Emerging from the 21st century’s tech boom is a generation of device-native children and adults facing a post-recession job market fueled by computer scientists and innovators.
January 19, 2017
Code Academies & Bootcamps Work to Optimize NC’s Tech Talent Pipeline
Code schools are adjusting their course catalogues in efforts to make NC more competitive against rival tech regions.
But tech skills don’t come easy. They’re no longer add-ons to a resume; they’re necessities.
To meet this need among job seekers, a new genre of schooling has formed. It’s one that fits snug between creativity and productivity, a way of adding to people’s existing tech skills, while advancing them enough to impress hiring managers.
Code schools and bootcamps have created a new wealth of resources for both established and aspiring coders. And North Carolina is one of the top five U.S. states for its number of coding programs—11 to be exact (here’s a list + some more traditional education options).
They’ve trained thousands of students with an accelerated, personalized type of education in contrast to that of universities and community colleges. Courses cover in-demand tech skills like mobile app development, front and back-end engineering and web design.
Though these schools don’t claim to replace university-administered coding education, they offer a more immediate alternative for students who want to enter the job market and apply their skills quickly.
They also help to sell companies on moving and adding tech jobs to the region, and people on working for them.
According to Derrick Minor, the city of Raleigh’s innovation and entrepreneurship manager, code schools are doing a good job of supporting local workforce development needs, especially for software engineering.
“As local companies start up or continue to expand and as new companies move into the market, it is imperative that we have the training necessary to support the skill needs of those companies,” he says.
Code education is in such high demand in part because of the strength of our state’s job market.
Statistics show that North Carolina recovered well from the recession that so crippled the nation nearly a decade ago.
The state’s job growth for 2016 outperformed national averages, as well as southern state averages. And data from The New York Times says Raleigh has the second greatest percentage increase (behind San Francisco) in technology jobs from 2010 to 2015, at 38.5 percent.
As such, North Carolina is clearly on the hunt for workforce-ready computer science professionals with 4.4 times the state’s average demand rate, according to Code.org.
Students are responding by spending up to $14,000 on a three-month code program, or at least enough time and money to be marketable to hiring companies.
Students also work with Preservation Durham, building an online platform to help preserve older homes and buildings in the city so its history can be remembered even if the buildings are torn down.
A couple of students are working with Kidznotes, a nationally-known nonprofit in Durham that provides orchestral training to underserved children. Code the Dream students are developing an app that offers practice feedback from teachers to make it easier for Kidznotes students to learn music.
“Once they work on those apps, we think they’re better prepared because they’ve worked on real-world projects from start to finish, as well as talked to clients and find the needs to work, as well as worked with professional mentors,” says Dan Rearick, Code the Dream’s executive director.
There are about 40 total students in the program’s code-learning courses.
Ten students have gone on to paid employment or contract work as software developers. And eight students have earned scholarships to community colleges and or received full-rides to four-year universities.
The big picture for CTD is a motivation toward equal opportunity in tech. Rearick says the youngest CTD student is 15 and the oldest is in their 50s.
The program emphasizes the importance of giving folks from low-income and diverse backgrounds a chance to create solutions for problems the world faces.
“Diverse teams create better outcomes,” he adds. “As we get better technology to solve more world problems, it becomes even more true that we need diverse teams for solutions.”
Next steps for code education in NC
Researchers expect NC’s tech sector to expand 7.9 percent by 2020, affirming there will a need for skills training for years to come.
Although there’s no real statistical prognosis assuring future jobs for minority tech professionals, there’s promise in the increasingly popular programs that are working to provide equal access to 21st century skills training.
Minor says accelerated code education will remain appealing because it can be applied to multiple skill levels, “whether it’s a non-technical founder looking to learn the basics of code to be a better leader or a senior developer looking to refresh a skill set with a new code language, or an entry-level employee looking to start a new career in software development.”
And that, says leaders of the code school movement locally, makes it a key contributor to North Carolina’s tech talent pipeline.