Why Successful Hiring Managers Look Beyond the 4-year College Degree

Why Successful Hiring Managers Look Beyond the 4-year College Degree

There is a growing need for skilled tech talent, and the demand for these individuals is outpacing the number of those earning technology and computer science degrees. The result—companies have a tech talent shortage and stalled or slowed workflow. Compound this issue with the pandemic which has resulted in college-bound students taking a gap year due to financial strains or losing faith in the tremendous financial investment that it requires. This exacerbates the hiring issue for companies with self-imposed ‘college grads only’ limitations on their recruiting options. Ultimately, the question is whether the position requires a degree or a skillset. Smart hiring managers know the answer. 

Fortune 500 Companies Are Doing It

IBM, JPMorgan Chase and Comcast, are just a few examples of companies that are changing their hiring practices and looking past the four-year college degree. They and many other companies are doing this to quickly fill open tech positions with skilled workers, but it is also improving their businesses’ diversity and inclusion, creating positive workplace models, and giving back to the communities they serve. Today, because of new tech training models and education options, businesses are considering candidates that come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds including those that attend a vocational school or coding bootcamp. 

Coding Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are popping up all over the country. Some are for profit and others are nonprofit, like Zip Code Wilmington in Delaware. These bootcamps offer a fast-paced technical curriculum – some are only 12 weeks – that keeps up with today’s market and need, while providing training at a fraction of the cost in comparison with two- or four-year degree programs. The time and money needed to complete degree programs create major barriers to entry, especially for many diverse candidates or workers looking to transition into tech careers after having invested in non-tech degrees. In contrast, coding bootcamps lower these barriers. Within months, and at a low cost, workers walk away with the technical training, hands-on experience, and professional skills needed to secure a competitive job and increase earning potential. 

The Impact

One Fortune 500 company, JPMorgan Chase, is making tremendous strides in looking past 4-year college degrees to support its tech hiring. For instance, in 2020, JPMorgan Chase hired more than 30 coding bootcamp graduates in Delaware. These graduates had tuition reimbursement covered by the Delaware Governor’s Executive Order 43, Rapid Workforce Training and Redeployment Initiative, which permits the use of federal CARES Act funding to cover employment and training programs for employees impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency. This initiative significantly reduced tuition owed by these students, and reskilled them into the tech field and new careers. 

“We work with several coding bootcamps and reskilling programs throughout the country and our collaboration with Zip Code Wilmington in Delaware is a great example of how this reskilling and hiring model is giving Delaware residents jobs now while increasing their career opportunities and earning potential for life,” said Jennifer McDermott, Global Technology Reskilling Lead, JPMorgan Chase. “We see the value of looking past the 4-year college degree to recruit talent that possess strong technical skills as well as soft skills that make them excellent team members.” 

Now more than ever, our country needs more tech talent to keep up with the demand, and more companies willing to expand beyond a 4-year college degree requirement for skilled talent. Since Zip Code Wilmington opened its doors six years ago, it has produced the very best tech candidates in the Delaware region, including more than 400 alumni who are now salaried coders, software developers and data analysts at JPMorgan Chase, Telsa, Comcast, M&T Bank, CSC, and Marlette Funding, among others. The success Zip Code Wilmington has shown in Delaware demonstrates that the partnership between software bootcamps and companies needing highly trained tech talent works. Using this alternative training model to build a pipeline of great technologists and tech leaders is a viable solution. 

Misconceptions 

There are common misconceptions that hiring managers have about bootcamp graduates. These misconceptions can be detrimental to companies who need to adopt alternative training pipelines in order to remain competitive. Skilled and dedicated candidates are available for hire, but these companies are letting myths get in the way of reality. 

Myth: 12-16 weeks is too short to gain any meaningful education.

Bootcamp graduates have proven this to be false. Students dedicate more than 50-100 hours per week to learn the skillset needed for entry level software engineering, and generally enter the workforce with much more actual coding acumen than those with a Computer Science degree. Moreover, their skill level is measurable and demonstrable through assessments and upon review of their coding projects and portfolios developed during their bootcamp training.  

Myth: Bootcamp graduates may have the tech skills, but they lack in interview preparedness. 

There are bootcamps, like Zip Code Wilmington, that prepare their students for the interview process, giving their students mentorship, early access to employers, mock interview training, resume writing support and the confidence they need to secure a full-time career. 

Myth: Bootcamp graduates don’t have enough “real world” working experience and often require lots of hand holding when joining a full-time position. 

In many cases, bootcamp students come from diverse backgrounds and have varying career experience, including customer service roles as casino dealers, restaurant servers, legal support and sales. These aren’t recent high school graduates, but adults (average age 30) who have lived, worked hard and want more than a fleeting job – they are ready for meaningful career. 

With so much that has changed over the years, and especially during the pandemic, it is time that employers recognize that there are different ways to recruit tech talent for their open positions. Bootcamps provide an efficient solution that can advance the trajectory of tech for companies and their workforce.

By Desa Burton, Executive Director, Zip Code Wilmington and USAA/SHRM Foundation Ambassador.