There has been some dramatic attention brought to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and University over some attention it has given Bitmaker Labs. I have had a few tweets shared and I wanted to share a quick view on this after saying that I totally support all the effort that is going on to get people into coding. It is good, necessary, and a heck of a lot of fun to those involved.
The first issue is why there are regulations, Wired has an explanation and a good article overall:
The rub is that Ontario’s Private Career Colleges Act of 2005 prohibits anyone to charge a fee for providing “instruction in the skills and knowledge required in order to obtain employment in a prescribed vocation” without approval from the TCU. The laws were enacted to protect students from expensive and misleading private vocational schools that offer substandard education, though the agency has been criticized for lax enforcement in the past, according to the Toronto Star (the U.S. has struggled to regulate such institutions as well).
No one is assuming Bitmaker is doing anything underhanded (and they even say that regulations make sense). The article that drew the attention of the government states:
Each student paid $7,000 for the opportunity to learn tough computer concepts in a condensed period of time as a means of securing employment in today’s increasingly digitized world.
Prior to enrolment, students were required to complete a 60-hour prep course taking them through Web programming language basics in order to maximize the effectiveness of actual class time. The student-teacher ratio is 8 to 1.
That sounds like tuition and it should be something people can claim on their taxes (and requires approval). There are a lot of things (like Employment Insurance benefits, etc) that the taxpayer can’t do to take advantage of the education infrastructure/support if an organization operates outside of the rules. Plus it is illegal. I do hope the process to get approved is quick.
There is a much larger debate about what education is and I bet there is a big can of worms around accelerators/incubators trying to be the ‘educators’ of entrepreneurs. It will be interesting to watch. Market failures in education and training exist which creates opportunity for entrepreneurs. Just be sure to follow the rules! I am sure Bitmaker will continue to be successful in the future and the tech community will benefit from this experience.