Code Burst: Podcast on Coding Bootcamps

Journalist and researcher Henry Kronk has a podcast about a coding bootcamp aimed at the population in Appalachia that has seen their economic opportunities decline with the loss of many coal mining jobs.

The primary reason for recommending this podcast is that retraining the American workforce for tech jobs is huge news. If it only takes 3 months of classes to turn any unemployed ex-miner into a highly-paid computer programmer, then let’s fund the heck out of coding bootcamps. The bootcamp that is the subject of this podcast did benefit from some public funding. Unfortunately, the teachers did not deliver everything that they promised to their student or to the US government.

Code Burst introduces the listener to a fascinating cast of real characters. I have been studying aggregate statistics on this topic for years, but I learned a lot from these anecdotes. If programming sounds boring but you liked the podcast S-Town, then I would encourage you to check out Henry Kronk’s work. There is intrigue and drama to go along with discussions of whether Ruby on Rails is superior to Java for web programming.

Unlike this bootcamp for miners, some of the other bootcamps that appear to have the best outcomes for students carefully screen the people they are willing to take on. There is some value added to the intense training provided for students who already have significant coding skills, but it would be incorrect to assume that any American chosen at random would benefit from the same training.

Students who appear to benefit from coding bootcamps:

  • often had some high level skills before they started, which could include programming experience
  • usually work extremely hard for very long hours, meaning that they forgo opportunities to make money or advance in another career during the period of the bootcamp

I’ll end with the description from the podcast:

In the practice of coal mining, there’s something known as rock burst. It happens in deep mines and tunnels around the world. Deep drilling causes the rock to shift and buckle. Shards can unexpectedly burst from the tunnel walls, injuring or killing miners.

Code Burst is a story about a violent, unexpected shift in the structure of the global economy. It involves the growing skills gap, the growing tech industry, the growing obsolescence of higher education, and one married couple who either tried to make a difference, or tried to make a buck. This is a story about trust.

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