Did we just miss our birthday party?
Oh 2020, you old Trickster, you did it again. Had us so distracted with murder hornets and alcoholic killer monkeys and COVID-19 that we almost forgot about our birthday. Almost.
NSS turned eight years old in June. We’ve never been real clear on the exact date, we just wave our hands around and say “June”. At some point in June, 2012 our first bootcamp started. We started taking applications in April, 2012 (if memory serves) so I guess that could be our birthday, but since we weren’t really and truly committed until those first students showed up at the old Nashville Business Incubation Center to our first classroom, that first day of class is really our birthday.
I’m not going to repeat all of the stories we’ve told before about our birth and growth - there are plenty of blog posts you can go back and read if you want more of the history. Here’s a good one on community to get started, and there’s this one on creating opportunities and this one on reaching 500 graduates. But I would like to use this post to bring us up to date on key milestones in the past year and to look ahead a bit to our ninth year.
Probably the most significant NSS milestone in the last twelve months was surpassing 1000 graduates from our bootcamp programs. We crossed the 1000 graduate line back in February of this year. As I write this post, we have 1127 graduates from all bootcamp programs. And on Wednesday, July 1 we’ll add more to the total when we graduate full-time Web Development Bootcamp 38. We talked a lot about what this milestone meant to us back in February, so I won’t repeat all of it again. This post from February is worth a read if you missed it back then.
We have launched two new programs since our last birthday. The first to launch was our Data Analytics Bootcamp, which comes in both full-time and part-time versions. The part-time program launched first back in July of 2019 with the first class graduating in early January 2020. The second part-time class started in January 2020 and then the first full-time Data Analytics Bootcamp launched in mid-March this year - just in time to go fully online by the second day of class. We graduated the students from both the second part-time and the first full-time cohorts of the Data Analytics Bootcamp just last week on Thursday, June 25th. Between our Data Science Bootcamp and the Data Analytics Bootcamp, NSS is now well positioned to help meet the rising need for more and more talent equipped to help local organizations make better data-driven decisions.
The second new program since our last birthday is the IT Foundations Bootcamp. This program was created in partnership with Apprenti Tennessee as a way to provide a pathway into tech infrastructure roles such as system administration, network administration, and associated IT helpdesk and support roles. We have offered this program once so far, working not only with Apprenti Tennessee but also Vol State Community College to deliver the program using funding provided by one of Tennessee’s Give Grants. This program was delivered starting in March of this year (you know where this is going, right?) and was immediately impacted by the coronavirus lockdown and had to go remote and fully online. But with great work by everyone in the partnership the first class of students graduated last Thursday, 25 June. We will be posting a longer blog post focused on our partnership efforts with Apprenti Tennessee and Vol State in the next few days.
Remote and Online
It’s hard to talk about the last twelve months and not talk about the lockdown, the pandemic, the great hunkering down - you know, COVID-19. As we’ve noted on our blog over the last four months, like What’s NSS doing about COVID-19, Many first during COVID-19, and Remote Learning for Remote Working, it has had a huge impact on all of us. The job market took the biggest hit, in the shortest period of time, in U.S. history. That alone is a pretty big deal if you’re a vocational school preparing people for new careers. It also forced the entire education sector in the U.S. into either enforced vacation or (mostly) into entirely remote/online teaching and learning. We went online in less than a week - taking every student, instructor, and staff member out of the building and into remote work and online education. We’re still training students, students are still graduating, graduates are still getting job offers. And after a couple of months of much reduced application demand, we have seen application flow from new potential students exceed prior high levels of demand. And by serendipity, we’ve been forced into training our students to work well in remote teams, a trend that has been increasing for many years but which seems almost certain to become a requirement for career success in the post-coronavirus world of work.
While what happened last year and the prior eight years are clear, plans for the next year are less clear than I can ever recall. Our crystal ball has become very cloudy (Saharan dust storm? Geez, 2020 is weird.) and my back-up Magic 8 Ball has been saying “You’re on your own!” for the last four months. We had plans for new programs in 2020, especially continuing education evening/part-time classes for our graduates and other working tech professionals. Those plans have not been cancelled but the timing is now hard to predict. And we’re confronted with questions about how and when (and why) to return to in-person classes, or maybe to some hybrid mix of in-person and online and synchronous remote, or maybe to at least some completely remote delivery mode. Those are now the issues that have moved to the top of priority stack for the next few months.
We will keep running our bootcamps, I don’t see any doubt about that. Whatever the extent of the hiring decrease in 2020 compared to prior years, the need for qualified software and analytics professionals has not decreased and the jobs will be there over time. Some are speculating that the pandemic and resultant lockdown/work from home experience is even going to accelerate hiring demands once the economy starts to unlock as companies have realized how behind they are in their digital transformation efforts vis a vis their peers and the requirements of the new world of work. One thing has already become clear - there are a lot of people who have experienced the effects of the lockdown and have decided that they are going to take advantage of this opportunity to gain new skills and prepare for a new career path they can pursue once the economy begins its recovery. We’re looking forward to the chance to support those folks on their learning journey.