentration.

As much as boot camp is project based – you are given a technical project that you build over time – the outputs are measured daily, and feedback has to be actioned upon, which ensures continual improvement. It provides one with a means to try and fail through simulations, and you get to know what you are good at, and what you are great at. 

Coding boot camp experience

From an organisational point of view, one must consider the resources needed to successfully run such a program.  It requires consideration of location, duration, training resources – face to face trainers or use of videos and other e-study options, and the availability of interested candidates for the program of course.

For the boot camp attendees, one must take some time off to be fully immersed and engrossed into the program to be able to reap full benefits. Usually, there’s an online application and series of interviews. The interview process concentrates on logic assessment rather than technical skills test. That’s due to the target demographic: beginners. If you’ve got some basic coding background, even if it’s just a mark-up language like HTML, that’s fantastic. But coding boot camps deliver a no-experience required learning environment, so don’t expect a technical skills test.

This would involve taking time off from work or school for at least 2 weeks, and re-scheduling plans to be fully available and engaged. Think about what you want and what skills you need to gain. At the end of the day, boot camps are not a golden ticket to a job – they take work, and you get what you put into them. The homework and projects that are often required can be great resume boosters and are a great way to get a portfolio started, so make sure you spend time doing your project correctly and with thought and care. You can learn a lot from these programs, because they provide you with a great network, skills, and frames of thought, but you really have to practice and invest in the program. Your education won’t end once you graduate and land a job after your boot camp program. You’ll want to keep taking courses along the way, gaining new skills and building your resume — especially if you want to continue competing with top candidates.

Looking back into traditional African vocational learning, there are quite several similarities to our boot camp experience.  There was no theoretical knowledge passed on but rather practical knowledge and skills that were imparted during a lifetime of training and apprenticeship. Indigenous education covered nine important areas of knowledge: culture, skills, leadership, religion, gentility, the environment, cooperation, belonging to a group and discipline. The apprentice was tasked to learn over a period and increase their knowledge and skills from the master, becoming greater with each passing day. Maybe it is time to consider some other traditional skills practices as well and see what we can use in future.

Elizabeth Muguchu is a Productivity Coach and freelance writer based in Nairobi Kenya. Email: elizabethmuguchu@gmail.com

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