President’s visit spotlights Louisville’s innovative approach to tech job training
Louisville’s innovative efforts to provide coding training to get more people qualified for higher-paying technology jobs was in the national spotlight during President Barack Obama’s visit Thursday to Louisville technology firm, Indatus.
Indatus is one of more than 20 local tech companies benefitting from Code Louisville, a program launched by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and community, business and education leaders to increase the number of qualified residents for higher-paying tech jobs. The program, which offers free training to prepare people for computer software coding jobs, was cited as a model by the White House when the President’s TechHire initiative was unveiled last month.
“It is gratifying that President Obama chose to spotlight Louisville because of our innovative approach to filling the high-tech, higher-paying careers of the future,” Fischer said. "Nimble and responsive programs like Code Louisville are vital because technology needs in the world are moving much faster than traditional educational institutions are able to train and supply the workers.”
Since 2014 more than 160 people, ranging in age from 18 to 64, have started Code Louisville sessions. Twenty of the students are now in software developer jobs as a result of their participation. Louisville was recently awarded a federal Workforce Innovation Fund Grant by the Department of Labor to expand Code Louisville training to 12 counties surrounding Louisville. The grant also helps graduates of the course find jobs with area technology companies.
Coding for disadvantaged youth
This year, Code Louisville expanded to reach a new audience – high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Through the Coding at the Beech program, students meet at the Beecher Terrace housing complex in West Louisville twice a week to learn coding and work with a mentor from the local IT community. Plans are to develop a small nonprofit social venture to employ these students and help neighborhood and community businesses establish and maintain a Web presence, allowing the students to begin earning money for the web development skills they are building. Also, students completing the program will receive a Chromebook computer to further their coding work. One of the current Coding at the Beech students, Justin Jones, was able to meet President Obama during his visit to Indatus.
Fischer also announced Thursday that Code Louisville and the city’s tech training efforts will expand further, with two new major developments:
The Learning House, a cloud based technology learning platform company headquartered in Louisville, has committed to bring an intensive coding "bootcamp" to Louisville this year to obtain these higher wage 21st century job skills based on the successful model enacted at Concordia University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Jefferson Community & Technical College will provide Code Louisville graduates with credit equivalency for their portfolios, leading directly to certificates or degrees. This partnership is expected to open new educational pathways for current JCTC and Code Louisville students.
“The addition of boot camp sessions and the ability for people to turn hands-on skills into college credit will expand the reach and effectiveness of this critical effort and help us become a true full-spectrum, model city for tech training,” Fischer said.
By 2020, unless the challenge is addressed, there will be one million more computer programming jobs in the U.S. than workers to fill them, and 10,400 of those jobs will be in the Louisville Metro area – the 12-county training region. Currently, the area has more than 1,700 technology job openings. Salaries start at $45,000-$60,000, often with no degree necessary.
Code Louisville courses last 12 weeks and cover skills such as front-and back-end Web development, and development of software and applications for mobile devices. Students work independently on their own schedule and meet one day a week in the evenings for two hours to review their work, get “unstuck” and learn from experienced mentors in the tech community. At the end of each course, students have compiled a portfolio of work to show prospective employers at a job fair or interview or to translate into college credit.
Mayor Fischer’s special gifts to President Obama
Highlighting two of Louisville’s signature attractions and products, Mayor Fischer presented President Obama with a personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a huge selection of Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Fischer also gave Obama a “One Love Louisville” T-shirt, part of a new community effort to build safe and healthy neighborhoods.
"I want to thank Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Not only did he give me a Louisville Slugger but a really big suitcase of bourbon. I mean it's a really big case."