Just about everyone knows computer code runs the backend of computer systems, web sites, mobile apps and more.
When Ramsey Bland decided to apply for a 13-week immersion class at Boise CodeWorks, the only computer code he knew was the bar code on the side of a pizza box.
Bland, 23, had studied mechanical engineering at Boise State University for several years, but he couldn’t keep up with the cost of going to college full time. His job delivering pizza covered the rent, living expenses and college. It was a stretch.
When he applied for the CodeWorks immersion class, a super-intensive drill where he could learn how to write four computer languages in a little more than three months, he learned how to plan projects and solve complex problems as part of a team.
He graduated from CodeWorks as one of the top students in his class in July 2018 and was hand-picked to work as an entry-level junior programmer in a registered apprenticeship program at In Time Tec in Meridian. Today, he’s making $45,000 a year and looks forward to a big salary jump when he starts working full-time for In Time Tech in the near future.
“It’s worked out great,” Bland said. “Going to CodeWorks was the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
Boise CodeWorks is engaged in a new Code-to-Career pilot partnership with the Idaho Department of Labor and In Time Tech. Top students in the CodeWorks immersion program are hand-picked to serve in a junior software apprenticeship with In Time Tech and other software-development companies. At the end of the apprenticeship, students receive a junior software developer certificate and are likely to get hired immediately afterward at a competitive salary, officials say.
“Their work ethic is unbelievable,” Dan Puga, President of In Time Tec, said of Bland and the two apprentices he’s hired so far. “They are always excited to build new things. They came here with a strong set of skills, and they prove their worth every day.”
The Idaho Department of Labor wants to see more software-development companies join the apprenticeship pilot program because there’s a strong demand for software developers in the high-tech marketplace, and grant funds are available to help incentivize companies to get involved.
“There’s definitely a strong need for more software developers,” said David Moore, director of talent for the Idaho Technology Council. “We’re starting to see more and more companies hire in-house for that sort of thing.”
In fact, the ITC is interested in building partnerships with technology companies to sponsor apprentices who come out of the Boise CodeWorks junior developer program. “If the companies don’t have the ability to hire five or 10 people on their own, we could put a few companies together and bundle the partnership to provide junior developers under the apprenticeship program,” Moore said. “The Technology Council could support that.”
People like Moore and Puga know they will see quality candidates out of the CodeWorks immersion program, and apprentices typically are going to be more loyal to the companies that hire them out of school.
“In the tech industry, we’ve found that apprentices are going to stick with a company for two times as long as someone who comes in off the street,” Moore said. “A tech company might spend thousands of dollars to find an individual off-the-street, relying only on a resume and references, while there’s a huge savings in bringing in someone from CodeWorks, where you know what you’ll get coming out of that pipeline.”
Starting junior developers from scratch with an existing company allows senior developers to teach them with a blank slate, he said. “They’re not going to have any bad practices or bad habits that they have to unlearn from another company,” he said. “They’re going to learn good habits growing up in your environment and your company culture.”
Boise CodeWorks not only teaches students how to write code, they teach them how to think and work together as a team to brainstorm client solutions, said Brittany Ohnsman, director of recruitment and brand management for CodeWorks.
“We believe in giving our students a real-world experience,” Ohnsman said. “Our program has been compared to drinking out of a fire hose. We’re going to change the way they solve problems and change the way they think. Our students have grit. It’s truly a life-changing experience.”
Ramsey Bland agreed. “They put you through a lot. It’s not an easy class. You shouldn’t apply unless you really want to be there and be ready to learn,” he said.
Bland feels at home at In Time Tec and enjoys being part of a software development team. “You can learn a lot more when you’re passionate about what you do, and you’re having fun with it. This is quite a bit more fun and rewarding than delivering pizza,” he said.
Making more money has its rewards, too. “The salary increase has been really nice, compared to making $12-$13/hour delivery pizza,” he said. “There’s a lot less fear about paying rent at the end of the month.”
In fact, Bland is developing a strong skill set that will provide a foundation for a satisfying career in the tech industry. “It seems like it’s been great for me, In Time Tec and Code Works,” he said. “It seems like it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
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If you’re a high-tech company and you’d like to offer a registered apprenticeship under the Code-to-Career pilot apprenticeship program, download a tool kit from the Labor website, or call your local Idaho Department of Labor office.
If you’re a job seeker and you’d like to sign up for a registered apprenticeship, contact your local Idaho Department of Labor office or go to apprenticeshipidaho.gov and search for opportunities.
– Steve Stuebner, for the Idaho Department of Labor