The 21st century economy requires 21st century skills which include software development and high-end digital knowledge. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the US economy will need as many as 100,000 new information technology workers per year over the next decade. Right now, only about 60,000 of these workers enter the workforce each year (see US economy faces impending skills gap).
Clearly, traditional four year colleges are not keeping up with demand and the college route is not a practical path for everyone. The good news is that coding academies and boot camps are providing an alternative path generating software developers, product managers, and designers in as little as twelve weeks.
This week, a delegation of South African government officials and business leaders visited Silicon Valley. The delegation was led by Honorable Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services. On the delegation's agenda was learning which ideas working well in Silicon Valley could be applied back home where the skills gap is an even more critical issue.
|Hearing from Jamie Parenteau, 42 Silicon Valley's Corporate Relations Manager
The delegation and I got the privilege to visit 42 Silicon Valley in Fremont, an innovative institution that is disrupting engineering education. 42 accepts anyone with a high school education. Their model involves no teachers, no courses, and no classes! Instead, 42 offers an open curriculum that focuses on peer-to-peer teaching and self-paced learning. Students have the flexibility to choose projects that provide experience in 17 software development skill categories. As students gain experience, more challenging projects are unlocked for them, giving each student the opportunity to earn experience points, their unit of progress.
|Usain (from Kenya) shows us 42's open curriculum model
One of the best parts of 42 is that the program is completely free and includes room and board. The program starts with a 28-day selection phase called La Piscine, where as the name implies, students are thrown into the deep end with intensive basic training in coding. After four weeks of working Monday through Sunday, day and night, successful participants are rewarded with admission as full-time students into 42's self-paced learning program. The 42 program includes internships at sponsoring companies. Although 42's curriculum is designed to be completed in three years, many students move on after just a few months when they land full-time jobs, or in some cases, decide to launch their own thing.
42 was founded by French billionaire Xavier Niel whose success in telecommunications came in spite of his own lack of university education. Niel's commitment to providing opportunity to the disadvantage included committing $100M for 42's first school in Paris and another $100M for the Silicon Valley school. In addition, a number of organizations across the globe, including We Think Code in South Africa, license 42's peer-based learning model.
If you've had a hard time looking for tech talent for your company, check out 42 Silicon Valley. I can personally attest that their innovative approach works having hired one of their alums in my startup Ujama.
|Yours truly and Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams at 42 Silicon Valley