For aspiring programmers who live and work in Germany, one of the most popular ways to fund a coding bootcamp like ours is an educational voucher called a Bildungsgutschein, which we introduce to our applicants in our funding page.
Applying with an employment agency for a Bildungsgutschein is a fairly straightforward process. You will be assigned an agent whose job will be to assess whether the bootcamp is likely to find you employment and whether financing it will lead to the desired results. That agent will then decide whether you do or do not get the voucher, usually after a period of time that can range from a few days to several weeks.
While applying for a Bildungsgutschein may not require very much know-how, making sure your application is successful is another matter entirely, and there are a few things you should probably know before you try.
Here we have collected 4 general tips that will help you maximize your odds of getting that precious voucher and kicking open the doors of your education!
Get on your agent’s good side
Your agent will be most willing to help those who help themselves. You should therefore do everything you can to make his/her decision easier. Start by always showing up with all the appropriate documentation, including your CV, any certificates attesting to your skills, a printed description of the bootcamp you want to sign up for, and evidence of your job market research (see below). Don’t expect your agent to do this research for you.
Your agent will try to assess whether you are likely to go through with the bootcamp once you have signed up for it, or if there is a chance that you may drop out. Therefore don’t be shy about conveying your passion and your conviction, as well as any and all experience you have in the industry, no matter how tangential. If you have an old memory of a time long ago when you were fourteen and you fixed your father’s computer bug, tell them about it – it’s the sort of thing that may be irrelevant in a proper job interview, but in this context it will communicate to your agent that you have a certain innate ability related to your field.
Sincere personal anecdotes also build trust and help the agent get to know you. Building personal rapport with your agent is a good thing. Show them that you care about what you want to do, and they will be more likely to care about you and your future.
At the same time, understand that your job agent is not a waiter on a cruise ship. S/He will not be trained in high-end customer service and s/he will have several other candidates to take care of other than yourself, so allow for interactions that may feel a little brusque (or, if you have the bad luck of being assigned to a particularly unempathetic agent, even a bit rude).
Research the job market
Your agent won’t necessarily be an expert in your particular field of work, and may not know which courses are the most suitable to find a job in it – remember that these people have to work with Germany’s entire labor force, not just with those in your industry. It comes down to you to make a convincing case that the particular bootcamp you want to sign up for is just right for you and will definitely get you a job.
For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that before applying for the educational voucher you research the industry in which you’re looking for employment. Go on websites where jobs are advertised, and find out what sort of programmers are in demand, as well as which technologies are most popular. When applying for a voucher, you should show your agent that you know as precisely as possible what sort of job it is you are looking for.
You should also look at how many vacancies there are. Compare that figure with the number of vacancies in other fields if necessary – if you can demonstrate that there is a much higher request for web developers than for workers in your former field, you are making a strong case for re-training in a new industry rather than just staying in the same one.
Tech is booming right now, which means you can also find a great deal of news articles reporting that programmers are in high demand. Print those out, and bring them to your meetings with your agent along with the rest of your documentation.
Relate the bootcamp to your job search
If you are applying for a Bildungsgutschein, you have probably already researched your bootcamp. Now it’s time to find ways of tangibly relating that bootcamp to the field you want to work in.
You should also look into the employment rates for graduates of your target course – for example, our own Full-Stack Web & App Development bootcamp has a 90% employment rate in relevant fields within six months of graduation. That is the sort of statistic you really want to show to your agent.
If you’re wondering where to find this sort of information, then get in touch with your school. They have every interest in helping you out with this process and will normally be happy to lend a hand.
Things NOT to say to your agent
Your agent will want to hear about your motivations and your passion, but there are also certain things they will not want to hear. For example, never tell them that you plan on moving to New York (or anywhere outside of Germany) in the near future – the Arbeitsagentur is supposed to generate a return on its investment, while expats take their taxes abroad!
Don’t mention that you plan on being self-employed or a freelancer, even if you do, as those ventures are notoriously riskier. Equally, don’t bring up that you might be able to learn coding just by self-learning.
Don’t say that you’d be “happy with any bootcamp” just as long as you get in, because then the agent will simply choose the cheapest one.
Finally, never say something that suggests your interest in the bootcamp is whimsical or superficial, for example ‘I have a friend who is doing it so I’d like to do it too’, or ‘I’m not sure what else I could do’. There are thousands of applicants for the voucher who demonstrate genuine commitment, so why would an agent award one to someone who says this sort of thing?
You should discuss your expectations, naturally, but make sure to keep them realistic. If your last job title was ‘hairdresser’, don’t tell your job agent that you’re aiming to be ‘head software engineer at Google’. Show that you know where you want to go and how to get there, and that you can take things one step at a time.
As you go through the process, understand that applying for a Bildungsgutschein takes time. The Arbeitsagentur will need to evaluate you, and they will need to make sure you really do need a bootcamp in order to find a job before they commit to paying for it.
But understand too that a delay is not a rejection. This is not a job interview, in which you only get one chance to impress the person in front of you and then you’re either in or you go home. If your agent is not convinced the first time you make the case, get more evidence of the sort discussed above, talk to them again, and just wait. And in the meantime, keep looking for jobs.
Above all, and as hard as this may be in times of unemployment, keep the right mindset and stay positive. Bureaucratic hurdles can be scary, but for those who have the patience and the grit to get through them, the rewards are available and absolutely worthwhile.