PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Last night, Governor Gina M. Raimondo visited the last class of a free, intensive, 16-week computer coding course offered by Real Jobs RI grantee LaunchCode, a nonprofit that partners with employers to create paid apprenticeships and jobs for those lacking traditional computer science degrees and backgrounds. Since Rhode Island became LaunchCode's fourth national hiring hub this year, more than 60 employers have committed to support the organization's mission by creating apprenticeships and offering experienced IT mentors who volunteer to help students build skills.
"Building a new and stronger economy in advanced industries depends on talented technology workers because technology powers every business and industry," Raimondo said. "We want students and job-seekers of all ages to be creators in the digital economy, not just consumers of technology. LaunchCode's free coding boot camp is helping nearly 40 Rhode Islanders address their skills shortages and, soon, compete for open jobs in our state's IT sector."
Real Jobs RI is Raimondo's central job-training program. Demand-driven and employer-centered, it supports ideas from companies and partners of all sizes and connects workers to job openings and better opportunities quickly. With some of its $350,000 Real Jobs funding, LaunchCode offered CS50x, which is a live version of Harvard University's Introduction to Computer Science class. Along with three-hour classes that have been held two nights a week since May 9, it has required students to commit at least 15 to 20 hours of coursework a week. The course had more than 450 applicants. About 160 students qualified for and started it, but only about 40 will complete it.
The Governor was joined by Department of Labor and Training (DLT) Director Scott Jensen, Associate Dean Anne Seitsinger of the URI Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, and officials from LaunchCode and TechHire Rhode Island, Raimondo's $2 million initiative in the fiscal 2017 budget to build the state's tech talent pipeline. Since its launch earlier this year, TechHireRI has gotten commitments from more than 180 Rhode Island employers with IT openings to interview, apprentice, and hire Rhode Islanders who previously wouldn't have been considered for these openings. TechHireRI also has placed more than 150 workers into tech jobs in 2016.
"Between now and 2024, the Rhode Island economy will have more than 4,300 openings in computer and math jobs, and these jobs are persistently hard to fill," Jensen said, citing recent analysis by DLT's Labor Market Information division. "Because computer jobs add a high degree of value to employers, these jobs pay workers more - and put workers on a pathway to higher earnings over their careers."
"The University of Rhode Island is pleased to have partnered with LaunchCode to provide space, library access, and laptops to ensure student success in the first CS50x course held in Rhode Island," said Associate Dean Anne Seitsinger of the URI Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies. "We look forward to future partnerships with LaunchCode to help Rhode Islanders acquire the skills and academic credit they need to secure well paid positions in the tech field."
"The interest that the CS50x course has generated and the commitment of this class of students show that Rhode Island has a pool of driven, talented workers to fill employers' tech gaps," said Mark Bauer, Executive Director of LaunchCode. "Our team looks forward to helping students translate these newfound skills into career opportunities at businesses across Rhode Island."
"TechHire Rhode Island aims to build a vast, new pool of diverse talent that is overlooked by our companies and recruiters," said Damian Ewens, Project Director at Opportunity@Work, a social enterprise that has co-designed and developed TechHireRI. "LaunchCode's entry-level training through CS50 really helps build this pool of talent, and is a great ramp for emerging software developers looking to break into the IT industry."
In addition to the LaunchCode and TechHire initiatives, Rhode Island is on track to be the first state in the U.S. to offer computer science in every school. The CS4RI initiative will remove barriers and offer every student a chance to compete for the 21st century, advanced industry jobs Rhode Island will create in the decade to come.