- Kenzie Academy, which bills itself as a college alternative that trains students for technology jobs, announced Monday that it raised $7.8 million in Series A funding.
- The round was led by ReThink Education and included Revolution's Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Strada, LearnStart and Peak State Ventures. This follows a $4.2 million seed round last year.
- The funds will be used to expand Kenzie's online courses, its CEO, Chok Ooi, told Education Dive in an interview.
Kenzie's plan to grow its online footprint reflects a broader trend among boot camps. Online expansion is expected to push the number of graduates across 110 boot camp providers up 50% year-over-year to 23,000 in 2019, according to a recent survey from Course Report. And online programs, which in that count include only full-time synchronous options, will likely grow at three times that rate.
While many technology boot camps are focused on training workers to meet demand in coastal hubs, Indianapolis-based Kenzie has directed its attention to the areas in between. That includes the Midwest and parts of the South, which Ooi calls growth markets for the company, as well as smaller cities on the coasts, such as Baltimore.
Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco have "plenty of opportunities" for tech skills training, Ooi said, "so we tend to focus on other cities that are up-and-coming where we would like to see more tech jobs spread more evenly."
Kenzie offers 12-month certificate programs in software engineering and user experience engineering through its main campus in Indianapolis and a synchronous online portal. The certificates are co-issued by Butler University and can be followed by a year-long apprenticeship with a partner company.
Ooi doesn't expect Kenzie will follow the lead of boot camps that are integrating their curriculum with that of colleges and universities. Instead, Kenzie aims to "create a model … (with) on-ramps and off-ramps for people throughout their career," he said. That can include traditional higher education institutions.
His goal is that people would attend a 12-month Kenzie program to "get enough of what they need so they can land their first job," and then return a few years later to a program such as the one announced earlier this year with Colorado State University Global, "where they can get the additional skills that allow them to advance throughout their career."
Through that partnership, Kenzie graduates can count up to 48 credits toward a bachelor's degree with the online state university and get a 10% discount on tuition.
Traditional colleges and universities are approaching skills training in several ways. Many are adding short, intensive skills education to existing degrees or as standalone boot camps in partnership with third parties. Other options include offering short courses online that can roll up into a degree or certificate. And some boot camps are even helping institutions structure their tech curriculum.
Overall, the boot camp market is poised to generate $309 million in gross tuition revenue in 2019, up nearly 29% year-over-year. But just how much that growth will impact traditional higher ed depends on whether the programs become open to federal funding, branch out beyond tech and sufficiently address demand for lifelong learning opportunities, researchers from the Clayton Christensen Institute explained in a report earlier this year.