Demand leads to expansion: Front-End Web Developer program

For those thinking of a career change, or enhancement, the leap is often daunting. How much time will it take? Will I like it? How will it work out?

BCIT Computing’s 6-month Front-End Web Developer (FWD) Certificate Program is a relatively low time investment for a pivot into tech. Interest had been so strong recently that the program expanded significantly with more sets and more choice of format.

“Demand was soaring: when we opened registration, the intakes were filling up in as little as 10 minutes,” explains Program Head Michael Whyte. “We knew we needed to expand.”

The program typically attracts a more mature student, maybe in their mid-to-late 20s, who appreciates the condensed six-month time frame. Students also really like the project-based learning and evaluation.

“They enjoy not having to deal with an intense exam situation,” says Michael. “Like in their future career, they’re evaluated on what they create.”

AI: Tool or threat?

Michael says ChatGPT and generative AI is definitely a tool they use and teach students to use. But it’s also a threat, though not the way you might think: “It needs to be used carefully – especially for those just starting — as it’s a powerful tool,” he explains.

“Developers need to know how to use it, and also where to use it. Because AI can help create code, but the students must be able to look through it and make sure it’s correct.”

Once developers know the fundamentals, Michael says the AI tools can improve productivity. “But web development jobs aren’t going away – the AI can speed things up but it needs a human overseeing it.”

Online flexibility

Like in most programs, the pandemic brought a forced experiment in going online.

“It turned out pretty well,” according to Michael. They knew there were students who might prefer to stay online long-term, or students from more remote places would want to be involved. “Our students like working with computers, and many are happy and comfortable learning that way.”

“Since my home is a 4-hour drive from Vancouver, the switch to online learning was actually a huge relief,” student Wei Liu said at the time.

So the team flipped one in-person intake to an online offering, then added another one. They now have students from a variety of locations: Vancouver Island, Northern BC, Toronto, even Asia.

There’s still the usual good camaraderie in the set, even online. “Despite an online classroom environment, the instructors were always there to provide guidance and encouraged teamwork between me and my classmates,” says student Claire Koga.

Flexibility for web developers can continue after graduation. While grads typically work throughout industry for established companies, many work for themselves, at least part time as a side gig. “This career path has options  – remote work, choosing the hours they want to work, sometimes choosing the projects,” explains Michael.

Vibrant Downtown Campus experience

packed audience at event, speaker at podium, screen that says first step FWD program

For students who prefer to learn on campus, they enjoy the benefits of BCIT’s Downtown facilities and convenient transit-friendly location. FWD hosts a number of events that bring together students, grads, and industry at the new Tech Collider space, including a recent Grad Q&A and WordPress MeetUp.

Front-End Web Developer grad stories

  • From designer to business owner: How Kelsey Grant is helping small businesses succeed
  • From salon owner to web designer: How Ainslie Koopmans took the leap into tech

Feature photo: FWD grads come back to answer student questions

At right: FWD instructor Jonathon Leathers recently hosted 90 people for a WordPress MeetUp in the BCIT Downtown Campus Tech Collider


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