This article, from the NY Times, is a sad tale of a “coding bootcamp” that took advantage of people in West Virginia seeking to better themselves. The bootcamp, called Mined Mines, was endorsed and promoted by Joe Manchin, the National Guard, and various news organizations. And yet, it was clearly a fraud, and ended up a disaster for the people who signed up.
They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud.
Mined Minds came into West Virginia espousing a certain dogma, fostered in the world of start-ups and TED Talks. Students found an erratic operation.
My take on this, and you can see from the commenters that many shared this opinion, was that even beyond the obvious fraud, this was a scheme that could never work. They promised to take pretty much anyone, run them through 16 weeks of “coding” instruction, and then an apprenticeship at their own tech consulting firm, and at the end of all this, the graduates would find high paying software development jobs.
OK. First of all, to be a successful software developer, one needs to know a lot more than just “coding”, whatever that is. Software systems have become really sophisticated, and everyone wants to integrate machine intelligence algorithms, cybersecurity best practices, oh, and it better be scaleable and run on highly distributed architectures. That means that developers need to know stuff – how to build security practices into the code, how to write system that can be parallelized, how to choose data structures and algorithms that scale, and so on. No one can learn all that in 16 weeks! The second problem is that the participants likely did not have the best academic preparation, and would have struggled even in a 4 year program. So it isn’t surprising that none of the people who went through this program actually ended up in development positions, or it seems, IT positions of any kind. I doubt they could have ever gotten through a standard technical interview.
And finally, I think the idea that if you train people in IT, they are going to somehow find remote jobs while remaining in Appalachia is pretty unrealistic. There is a reason that the tech industry congregates in certain areas. Not only do the companies have a choice of the best talent RIGHT THERE, but the people themselves network with each other, and learn from each other. It is hard to be a fledgling developer, and trying to do it remotely would be much harder. Software developers spend a lot of time talking to each other and getting advice from each other. It is hard to do that from your trailer in rural West Virginia. The reality is, for people in rural areas who want to get into tech, they are going to have to move.