|Headquarters||St. Louis, Missouri, USA|
LaunchCode is a non-profit organization based in St. Louis, Missouri, that works with hundreds of companies to set up paid apprenticeships in technology for talented people who lack the traditional credentials to land a good job.
Co-founded in 2013 by Square, Inc. co-founder Jim McKelvey, Dan Lohman, Zach Lou, Brendan Lind, and others. LaunchCode was named by the St. Louis Riverfront Times as 2014's "The Best Thing to Happen to St. Louis".
McKelvey and Lind say LaunchCode was an attempt to remedy a problem they saw in St. Louis:
- “Every year the IT talent shortage worsens. This is partially due to increasing demand for coders, but it is also due to problems with traditional educational and hiring systems.... Unfortunately, many human resource departments won’t even interview people without a college degree and several years of experience.” Jim McKelvey and Brendan Lind, edX.org:
LaunchCode’s practice is founded upon finding intelligent, hardworking people who need jobs and giving them skills and opportunities to get them. Candidates do not necessarily need to have a background in computer science.
The LaunchCode Apprenticeship
Once placed in a LaunchCode position, a candidate works at another company in an apprenticeship, where he or she is paired with a mentor and given training on the job. LaunchCode encourages companies to use pair programming, which allows an inexperienced programmer to learn from a more senior one. Ideally, at the end of this 2- to 3-month apprenticeship, the candidate will be hired by the company.
Peter Downs wrote in The Wall Street Journal,
- “One key element to a competitive workforce almost entirely overlooked in the U.S. is apprenticeships. These days, American businesses typically want someone else—trade schools, community colleges, universities or even the federal government—to train their future employees. If potential future job seekers haven't been provided with the training they need, many businesses expect job seekers to take all the responsibility on themselves, often taking on serious debt without any guarantee of future employment.” “There are glimmers of hope that the U.S.—or at least some savvy industries—might be starting to embrace apprenticeship. In St. Louis, technology entrepreneur Jim McKelvey convinced several large employers last year—including Enterprise, Monsanto, and Rawlings —that it doesn't take a college education to become good at computer programming. What it takes is working with an experienced programmer.”
McKelvey said that if LaunchCode is successful, "I believe that we’ll actually create a talent surplus, then you’ll start to see companies moving to this region to take advantage of that surplus.” In the first round, LaunchCode is placing coders at 100 companies, including Enterprise Holdings, MasterCard, Monsanto, Build-a-Bear, and Panera.
LaunchCode and edX
Recognizing a deficit of coders with basic skills, LaunchCode collaborated with edX to offer free HarvardX programming classes in downtown St. Louis. Jim McKelvey and Brendan Lind explain on edX.org: “To support those who want to learn programming as the first step to a career, LaunchCode is holding city-wide study sessions to support HarvardX’s CS50x Introduction to Computer Science class. By creating peer-groups and supplying mentors, LaunchCode hopes to help more students learn the material.”
LaunchCode started an all-women's community coding group, CoderGirl, in May 2014 in St. Louis. The group welcomes women programmers of any skill level, from beginners to established developers looking for a group space in which to work. Mentors are available to assist with specific programming questions and problems, as well as serve as a broader community supporting women in technology fields. By fostering a network of support, LaunchCode and CoderGirl hope to diminish the hiring gap in technology fields, and provide pathways to employment.
The Mentor Center
LaunchCode holds classes and job-readiness activities at its Mentor Center, located at 4811 Delmar Boulevard. The Mentor Center opened on October 29, 2015.
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