Getting up to code

Devin Holmes set out to cofound a coding school in Missoula, and, as is often true of tech entrepreneurship, things moved quickly.

Now, just two months after Holmes and his colleagues began their venture, Montana Code School is accepting applications to its inaugural 12-week coding intensive, which is slated to kick off at the end of September.

"My day job has definitely suffered," says Holmes, noting that the coding school's eight-person team took on the project alongside full-time jobs and families.

Montana Code School will be the first of its kind in Montana. Modeled after successful coding boot camps in San Francisco and New York, the Montana program will offer a "zero-to-60 mph" intensive learning environment in which students acquire the skills necessary to become employable junior web developers over the span of 12 weeks. The tuition for the program is $8,000. Holmes says the school is working with community partners to make scholarships available, many of them earmarked specifically for women, Native Americans and veterans.

Applicants are not required to have any previous coding experience, but should independently complete pre-course work before applying, Holmes says. Once accepted into the program, students will put in 60-plus hours per week of class time and independent project work to become fluent in programming languages and platforms like JavaScript, Node.js, HTML and CSS.

Those skills are currently in high demand across the country, and the goal behind Montana Code School is to create what Holmes calls a "talent pipeline" for tech jobs in the state. He says he and his fellow cofounders have already consulted with Montana-based startups like Orbital Shift, AXIOM and Submittable and confirmed those companies' interest in conducting hiring interviews with future graduates of the program.

A pool of in-state tech talent would also be an incentive for entrepreneurs to create startups in Montana, says Holmes.

To get the school off the ground, the last two months have been a blur of meetings to seek support and partnerships with everyone from state leaders to potential funders. The school has secured funding from Good Works Ventures and 501(c)3 nonprofit fiscal sponsorship from MonTEC, a Missoula-based business incubator.

Jobs in computer programming and information technology services are projected to grow three times more rapidly than in all industries as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though the technology field is infamous for being disproportionately populated by a young white male demographic, Holmes hopes Montana Code School will help to diversify tech talent and make coding an equal-opportunity skill.

"In today's world, anyone can be a coder," Holmes says. "If you can type and read English, you can become a software developer. You don't need to be an engineer or scientist. You can have a Ph.D in ancient Roman literature."

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