Canadian bootcamps are working hard to develop the talent needed to keep up with Canada’s growing tech hubs. StartUp Compass ranks Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver amongst the top 20 startup ecosystems in the world. The Canadian tech economy as a whole is being fueled by thriving companies such as Shopify, Hootsuite, Kik, Wattpad, and Erkem. Their success has generated a lot of interest among investors.
“Over the past few years, Canada has seen record high numbers of angels investing in promising early stage companies across the country and as the technology sector continues to grow, it is expected that angel investing will continue to grow as well,” according to the National Angel Capital Organization 2014 Angel Investing Report. In 2014, $90.5 million was invested into 181 Canadian companies by angel investors.
Money pouring into developing businesses coupled with typical turnover and retirement rates has triggered a rise in demand for tech professionals.
According to a study conducted by Digital Adoption Compass, Canadian companies will need to hire somewhere in the range of 161,000 - 232,000 information and communication technology professionals in the next five years. The occupations with the highest demand are, “information systems analysts and consultants, computer and network operators, web technicians, computer programmers, interactive media developers, software engineers, graphic designers and illustrators, computer and information systems managers, database analysts and data administrators.”
In light of this growing demand for IT professionals, several coding bootcamps emerged in Canada as early as 2013 to prepare local workforces for Canada’s shifting economy. Today there are bootcamps located in several major cities throughout Canada including: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, and Waterloo. Each of these markets are home to both institutional companies and young businesses looking to make an impact and in need of fresh talent.
Canadian Coding Bootcamp Market
In 2014 the six bootcamps located in Canada graduated 480 students. They will graduate an estimated 927 students in 2015 and will generate ~$8M in revenue. According to our conversations with these camps graduates are expected to make $35,000 to $55,000 a year depending on location and prior experience. The most popular teaching language in Canadian bootcamps is Ruby. For more market info check out Course Report’s 2015 Coding Bootcamp Survey.
Regulation and Accreditation
Currently, only two of Canada’s provinces require resident bootcamps to either register their organization with a provincial regulatory agency or to prove they operate outside of the regulations.
In Ontario, bootcamps must receive approval or an exemption from the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities (MTCU). The MTCU regulates programs that are longer than 40 hours a week and that cost over $1000. Bitmaker Labs halted operations in 2013 to clear their operations with the MTCU. They have since received an exemption letter and were greenlighted to continue business.
“When the motive is making money, education becomes very secondary. People oversell and under deliver. But as soon as they realized that we undersell and over deliver, they were huge advocates of ours,” said Craig Hunter CEO of Bitmaker Labs.
All other coding bootcamps in Ontario are also exempt of MTCU regulations.
In British Columbia, coding bootcamps are required to be in compliance with the standards set forth by the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA). Both Lighthouse Labs is registered with the PCTIA. CodeCore is registered and accredited by the PCTIA.
Additionally, bootcamps may register with the federal government as a Designated Learning Institution. Currently only Lighthouse Labs has received this designation.
Top Canadian Coding Bootcamp Cities
Toronto Coding Bootcamps
Toronto hosts four of Canada’s six main bootcamps. Bitmaker Labs, BrainStation, Lighthouse Labs, and HackerYou all take up residence in Canada’s largest city. Enterprise companies such as Thomson Reuters, Celestica Inc, Sears Canada, and Royal Bank of Canada make up some of the area’s largest employers. Toronto is also home to growing organizations such as Chango, BuzzBuzzHome, and JUICE Mobile.
“The tech scene in Toronto and Ontario is definitely booming. There’s a handful of big unicorn tech companies, there’s a handful of really successful IPOs coming out of Ontario in recent years, and some really big fund raising rounds like Shopify and D2L’s last rounds,” said Hunter.
Vancouver Coding Bootcamps
Canada’s third largest city, Vancouver, has the second highest concentration of coding bootcamps. BrainStation, CodeCore, and Lighthouse Labs are the three course providers Vancouverites have to choose from. National telecommunications company, Telus, is one of Vancouver's largest employers while international tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon also have a healthy presence in in the area. Vancouver also has a booming startup community which includes companies like Hootsuite, Clio, Mobify, Bench, and Picatic.
While Montreal is Canada’s second largest city it only has one coding bootcamp, DecodeMTL. Montreal has no shortage of startups and it wouldn’t be surprising to see other bootcamps enter this market.
Ottawa and Waterloo are two cities seeing a boom in their local tech economy. Both cities are witnessing investments flow into their local tech communities. Waterloo’s economy has also seen a boost from Google taking up residence in the area. BrainStation is the only bootcamp offering courses in these two cities.
Calgary has a long list of startups in need of web dev professionals. In 2013 the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) ranked the greater Calgary area as the best large Canadian community to run a business. Currently, Lighthouse Labs is the sole course provider in Calgary.
Bitmaker Labs host an eclectic selection of courses that includes full-time web development and full-time mobile development. They also offer part-time courses in front-end web development, Ruby on Rails, user experience design, ad optimization, and game development.
“The flagship product is web development but we’ve got a lot of popular part-time courses as well,” said Hunter.
Bitmaker ran into a little bit of a snapfoo in 2013 with the provincial regulators in Ontario which you can read more about here. They successfully navigated the regulatory waters and it’s been full speed ahead for their organization ever since.
“We host a ton of hackathons, speaker events, we kind of think of ourselves as a keystone in the Toronto community. We’ve got a really large space, so we use it as our way of giving back to the tech community in Toronto, and people seem to appreciate it. ” said Hunter.
The majority of BrainStation’s courses are part-time. They also run full-time courses in web development from their Toronto location. Their courses attract both people looking to start their own businesses and those interested in developing a career in tech. BrainStation assess their student’s goals and groups them accordingly to fascilitate the learning and development process.
“In our classroom, all the people who want to be entrepreneurs are in one group and students looking for jobs are in another,” said Trilby Goouch marketing coordinator at BrainStation Labs.
BrainStation was purchased by Konrad Group, a technology firm in the consumer and enterprise space, at the end of 2014. Konrad committed $10 million to the expansion of BrainStation. Now BrainStation is the first Canadian bootcamp to cross the border into the US as well as San Jose, Costa Rica.
Having Konrad as a parent company also gives them access to leading professionals in the web development space. “For instance, one of our employees in Konrad are one of the top Angular developers in Toronto. So we can bring him in to help teach our students the most up-to-date material,” said Goouch.
BrainStation is also the only Canadian bootcamp that offers enterprise training. Their clients include Deloitte Digital and AOL. They have also initiated a summer program for teens, called BrainStation Academy. The program is merit based, meets on weekends, and teaches students to code.
CodeCore’s employs instructors with experience in senior development roles. They lend an expertise to their students that has resulted in highly employable graduates. “Many employers are telling us we graduate some of the best junior web dev talent in town,” said Tammam Kbeili, founder and lead instructor at CodeCore.
Their part-time course is very popular among working professional in the area. “We’ve designed the part-time course to be good for two things. One is as a stand alone course. You will learn enough to build a website and will receive a lot of useful information about programming. At the same time, we made it as an excellent preparation for the bootcamp,“ said Kbeili.
CodeCore has made community building one of its core principles. They host tech events and meetups as often as possible in their 6,000 square foot space. Graduates have lifetime access to this space if need be. Expect to see CodeCore introduce a new iOS development bootcamp in the near future.
DecodeMTL is Montreal’s only bootcamp. They originated exclusively as a part-time course provider but have recently evolved into a full-time bootcamp. This change was sparked by local demand. They coordinated with the Montreal tech community to design the most relevant curriculum for the area.
Their first full-stack bootcamp starts this September. It will seat 12 people and will be taught by two instructors. All of DecodeMTL’s TAs and instructors are bilingual, speaking both French and English. The course is taught in English to coincide with industry standards. “Most people want to learn in their strongest language so when it comes down to the nitty gritty students may ask questions in French if that’s their preference,” said Khoury.
DecodeMTL second full-time bootcamp is scheduled to begin in November. Their part-time course is currently on a hiatus so that they can focus all their resources on providing the best experience possible for their full-time students. Khoury, who had previously worked with many tech companies in the area, is actively utilizing his network to establish partnerships for mentoring and hiring events.
Approximately 70% of all students at HackerYou are female. In Fact, HackerYou's CEO Heather Payne, founded Ladies Learning Code which is a valuable resource and community for women developing tech skills.
In August 2015, HackerYou will substantially increase the size of its downtown Toronto campus, from 7000 square feet to over 12,000 square feet. The new space will add two new classrooms and a 3000 square foot alumni-only Lounge.
Lighthouse Labs is currently based in Vancouver (Launch Academy) and Toronto (Highline). They also have a part-time course in Calgary as well as recently concluded a hybrid program in Whitehorse, Yukon. Lighthouse Labs is a Designated Learning Institution with the federal government, and fully registered and compliant with PCTIA.
“We are always iterating our curriculum. We feel it isn’t about the language you are learning but about your ability to learn new languages. We have graduates go and work in Python, and PHP, jobs after graduation and they will learn those languages on-site because they learned how to learn from us,” said Michael Steele, marketing manager at Lighthouse Labs.
Lighthouse Labs is an active member of the tech community, they host events and take part in local tech meetups. Most notably, they organized the HTML500. The second annual HTML500 occurred in early 2015. Lighthouse Labs coordinated with top tech companies in Canada to teach people how to code, for free, during one day events held in Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Calgary.
The Canadian bootcamp landscape is in a constant state of flux. From our conversations with bootcamp representatives there are plenty of upcoming events and future developments in the works. Stay tuned for updates! In the meantime, take a look at our Canadian Bootcamp Map to find a course provider near you:
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