HUNTINGTON — Stakeholders on Wednesday toured the future classrooms where 18 men and women will spend the first six months of 2019 becoming full-fledged software and web developers.
Already the competition was keen for those slots, with about 180 people applying for the training positions, according to Natalie Roper, executive director of Generation West Virginia.
The program is NewForce, a tuition-free technology training program developed in partnership by Mountwest Community and Technical College and Generation West Virginia, with support from the West Virginia Technical College System and Jobcase.
Members of the invested agencies toured the program’s two future classrooms, located on the mezzanine floor of the J.P Morgan Chase Bank building on 5th Avenue in Huntington.
The classrooms, which were recently renovated with added windows to let in more natural light, will fit 18 student desks outfitted with computers.
There will be three instructors teaching the students about software and web development.
The best thing about the program is students will be given interviews with employers upon graduation, with hopes of beginning careers as junior developers, Roper said.
“What’s really important about this program is it’s not hypothetical,” Roper said. “We are training people for real jobs that are open and available right now.”
Roper said the program has commitments from partnering employers with open technology positions requiring the same skills the students will learn.
The program is based off curriculum of the successful Nashville Software School, which has seen 80 percent of its 700 graduates since 2012 find work in tech fields within six months.
Roper said students were selected for the program not for their prior education or work history, but how good they are at problem-solving and being self-motivated.
If the demand for the program remains high, it could be expanded throughout the state, said Keith Cotroneo, president of Mountwest Community and Technical College. He said producing a stable group of developers will cause prospective employers to look at Huntington as a technology-driven city.
“I call it a ‘Field of Dreams’ program. ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Cotroneo said. “Once you build this capacity of software coders in Huntington, it’s going to create an opportunity for businesses to start looking at us differently.”
The program will be a recruitment tool for employers looking to locate to the city, said David Lieving, president and CEO of the Huntington Area Development Council.
“The fact that we have this program and can demonstrate that we have talent in the pipeline ready to go to work makes our job of attracting businesses much easier,” Lieving said. “Probably the No. 1 question we get is, ‘Can you deliver workers if we can bring our business to your community?’”
Students will begin their coursework Jan. 14 and spend the following six months learning the programming languages. Roper said students are currently working on assignments to get them used to the curriculum.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.