Coding school aims to meet need for programmers
By Christi Milligan
A Wilmington-based computer coding school will launch this summer, and its founders say graduates will find immediate work with Delaware companies.
Zip Code Wilmington LLC has partnered with nonprofit Tech Impact to offer a series of 12-week intensive programs in Java, the universal computer programming language at the core of tech infrastructure.
Five key partners from the Delaware business community, including Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, Corporation Service Company, and Digital Eye, comprise the steering committee and have committed startup funds, curriculum design, and apprenticeship opportunities.Pg23_Zip Code Wilmington
Local businessman Ben duPont presented the idea for the school to Governor Jack Markell and Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin last year after studying similar programs in California’s Silicon Valley.
“It’s a strange dynamic,” said duPont, of companies in California. “They can’t hire programmers because Google, Facebook, and Apple suck the oxygen out of the room.”
The need for programmers is also a problem for Delaware companies, according to duPont, who added that many are forced to scout regionally because they can’t fill their needs at home.
Zip Code Chairman Jim Stewart pointed to figures from a University of Delaware study that showed an estimated 500 to 1,000 new programming jobs will be available in Delaware in the next 12 to 18 months. The software development industry nationwide will have 1 million more jobs available by the year 2020.
“On its face, it makes sense,” said Stewart, who added that the starting salary for coders is $55,000. “These jobs are here already and companies are hiring all they can locally, then they’re going to other city locations to fill those jobs. Let’s keep those jobs here.”
Stewart, duPont, and local investment manager Porter Schutt teamed up with Pat Callihan of Wilmington-based nonprofit Tech Impact, which will oversee the day-to-day operations of the school. The team will announce the Wilmington location of the school and the name of its director as soon as details are finalized. An official launch is scheduled for June.
The Council on Development and Finance approved a Strategic Fund Performance grant of $250,000 to offset costs associated with training. The school’s apprenticeship model means that companies will provide a salary to the coder and cover tuition costs of the school.
According to duPont, potential students must first pass a five-part interview that includes some basic algebraic tests before they’re accepted into the program.
“If all we ever did was place 100 people this year, that would be huge,” said duPont.
“Here’s a program that’s essentially free to the student, a starting salary of nearly $60,000, and a placement rate of 95 percent.”
Tuition rates have not been defined, but Stewart said they will be in the range of $2,000. The school will graduate 100 students its first year, with an average of 18 students per class.
“If we’re not graduating students that are relevant to the needs of local companies, we’re wasting our time,” said Stewart. â™¦