Jun 25, 2013

Learning to code illegal in Ontario?

Interview with Matt Gray, co-founder of Bitmaker Labs, a Toronto-based coding academy forced to shut down by the Ontario government just a few days ago:

@PirateOrg: About a year ago, Bitmaker Labs was founded in Toronto as a bootcamp focused on empowering individuals to learn full-stack web development. Canada is lagging behind the US in terms of training skilled web developers, and Bitmaker Labs intended to close this gap by offering a world-class program in Ontario’s economic hub. Two weeks ago, a provincial government investigation began. What happened?

M.G.: They are investigating us for being an unregistered private career college.

@PirateOrg: How does this affect students currently enrolled in the program?

M.G.: We've had to cease operations. If we continue to operate we could be given a cease and desist which would inhibit our ability to register as a private career college. We could be severely penalized as directors and face up to a year in prison.

@PirateOrg: Bitmaker Labs was recently praised in Canada’s leading newspaper for its innovative business model [here and here]. Does the investigation jeopardize Bitmaker Labs’ future development?

M.G.: We're working cooperatively with the MTCU to expedite the registration process. However, this could take six months to a year. The regulations also force us to have our curriculum approved, which makes it difficult to iterate on the material and introduce bleeding edge concepts. Significant changes to the curriculum and program (to keep it cutting edge) have to be approved by the Ministry.

@PirateOrg: Where does the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities currently stand?

M.G.: They are in the midst of their investigation. We shut down preemptively to avoid the possibility of a cease and desist, which would inhibit our ability to teach students again. 

@PirateOrg: How do you think the issue can be resolved for the company to be able to resume its activities within a reasonable amount of time?

M.G.: We are working with the Ministry to expedite the approval process. With support from students, mentors, companies and instructors we are hoping we can get back to teaching as soon as possible. 

@PirateOrg: Which steps could the Canadian government take in the future to catch up with the US in terms of preparing its economy to innovate more effectively in the digital age?

M.G.: There are regulations that make it incredibly difficult for startups to make a dent in education. The fees are burdensome and the approval process is detrimental to students. The less red tape the better. 

For updated information, follow us on Twitter (@PirateOrg + @Bitmakerlabs). To support Bitmakers Lab in their project to develop coding skills for the Canadian digital economy, re-tweet this!

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