Thinkful just launched Tailored Talent – custom online coding bootcamps to train students for jobs at specific companies – but what does this mean for students and hiring companies? Cody LeClaire from Thinkful talks logistics and tells us what students can expect if they join a customized class. And Marcus Carter, Talent Acquisition Partner at Portland tech company Cloudability, tells us about building curriculum with Thinkful, why his team is guaranteeing job interviews for Thinkful graduates, and why Cloudability embraces candidates from a diverse background.
Cody, how do companies traditionally hire employees? And how is the Tailored Talent program different?
Cody: We're seeing many companies, especially at the Fortune and enterprise level, radically retooling their current workforce in the wake of changing digital and technical needs. At the same time, there's still a very real challenge for businesses to find the best new talent. The last report published by code.org claimed there were around half a million open computing jobs in America today, and that's only going to grow. So the demand for new talent is overwhelming, but companies don't just want more talent, they want the best talent.
Traditionally, companies recruit graduates out of an educational institution. But we're seeing more and more companies that want to have a hand in the educational experience. Our goal is to really customize the educational experience as much as possible to the individual employer. We know from conversations with employers that they need more specific training. Each company works in specific technologies, framework, stacks, and the general Thinkful program may not necessarily service those specific needs. We did months of research and created our Tailored Talent program, which is designed to match the needs of each business as closely as possible.
Marcus, as a Talent Acquisition Partner at Cloudability, what does your company gain from working with Thinkful’s Tailored Talent program?
Marcus: This is an intentional partnership to create a more diverse talent pipeline. I initially came across Thinkful at a diversity and inclusion panel in Portland, where I sat next to a Thinkful student who really impressed me. I knew we (Thinkful + Cloudability) were both interested in creating a more diverse and inclusive tech environment. Our alignment on diversity and inclusion led us to explore ways we can leverage the partnership to build a diverse pipeline.
To fill this cohort, Thinkful is reaching out to partners like Women in Tech, Women Who Code, and other underrepresented groups to source the students, and that was extremely appealing to us. The opportunity to partner with Thinkful in this capacity far exceeded our initial vision and outcome associated with the partnership.
What is the hiring market like in Portland right now? Where do you currently find software development talent?
Marcus: The hiring market is fairly healthy for entry-level engineers in Portland. Cloudability is unique in that we hire a mix of computer science graduates and also folks who come from coding bootcamps like Thinkful. We actually just hired two Thinkful graduates earlier this year. At Cloudability, we’ve had awesome relationships with code schools in general. I hope our partnership with Thinkful signals to candidates and other organizations our commitment to embrace various backgrounds, skill sets, and perspectives.
So Cody, how do the Tailored Talent programs work?
Cody: Thinkful partner companies will work alongside our expert staff to design custom courses that include the tools and frameworks each business needs. We then tailor the admissions and acceptance process to select the best fit for our partner company. This means companies like Cloudability will receive a consistent flow of talent.
We do have a lot of companies that ask about having their employees participate in our Full Stack Flex program, Engineering Immersion, or Data Science, but right now, this is purely focused on new talent.
And what will these programs look like to applicants or students?
Cody: Candidates will apply as usual for either the Full Stack Flex or the Engineering Immersion program. During that admissions process, we’ll reach out to students in cities where we have these partnerships – whether or not they want to have their candidacy considered for these opportunities is really up to them. If they choose to do the Engineering Immersion course through Tailored Talent, companies have agreed to guarantee interviews or apprenticeships to a minimum of 20 students.
Marcus: This program works for us, but I think this pipeline is also good for students. One thing I frequently hear from code school students and college students is that once they leave their university or educational institute, they are left to their own devices, whereas this program offers a funnel to Cloudability and a potential career.
What is the process for building the customized curriculum?
Cody: We identify the organization’s learning objectives, outcomes, and needs to develop the strongest talent pipeline. And then we create a curriculum outline. We'll design custom modules that include those tools and frameworks, and then go back and forth in a very collaborative effort.
Will these custom curricula for companies like Cloudability be completely new, or will they include quite a lot of existing Thinkful modules?
Cody: The first phases of the programs won't change. Much of that fundamental curriculum through the first phase will be the same as our regular programs.
In the last third of the program, students are introduced to the new tools and frameworks that would be required for the business to guarantee them an interview. Obviously, students would be paired with mentors who are proficient with the tools and frameworks required for the organization. But for the most part, their experience would be very typical of our current programs.
Will a partner like Cloudability get to interview Thinkful applicants?
Cody: The company has a very strong hand in selecting students for the Tailored Talent track. At this point, most companies are looking for culture fit, because the students won’t have the technical skills that early in the program. Some partners do want to get involved with more than just the curriculum. They want to have the students visit the employer site, and interact with some of the staff and things like that.
Marcus: There will also be an opportunity for us to speak to the candidates and introduce them to Cloudability. We want them to get a sense for our environment, speak with some of our leads, and just make sure it’s a match for them as well as a match for us.
One of the gaps we might see in working with other code school is you don’t necessarily have an update on how an individual student is managing the workload and progressing. But with Thinkful, we’ll have an opportunity to follow up with mentors, ask how people are performing, find any changes we might need to make, and how can we best support the student, their growth, and their development. It’s awesome to be hands-on in that manner with the mentor.
What happens when students complete the program? Are they guaranteed a job?
Cody: Following the completion of the program, those graduates will transition directly into the company's hiring funnel. Each of our partners guarantee graduates either an interview for an entry-level position, or an actual junior level position. That could be a contract to hire or paid apprenticeship.
Marcus: The interview at Cloudability is guaranteed. Our goal is to have paid interns starting at Cloudability every four to six months. When we take on interns in our engineering department, our goal is to make them full-time. We have opportunities for our front end teams and back end teams, so they would fit in one of those buckets.
In addition to Cloudability, what other companies will Thinkful work with and where?
Cody: Right now we've started with roughly a dozen partnerships in select cities. We're in Portland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Phoenix, and San Diego. We also have some individual partners in other cities like New York.
Our partners are from a wide range of industries including entertainment, FinTech, traditional dev shops, and even consulting companies that are servicing the food or service industries. We are on track to close over 30 partnerships this year as part of our first initiatives roll out.
Have you actually started training any candidates yet?
Cody: We will begin in July, when the first set of students across all of our partnerships begin. We expect graduates to start coming out in December and January.
How is the cost of the program tuition covered? Do companies pay a fee?
Cody: It depends. We do ask that our partners consider contributing scholarship funds to help subsidize the program for our students, but not every company can facilitate that. So the program tuition will still need to be paid by the student directly.
We do offer our income share agreements, which allow students to do the training at no cost until they start earning in their new role.
Marcus: At this point we are not offering scholarships for students, however, I think there is an opportunity to do that in future.
If the student is not hired by the partner company, will the Thinkful tuition guarantee still apply?
Cody: Our guarantee will still apply to any students that enroll in our program. If they don't find a job through that partnership, for instance, we will still invest all the time necessary like we do with any of our students. The career support that we provide after the program would look no different.
What’s your advice to a student who wants to make sure they can succeed in an internship at Cloudability?
Marcus: I have faith in the screening and processes Thinkful has put in place, and as long as you’re progressing through Thinkful, you’ll do well. Yes, we are creating a tailored cohort that fits our development environment, but personality-wise, and how a student chooses to complete the program is up to them. I definitely recommend students attend some of Thinkful’s in-person trainings, lunches, and dinners they offer in Portland, and you might bump into me!
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