Canadian bootcamps are working hard to develop the talent needed to keep up with Canada’s growing tech hubs. StartUp Genome ranks 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.
In 2016, $157 million was invested into 418 Canadian companies by angel investors, according to the National Angel Capital Organization 2016 Angel Investing Report.
“Increasingly, the Angel network is filling the seed to growth stage in the investment scale stepping in to provide critically needed bridge capital to startups as they mature into scalable ventures,” says Yuri Navarro, CEO of NACO. “This growing Angel funding bridge will not only generate more positive investment outcomes, it also helps to build stronger late stage innovation companies that strategic investors can support.”
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 to 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 is home to both institutional companies and young businesses looking to make an impact and in need of fresh talent.
In 2017 the six bootcamps located in Canada graduated 943 students. They will graduate an estimated 1,1401 students in 2018 and will generate $13.5 million in revenue. According to these bootcamps, 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 divided evenly between Ruby on Rails and MEAN Stack. For more market info check out Course Report’s 2018 Coding Bootcamp Survey.
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,” says Craig Hunter CEO of Bitmaker Labs.
All other coding bootcamps in Ontario are also exempt from MTCU regulations.
In British Columbia, coding bootcamps are required to be in compliance with the standards set forth by the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB). Lighthouse Labs, BrainStation, CodeCore and RED Academy are all registered with the PTIB. You can search for accredited schools here.
Toronto Coding Bootcamps
Toronto hosts five of Canada’s seven main bootcamps. Bitmaker Labs, BrainStation, Lighthouse Labs, HackerYou, and RED Academy 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,” says Bitmaker’s Craig Hunter.
Vancouver Coding Bootcamps
Canada’s third largest city, Vancouver, has the second highest concentration of coding bootcamps. BrainStation, CodeCore, Lighthouse Labs, and RED Academy are the four 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.
Montreal is Canada’s second largest city and has two coding bootcamps, DecodeMTL, and Lighthouse Labs. Montreal has no shortage of startups and it wouldn’t be surprising to see more 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.
12 weeks | CAD$12,500 | Toronto
Bitmaker Labs offers a number of full-time and part-time courses in web development, front end web development, user experience design, UX and product design, and product management.
In 2016, Bitmaker was acquired by US-based education and bootcamp provider General Assembly. However, Bitmaker continues to use its original name, with a subtitle of “General Assembly Toronto.”
“The flagship product is web development but we’ve got a lot of popular part-time courses as well,” says Bitmaker CEO Craig Hunter.
Bitmaker ran into a little bit of a snafu in 2013 with the provincial regulators in Ontario. 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,” Hunter says. “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.”
10 weeks | CAD $12,000 | Toronto, Vancouver, Online
BrainStation offers full-time programs in web development and UX design, and part-time courses ($2500) in web development, iOS development, UX design, product management, digital marketing, UI design, SEO/SEM analytics, data analytics and data science. Most courses are available on campus in Toronto, Vancouver, or New York, or online. Their courses attract both people looking to start their own businesses and those interested in developing a career in tech. BrainStation assesses their student’s goals and groups them accordingly to facilitate 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,” says Trilby Goouch, marketing coordinator at BrainStation Labs.
BrainStation started in Toronto in 2012, and in 2014 was purchased by Konrad Group, a technology firm in the consumer and enterprise space. Konrad committed $10 million to the expansion of the coding bootcamp. Since then, Brainstation has expanded to Vancouver, New York, San Jose, and online.
Having Konrad as a parent company also gives them access to leading professionals in the web development space. “For instance, one of the employees at Konrad is a top Angular developer in Toronto,” Goouch says. “So we can bring him in to help teach our students the most up-to-date material.”
BrainStation also 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.
12 weeks | CAD$8600 | Vancouver
CodeCore employs instructors with experience in senior development roles. “Many employers are telling us we graduate some of the best junior web dev talent in town,” says Tammam Kbeili, founder and lead instructor at CodeCore.
Their part-time course is very popular among working professionals in the area. “We’ve designed the part-time course to be good for two things,” Kbeili says. “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.”
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.
8 weeks | CAD$7995 | Montreal, Online
DecodeMTL was Montreal’s first coding bootcamp. The school originated exclusively as a part-time course provider but is now 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 started in September 2015. Each class is made up of 12 people and 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,” says Khoury.
DecodeMTL launched an online program in 2017, so that students can learn to code remotely with the school.
9 weeks | CAD$8500 | Toronto
HackerYou’s full-time web development immersive program runs four times a year with a cohort size of 25 people. Each year it is becoming more popular, and more selective.They employ a full-time alumni coordinator who is very effective at helping graduates find employment.
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 substantially increased the size of its downtown Toronto campus, from 7000 square feet to over 12,000 square feet. The new space added two new classrooms and a 3000 square foot alumni-only Lounge.
In September 2016, HackerYou temporarily suspended classes while staff worked to get the school accredited as a private college. In December 2016, it became the first registered coding bootcamp in Ontario.
12 weeks | CAD$13000 | Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Victoria, Ottawa
Lighthouse Labs originally was based only in Vancouver (at Launch Academy) and Toronto (at Highline). Since then they have expanded to Calgary, Montreal, and Victoria. Lighthouse Labs is a Designated Learning Institution with the federal government, and fully registered and compliant with PTIB.
Lighthouse Labs has over 2,000 graduates to-date. Their 2019 student outcomes report found a 95% employment rate of job-seeking graduates, with 99% of those graduates landing technical roles as developers, QA, or a tech-hybrid role.
"The topics we cover are focused on computer science concepts which are very realistic and applicable to both iOS and web." says Khurram Virani, co-founder of Lighthouse Labs. "We cover introductions to software design principles, advanced data structures like trees, algorithms, and algorithm complexity. These are things that come up a lot in interviews, but are also important for being able to evaluate the performance of code."
Lighthouse Labs is an active member of the tech community, they host events and take part in local tech meetups. Most notably, they organize the annual HTML500, which has happened every year around Canada since 2014. Lighthouse Labs collaborates with top tech companies in Canada to teach people how to code, for free, during these one-day events held in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Calgary.
12-24 Weeks | CAD$9500 – $14,500 | Vancouver, Toronto, London
RED Academy is a full-time, 12-week or 24-week design and technology bootcamp located in Toronto, Vancouver, and London, Canada. Full-time and part-time courses are available in web development, full-stack development, application development, UX Design, full-stack design, UI Design, and digital marketing.
RED Academy offers a Professional Work-Study option for many of the courses, which includes 6 months of work experience.
“Our programs are designed to answer the question: How can we give our students both a relevant education AND work experience? RED is both a school and a tech agency,” says RED Academy founder and CEO Colin Mansell.
RED Academy opened in April 2016, is already planning to expand its campus as more students apply to take one of its courses. The number of students has reportedly increased by 367% since the school started.
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!
Nick Toscano is a writer, GIS specialist and aspiring web developer. He has been covering the swelling coding bootcamp industry since 2014.
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