The Montana Code School is a new Missoula program where participants will receive a crash course in web development and programming, all without ever enrolling in a university.
Montana is a booming region for startups. This means jobs, but jobs for people with a specific skill set.
While many experts say a computer science degree is still the best way to break in, Devin Holmes, a recent Missoula transplant from Silicon Valley, didn’t want to wait years for a new batch of developers. He and a group of other community leaders in Missoula wanted to rapidly increase the amount of people in the field.
“One of the challenges facing the startup community in Montana is talent development,” Holmes said.
So in May 2015 this group founded the Montana Code School.
Starting Sept 28, a class of 10 people will spend eight hours a day for 12 weeks learning different tools used every day in the technology world. The course will finish with a capstone project where teams of students will brainstorm and build a web app.
Tuition for the program is $6000, with scholarships available for women, Native American students, and veterans.
Holmes is confident that their program will prepare students for a many jobs, and not necessarily just as a developer. Holmes said that knowledge of code could lead to a variety of options, including a job in the growing field of social media marketing, where skills with HTML increase creativity.
“Reading, writing, arithmetic, and coding,” are, according to Holmes, the educational pursuits of the future.
While code school can give people fundamental skills to get a job, Holmes said it doesn’t replace the value of a college degree.
He compared someone with a computer science degree to an electrical engineer, and someone with code school experience to an electrician. While an electrical engineer is capable of doing the job of electrician, there's still a need for people of both skill levels.
According to a survey by Course Report, a third-party resource for students to compare coding boot camps, 75 percent of boot camp graduates nationwide report employment in a job related to their coding skills, with a 44 percent average income growth after attending coding school.
The Montana Code School is the first coding boot camp in Montana that its founders know of. While class will be taking place in rented space in the University Center, Montana Code School has not gotten any money from the University of Montana.
Despite this, even this first class of Montana Code School students will probably receive UM computer science credit for completing the program, according to Doug Raiford, Computer Science department chair at UM.
Raiford said he doesn’t think that short, intensive programs teaching developing skills are a threat to college computer science departments.
He said that while a basic knowledge of coding can get someone an entry-level web developer position, they would likely find themselves taking direction from someone with a college degree.
“Computer science isn’t just about building programmers,” Raiford said. Computer science majors get an education in back-end technology such as databases and servers, and graduate with a broader skill set.
Michael Kinsey, a Computer Science major, agrees. "You can get a job with much less experience," he said. But Kinsey said he believes his degree, and the more in-depth knowledge that comes with it, will allow him to get a better job and build better technology.