Are digital bootcamps the answer to lifelong learning?

Boot Camp  - fluorescent Neon Sign on brickwall Front view

Early career staff need different skillsets and support, so skills bootcamps might be the answer. Stewart Watts tells us more

In the technology sector, while the total number of advertised job vacancies may have seen a decline last year, the demand for junior and entry-level roles is at an all-time high. Many organisations are having trouble finding enough young professionals to keep up with their growth plans.

In response, Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan launched a campaign to get more people to sign up to digital Skills Bootcamps in areas including cloud computing, cybersecurity and software development. The 16-week courses will be available both part-time and full-time across the country, with many providers offering further flexibility to ensure equal access. The bootcamps have been designed to individuals for high-tech careers, with each participant guaranteed a job interview upon completion.  

The structure of the bootcamps demonstrates the value of micro credentials and short courses when trying to deliver training programmes en masse and at pace. The target of upskilling 64,000 people through bootcamps by 2024-2025 is admirable yet ambitious. Education providers will have to work more closely with the private sector to address current industry challenges and ensure young workers are engaged from the outset.

The current digital skills landscape

Though the reskilling challenge is nothing new, recent developments in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) have created a sense of urgency. The average half-life of skills is now less than five years, and a third of IT leaders are struggling to find qualified AI and ML talent. As such, learning and development (L&D) teams need to take a new approach and deliver rapid upskilling initiatives in targeted areas.  

Those completing their studies or just starting out in the world of work will require a different skill set compared to what was necessary for workers just a few years ago. However, there is a gap between the skills needed in today’s workplace and what the education system currently teaches. Both enterprises and higher education institutions need understand how to bridge this divide.

Today’s training programmes need to be agile and responsive, to enable personalised learning pathways and meet individual requirements. By strengthening its partnerships with industry, the government can ensure the digital skills camps are being developed with the needs of businesses in mind.

Collaboration and industry partnerships

The accessibility of bootcamps is excellent for promoting equal opportunities. It also highlights how modern training programmes can effectively blend into current workplaces, catering to the schedules of busy employees. According to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), skills need to be boosted specifically in cloud computing, software development, cybersecurity, web development and data analytics – which will serve the current job market and anticipate future roles.

As part of the scheme, the government has already formed partnerships with the world’s top tech companies, including Google, with courses like the Google Cloud engineer bootcamps, Amazon Web Services re/Start programme, and Microsoft’s AI training.

By working together, government and institutions can ensure desirable skills are embedded within the curriculum and delivered across all courses and work placements. After all, they all have a joint responsibility to help prepare individuals for the jobs of today and tomorrow, helping young working professionals excel in their careers, and establish the UK as a technology leader.


Stewart Watts is Managing Director EMEA at D2L

Stewart Watts

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