March 31, 2019

Misleading Lighthouse Labs employment statistics

Lighthouse Labs is a Canadian coding bootcamp. They claim that 93% of their job seeking graduates from the past five years were employed within 120 days of graduating, and 98% were employed “within 120 days or more”.1 This is false, and they should stop saying it. Their own data shows that the actual employment rate of their job seeking graduates is at most around 73%. The rest of this posts explains this in more detail.

According to Lighthouse Labs’ five-year outcomes report, they had 1,504 graduates in the past five years. Of these, 977 have found employment. 977/1,504 ≈ 0.65. So the employment rate of all their graduates is 65%.

Question: How did Lighthouse Labs get from an actual employment rate of 65% to a stated employment rate of 93% or more? Answer: Their stated 93%+ employment rates include only “job seeking” graduates, and they don’t classify all of their graduates as job seeking. In fact, they classify more than a third of their graduates (512 of 1,504) as non-job seeking.

This should strike you as, at best, extremely surprising. If this classification is accurate, it means that more than a third of their graduates were willing to spend nearly $10,000 on very narrow technical full-time training without intending to get a job at the end of it.

And, it turns out, Lighthouse Labs’ outcomes report shows that this classification is inaccurate. The report states that 1,346 graduates completed a “job seeking cycle”. That’s 354 more than they classified as job seekers. So Lighthouse Labs is counting graduates who sought jobs as non-job seekers. If instead you count everyone who sought a job as a job seeker, then at most only 11% of their graduates are non-job seekers. The employment rate of job seekers then works out to 73%—not, as Lighthouse Labs advertises, 93% or 98%.

The discrepancy between those they classify as job seekers and actual job seekers is explained in a footnote in the report.2 As best I can tell, they classify as job seekers only those who either (i) succeeded in finding a job, or (ii) are currently looking for a job with the help of their career services. So if you tried and failed to find a job, and then stopped using their career services, they don’t count you as a job seeker. In other words, they count the successes, but not the failures. That’s an easy way to get a high employment rate!

When I first noticed this, I assumed that I was misunderstanding something, so I emailed Lighthouse Labs to ask for clarification. After many emails back and forth with them, I was unable to get an intelligible explanation of what they mean by “job seeker” if not what I say in the previous paragraph. Eventually they stopped replying to my emails.

Do other coding bootcamps play with their statistics in this way? I’m not sure, but for at least some coding bootcamps there are good, non-misleading statistics from The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting. From their website:

The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) is a non-profit organization whose members believe that prospective students should know a school’s outcomes before deciding whether to enroll. The CIRR standards prevent deceptive graduation and job placement marketing practices and ensure a student can trust what a school advertises.

If you are thinking of attending a coding bootcamp, I’d recommend checking whether they report to CIRR.

  1. They make this claim both on their website (archive link) and in a report on their student outcomes of the past five years. They don’t let you download the report directly from their website (they’ll email it to you if you give them your email address), but I’ve uploaded a copy of the version of the report that I’m working with.
  2. Footnote 1 on page 5. It’s a footnote to a claim about graduates “considered as job seekers”. The footnote clarifies that these are “[g]raduates who are seeking employment and actively engaging with Lighthouse Labs Career Services team or have become employed post-graduation”.