In 2013, cofounder of Square and St. Louis native Jim McKelvey cofounded LaunchCode to fill a need for skilled workers in the tech field and provide training for people in the region as unemployment numbers continued to be bleak for much of America.
Now, the building at 4811 Delmar is buzzing with activity as hundreds of students learn the basics of coding, and then specialize in certain career tracks from software development to data science.
Among the programs is one specifically for women — CoderGirl.
“We had one coder start in January, and at the end of the year, we had 150,” said Jeff Mazur, vice president of partnerships.”They do the technical learning here, and then they do the project learning elsewhere.”
The yearlong programs begin each January and July.
“CoderGirl started a couple of years ago just as a meet-up group, but there was no structure to it,” Mazur said. “The thrust of it is that even women who have the technical skills, often there were many barriers for them, so it was a forum for them to work with others who had already been through that process. This year, we took the program and added structure to it.”
Interest in the program has been overwhelming. Mazur said there were more than 800 applicants, 160 of whom LaunchCode enrolled.
“So there’s tremendous demand for a program like this,” he said.
CoderGirl serves a diverse group of students; the average age is 39 and 60 percent women of color.
Evening classes Mondays and Thursdays cater to those who work full-time during the day, but a “boot camp” program is also available, which is weekdays for 40 weeks. In addition to the Delmar hub, classes are offered at St. Louis Community College in South County and in Bridgeton.
A mentor program every Wednesday offers students some insight into various aspects of the tech field. This week’s talk was headed up by St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones.
“CoderGirl is awesome, it gives women a space to be honest with each other,” Jones said. “I’m here because we want to make sure that when they finish the program and start making more money they make wise choices with their money and that’s what the Office of Treasurer and Financial Empowerment is all about.”
LaunchCode says statistics show there just isn’t enough tech talent to match the growing demand for skilled technical workers. The US Department of Labor predicts there will be a million programming jobs unfilled by 2020. LaunchCode hopes to fill that demand by creating a skilled workforce right here in St. Louis.
For more, e-mail info@LaunchCode.org.