Announcing Hack Upstate’s Careers in Code!

Nearly 6 years ago we started Hack Upstate with the underlying mission to help advance Upstate NY’s tech community.

In pursuit, we organize hackathons, offer web and mobile development classes, facilitate talks and lectures, and ultimately help align Upstate NY tech talent with promising employment opportunities. Over the years we’ve built a growing network comprised of thousands of Upstate NY engineers and we’ve facilitated dozens of job placements.

We haven’t done this alone. We’ve had tremendous support from the local businesses community, academia, Onondaga County, and the City of Syracuse. It’s been a pleasure to work with so many incredible people who are invested in our community. We’re exceedingly grateful.

Over the years we’ve worked hard to give back and make our tech community as inclusive as possible. Since our inception we’ve seen a significant increase in female participation. However, we haven’t done enough to create opportunities for individuals in our community who seek upward mobility. That’s when we started to focus on poverty and how software engineering can be used as an anti-poverty measure.

The Problem

Poverty throughout Central New York is rising at an accelerated rate and stifling our region’s economic potential. In particular, there are few opportunities for women and minorities to advance in concentrated areas of extreme poverty. Equal access to educational and employment opportunities are simply not available to them.

At the same time, many Central New York employers are struggling to hire local software developers. Software developers are critical to their growth, but at this time our regional talent pool isn’t large enough to support their needs. Consequently, employers that want to hire locally are often left with no choice but to outsource their work to 3rd party consultants and contractors that operate outside of Central New York.

In late 2017, we were made aware of the Alliance for Economic Inclusion’s (AEI) mission to combat poverty in Central New York. They oversee $30 million of state money that was earmarked for anti-poverty measures in the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI). Central New York won the URI money in December 2015 based on a development plan that made fighting poverty a major goal.

We learned that the AEI was seeking projects to address the goals outlined in CNY Rising. These included:

Improving career pathways for adults and youth; attracting jobs to distressed communities; building tools and incentives for educational attainment; and increasing entrepreneurship and business ownership in underserved communities.

Upon learning about the RFP, we submitted a proposal that we we felt would further Upstate NY’s tech community while at the same time combat against CNY’s rising poverty rates.

Today we are thrilled to announce that we’ve been awarded a grant from the AEI and Onondaga County that will enable us to launch the Careers in Code bootcamp. The bootcamp will teach computer programming to women and minorities from distressed communities and provide them with the technical skills they need to obtain internships and full-time software development jobs with local employers after 24 weeks of instruction.

Careers in Code

The rise of coding bootcamps throughout the country reflects the shortage of adequately trained software developers graduating from universities and the relative demand for them from the technology sector. The reason coding bootcamps have proven effective over the years is because they provide vocational training at a fraction of the cost of a college degree. Not only that, their curriculums are centered around the core elements of computer programming that are directly tied to current market demands. This makes coding bootcamp graduates appealing job candidates to employers.

According to the latest Coding Bootcamp Alumni Outcomes & Demographics Study [1], 73 percent of graduates were hired full-time in jobs that utilize the skills they acquired in the bootcamps. The graduates also reported an average salary increase of 64% or $26,021 compared to their salary before enrolling in their respective coding bootcamps. Low-income students from distressed communities in particular saw the largest increase in salary at an average of $39,190 [2].

The average tuition per student for a coding bootcamp is $11,400. This does not include additional costs for equipment such as laptops or service fees like web hosting and 3rd party API usage. Those living at or below the poverty line are simply unable to take advantage of the opportunities a coding bootcamp provides given the expense. This is unfortunate given low-income students see the largest increase in salary upon graduating from a coding bootcamp.

Therefore, we will award scholarships to those accepted into the program. Prospective students will go through a rigorous application and interview process to ensure they have the determination and perseverance to succeed in the program. Those accepted into the program who enroll will do so at no cost to them. Additionally, we will purchase laptops for students and account for additional 3rd party expenses they may incur (eg., web services, hosting, data storage, etc).

How will it work

Careers in Code will create career pathways in software development for women and minorities from distressed communities by providing them with real world technical skills required by local employers. We will create and provide access to opportunities for those in concentrated areas of extreme poverty, while providing local employers with a coding bootcamp service that will fill help them fill talent gaps and foster growth.

According to a new report from Indeed [3], 80% of US tech hiring managers and recruiters said they have hired a coding bootcamp graduate for a tech role — and 99.8% said they would do so again. Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 72% said they consider bootcamp graduates to be just as prepared and likely to perform at a high level as computer science grads. And 12% said they think bootcamp grads are more prepared and more likely to succeed.

In order to sustain the Careers in Code bootcamp after using funds from the AEI, we intend to institute a partnership model with local employers in which they pay an annual retainer in return for the software developers we educate and help them hire. They will receive additional benefits from our marketing activities as well.

More now than ever, software developers are critical to the growth and sustainability of our local economy. Therefore, we intend to institute a proven coding bootcamp model that will provide technical educational opportunities to women and minorities from distressed communities and facilitate job placements with local employers who are struggling to find and hire local technology talent.

Measuring Success

In order to create an effective and sustainable coding bootcamp, we must have a system in place that can be used to measures success. The most important metrics we will track include:

  • The percentage of students that complete the full 24 week coding bootcamp
  • The percentage of students that obtain jobs and internships as software developers
  • The average compensation for students that receive jobs and internships as software developers
  • The average increase in annual salary for those who complete the full 24 week coding bootcamp

Additionally, we will forecast future earnings based on the average rate of salary increases among software developers year over year.

The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) [4] is a non-profit organization that provides a standardized system for measuring student outcomes for coding bootcamps. According to their latest report, 87% of coding bootcamp graduates obtain full-time jobs in the field within 180 days. The average salary for coding bootcamp graduates according to the CIRR report is $53,273. We anticipate Careers in Code will facilitate similar outcomes.

Additionally, we will send out periodic surveys and collect data from both students and partners of the program. These surveys will be instrumental in helping to determine how we can improve the program over time. We will also release a transparency report that we will make available to the public. In it, we will share results, successes, and lessons learned following each 24 week program.

Concerning the surveys, we will capture both quantitative and qualitative data. We will capture quantitative data by asking participants to rate aspects of the program using a Likert scale. We will also measure Net Promoter Scores from both students and partners. With regards to qualitative data we will ask participants questions about their overall experiences and how we can improve the program to best support women and minorities from concentrated areas of extreme poverty.

Thank you!

Since day one our mission has been to unite and facilitate collaboration among the greater Upstate NY technology community. To date, we’ve built a growing network comprised of thousands of Upstate NY technologists and we have facilitated dozens of job placements. We believe Careers in Code will enable us to take our efforts to the next level.

We are confident Careers in Code will generate profoundly rich and life changing opportunities for women and minorities from Central NY’s distressed communities. Not only that, it will offset the current talent shortage our region faces when it comes to hiring software developers and engineers.

We thank Onondaga County, Joanie Mahoney, our partners, and the Hack Upstate community at large for this incredible opportunity to institute this program. We’re confident Careers in Code will move the needle when it comes to addressing poverty in our region.

What’s next

☞ Interested in learning more? We’d love to hear from you!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store