As champions of lifelong learning, polytechnic institutions develop innovative and industry-responsive upskilling and reskilling programs, preparing learners to re-enter the workforce or start new careers. This kind of focused, career-oriented training is a great way to address labour shortages and skills gaps in the Canadian economy.
Polytechnics Canada recently connected with Maria Ryden, Product Strategist for Continuing Education and Professional Studies at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). She told us about the Applied Product Management Bootcamp program, a unique micro-credential designed to empower early- and mid-career professionals to upskill or discover new career opportunities in an increasingly digital world.
Polytechnics Canada: What skills does the Applied Product Management micro-credential provide early- to mid-career professionals looking to upskill?
Maria Ryden: The Applied Product Management Bootcamp program teaches early- to mid-career professionals to focus on identifying a problem through discovery, ideation and testing. This allows them to define a vision and strategy for the products they work on regardless of the product. Participants learn design thinking, agile methodology and the basics of a go-to-market strategy. Presentation and leadership skills are enhanced through weekly demos. Above all, participants in the program are shown that a technical background is not a requirement to be able to work in an increasingly digital world.
PC: How does this program differ from traditional courses in similar areas of study?
MR: The best part about bootcamp programs at SAIT is the opportunity to apply the theory learned. Six weeks of theory are followed by six weeks of capstone experience with an industry partner.
Throughout the twelve-week program, participants complete two full projects. One is of their own design, which in a number of cases, has led to bootcamp graduates starting their own companies based on their project ideas.
The other project is an industry-sourced capstone. In this capstone, participants are introduced to companies they may not be familiar with. They are then asked to identify and solve a problem facing one of the companies and evaluate solutions based on viability, feasibility, usability, morality and value. To add complexity, we blend participants from multiple bootcamp programs into one team for a cross-collaborative, multi-functional experience. Currently, this intersectional team is composed of professionals in the Product Management, User Experience Design and Front-End Development bootcamps, who are producing a design using Figma, a collaborative interface design tool.
PC: How are industry connections and experiential learning opportunities integrated into programming?
MR: Capstone projects are sourced from industry and we try to keep it as local as possible. At week seven, participants are introduced to companies with problems to solve. They then indicate which companies they would be interested in working with and teams are formed. For the next six weeks, they determine a vision and strategy for the problem they are solving. The last class is a final demonstration not only for the instructors, learners and capstone partners, but also for industry, funders, recruiters and other stakeholders in the ecosystem. This is an opportunity to network, learn and see the amazing work accomplished by the program participants in such a short span of time.
PC: What has been the response from learners and employers?
MR: We have had an amazing response from both learners and employers. Graduates of the bootcamp have more than an 80% success rate in finding employment or being promoted in their companies within six to eight months post-graduation. Professionals who took the program have found employment in both start-ups, such as Fluidics and Virtual Gurus, as well as large companies such as Blackline Safety, RBC and Benevity.