Delaware’s first coding academy launched

Paul Jaskot Guest Columnist
Paul Jaskot
Guest Columnist
Patrick Callihan Guest Columnist
Patrick Callihan
Guest Columnist

In early September, the inaugural class of Zip Code Wilmington launched on the third floor of a Wilmington office building, embarking on a 12-week journey of learning, hard work and determination. These 20 students and their instructors are paving the way as members of Delaware’s first coding school and one of the first nonprofit coding schools in the country.

A tip of our hat to the founders of Zip Code Wilmington: Jim Stewart, Ben duPont, and Porter Schutt. These gentlemen had a vision for Delaware and the passion to see it through. Contracting with Tech Impact to manage and operate the program, the founders are creating future opportunities for the growth of Delaware’s technology sector.

Demand for the program was apparent, with 140 applicants for the first class. Upon completion of the 12-week course of study, the students will complete paid apprenticeships with most of the major employers in New Castle County. The course will be offered year-round, with a goal to graduate 100 in the first year.

Just nine months ago, Zip Code Wilmington was conceived by the aforementioned founders in an effort to fill the gap in the technology job market and transform Wilmington into a place of opportunity in the digital age. The technology job market — more specifically, coding — is the fastest-growing market in recent economic times. The gap in skill sets needed to fulfill the current demand for these jobs in our country is expected to top more than 1 million jobs by 2020. The founders saw this as opportunity.

Stewart, duPont and Schutt shared their vision with Gov. Jack Markell, who has helped to champion this through his administration. Coincidentally, this also dovetailed nicely into the White House’s TechHire program, which was established to provide tech skills to the underserved while filling the skills gaps in the technology sector. Gov. Markell and his team — notably Secretary of Economic Development Alan Levine, and Secretary of Labor John McMahon — have been advocates for training the work force in Delaware for growing opportunities in the technology sector, positioning our state as a leader in talent and technology opportunities.

Working in conjunction with the captains of industry in Delaware, Gov. Markell’s office led a study to determine the demand for these jobs. The numbers were significant; hundreds of coding jobs were unfilled. These are jobs that will leave the state if the demand is not met. This revelation led to building a coalition with industry leaders from Barclaycard, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, CSC, other Delaware-based corporations, and Tech Impact to create a cross-functional work team to develop new programs to meet these unmet challenges. International law firm Reed Smith LLP provided pro bono legal support for the partnership between Zip Code Wilmington and Tech Impact.

As leaders of Tech Impact, a Delaware nonprofit organization that provides technology-based workforce development programs for at-risk-youth, we were excited to join this coalition and partner with the founders of Zip Code Wilmington to make their vision a reality. The program aligns with our mission to empower communities and nonprofits to use technology to better serve our world.

Paul Jaskot is a corporate partner in the Reed Smith Philadelphia office.

Patrick Callihan is executive director of Tech Impact, which also offers the IT Works training program to young adults in Philadelphia and Wilmington.

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