Minneapolis to promote tech training

The city will partner with organizations to offer “coding boot camps” in an effort to increase job preparedness in IT fields.

Minneapolis to promote tech training

Nick Wicker

Minneapolis recently joined 20 communities across the nation in an initiative to offset future technology job shortages.

The “TechHire” initiative aims to promote technical training programs by providing crash courses in coding, or “coding boot camps,” and connecting students with local companies. Minneapolis will partner with three organizations in the state, including Concordia University in St. Paul, Prime Digital Academy and IT-Ready.

The boot camps are part of a national tech initiative that President Barack Obama rolled out earlier this month.

In the coming years, Minnesota will see an increase in IT jobs but won’t have enough qualified people to fill them, said Andrew Wittenborg, director of outreach for the Minnesota High Tech Association.

Wittenborg said many traditional education systems don’t properly prepare students for tech-related jobs, while these new programs offer training to more quickly prepare students for employment.

“Because the pace of technology is growing throughout our society, [that] means that the jobs are growing quickly as well,” Wittenborg said. “The imperative is really to find and make sure that we have a qualified workforce ready to fill those jobs.”

There are more than half a million unfilled IT jobs in the country, according to a White House release.

Mark Hurlburt, president of Prime Digital Academy, said the need for tech expertise is rising across the nation, and technical training programs have sprung up across the country in recent years.

“Nationally, there’s actually been a lot of uptake and a lot of interest [in the programs],” Hurlburt said.

Deb Bahr-Helgen, Minneapolis’ employment and training director, said the city’s status as a “tech hub” was why it was chosen to be a part of the initiative.

There are more than 120,000 tech workers in Minnesota, and the state is expected to gain nearly 80,000 tech jobs over the next decade, according to the MHTA.

Hurlburt said the programs are meant to provide the minimum amount of programming knowledge needed to get graduates hired. Once they graduate, they can continue building their skills in an industry that is continuously evolving.

“From the day you become a software engineer, you’re stepping onto a treadmill where everything you know is worth a little bit less every day,” Hurlburt said. “The industry is very much about continuous learning.”

Many students who join these training programs have varying skillsets, Wittenborg said, ranging from high school graduates to people who hold doctoral degrees.

At Prime Academy, Hurlburt said 70 percent of applicants this year were between the ages of 20 and 40, 13 percent of whom had postgraduate education.

“These trainings are marketed towards non-traditional students,” Bahr-Helgen said. “These might be people who have been in the workforce prior.”

Bahr-Helgen said after the first year of the initiative, Minneapolis is expected to produce around 300 graduates ready for tech jobs. City officials will then assess the effectiveness of the coding programs.

Bahr-Helgen said the initiative won’t fund the already established programs but will instead offer some scholarships for students.