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Holberton shakes up tech education with Melbourne campus

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Silicon Valley’s Holberton School has pressed go on its technology training program in Australia, with students in Melbourne set to start courses from early next year.

Focusing on collaboration and hands-on learning rather than lectures or rapid boot camps, the project-focused university offers a nine-month full-time course, synchronised with its facilities around the world in an online environment.

Holberton School Australia is founded by Emmanuel Goutallier, an executive partner at digital transformation firm OnePoint, who said he was frustrated by the lack of entry-level software engineering talent in Australia.

Australia has ‘skipped a generation’ of software engineering education.

“We could recruit good tech people in Australia, but good tech people are always senior,” he said.

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“The issue that we have is that we’ve missed one generation of STEM education, and of software engineering education. But the demand for software engineering is massive.”

According to federal government statistics, enrolments in STEM-related VET courses declined by more than 100,000 between 2015 and 2019, while completion rates in both VET and university courses showed completion rates of around 17 per cent.

Holberton Australia founder Emmanuel Goutallier.

Holberton Australia founder Emmanuel Goutallier.

Meanwhile, according to Holberton data acquired through LinkedIn, job ads for software engineers are on the rise. There are currently only 18 software engineering professionals on the service for each ad posted, compared to 74 relevant professionals per ad for accountants.

“So I was curating tech education programs from around the world, trying to target a one-year education timeline. Because we need software engineers now,” Mr Goutallier said.

“[Holberton] is more tech than boot camps, and it’s faster than uni. It’s what the market wants, and I think it’s what students want too.”

Holberton, which was founded in Silicon Valley in 2016 and counts the CEO of LinkedIn and the founder of Yahoo among its investors, currently has 30 campuses worldwide including Melbourne. Chris Venter, CTO of Holberton Australia launch partner REA Group, said in a statement that developing diverse talent in the space was more important now than ever.

“We are so excited to see the Holberton school starting up in Australia. Its structure and model for learning and preparing students for industry is exactly what we need,” he said.

There are no technical prerequisites to apply to Holberton, with Mr Goutallier saying the school welcomed applicants with no tech background. The process is also mostly automated to minimise unconscious bias. However, students must pass a rigorous entry test before they can apply, which involves creating a website from scratch in less than two weeks.

There are no formal teachers or instructors, with lessons delivered by software and projects led by the students themselves, although the school does provide technical staff for assistance. The course follows a hybrid model where students are required to attend the campus in Melbourne’s CBD a few days per week.

Tuition is around $15,000 for the full-time course, though Holberton’s local partners RACV and SportsBet are also providing a limited number of scholarships.

“What we’ve been doing, especially on the TAFE side, has been failing. We need to do something else,” Mr Goutallier said.

“Anybody can become a software engineer if you have the motivation. But to keep the motivation, you have to collaborate.”

Tim Biggs is a writer covering consumer technology, gadgets and video games.Connect via Twitter or email.

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