‘Hybrid’ coding boot camp aims to bring tech sector to rural Canada

B.C, Yukon governments investing in coding programs

Lighthouse Labs co-founder Jeremy Shaki  

Politicians are never the experimental types, says Jeremy Shaki.

“They’re going to be jumping in when there’s already been some traction and they know it’s the right thing to do,” said the co-founder of Lighthouse Labs, a Vancouver-based computer coding boot camp.

“And that’s what’s happening right now.”

On April 28, the B.C. government announced it would invest $250,000 for pilot programs aimed at developing coding skills for students at the B.C. Institute of Technology, Okanagan College, Simon Fraser University, the University of B.C. and the University of Victoria.

Meanwhile, on May 1, Shaki’s Lighthouse Labs completed its first week of an experimental coding boot camp the Yukon government hopes will spur tech development in rural Canada.

Lighthouse Labs’ instructors are training five students from Whitehorse who are putting in 70 hours a week to absorb enough about coding to the point they’ll be ready for a job in the tech industry in eight weeks.

Only, the students won’t be anywhere near Vancouver for all but three days of the training. Instead, Lighthouse has equipped its own office with a high-end camera that can livestream and record all the lectures, while students are required to go to a physical space in Whitehorse to learn together and receive help from some experts on site.

“We’re piloting to see the quality of a remote boot camp like this. Can people be successful coming out of something like that?” Shaki said, adding this is more of a “hybrid” program since it combines both online and on-site learning.

“There’s very little online education that has actually resulted in very tangible results, as in people getting jobs…this has the opportunity of bringing developer education to a lot, a lot of communities without the huge costs of putting something together which makes it impossible for most boot camps.”

Lighthouse Labs has prior experience with experimental coding boot camps. For the past two years it’s been running the free, daylong coding event for hundreds of people, the HTML500.

After last year’s event in Vancouver, Shaki said the Yukon government approached Lighthouse Labs about bringing it farther north.

“HTML500 works very well in a space where there will be continued momentum afterwards,” he said.

“There wasn’t enough of a community (in Whitehorse) for that to happen yet.”

The idea now, Shaki said, is to train enough people remotely to get a bigger developer community in the Yukon that could support the type of momentum the HTML500 needs.

“What you hope to happen is they’re going to take their interests and their culture and apply it into code to better their community,” Shaki said.

“They (the Yukon government) understand that tech would actually be a great solution for them because it would allow them to be able to help them expand into the global market without actually having to be in the market.”