For the past year and a half, a for-profit intensive coding boot-camp run out of the Ward4 co-working space in the Pritzlaff Building complex in Walker’s Point, has been pumping out junior developers in the Milwaukee area.
Called devCodeCamp, the program was created to accomplish two goals, said vice president of operations Paul Jirovetz. No. 1: create a pool of coding talent in the Milwaukee area. No. 2: connect those coders with jobs in Wisconsin and help boost the local tech/startup community.
For 14 weeks, people who sign up for the program are put through an intensive coding school — starting with the basics and eventually incorporating more advanced and sophisticated methods.
So far devCodeCamp has pumped out around 100 graduates who have landed coding jobs in the greater Milwaukee area.
The graduates are “working at little tiny shops all the way up to the Brewers, to Rockwell Automation, to JDA Software,” Jirovetz said.
Jirovetz said he crunched the numbers, and the average age of his current and former students is 29.4 years old. And they come from all walks of life: a former pilot, musicians, writers, school teachers, DJs.
According to the nonprofit organization Code.org, there are more than 8,000 open computing and coding jobs in Wisconsin, but the state’s colleges and universities are only pumping out around 890 computer science graduates each year. Jirovetz started his coding program to help address that gap.
“We keep hearing how the startup scene is horrible here in Milwaukee, so we’re creating the talent these startups need,” Jirovetz said.
In addition to classroom coding and instruction, Jirovetz and his team have been reaching out to local startups and entrepreneurs. His offer: let my students build programs for you for free. He wants to give them all real-world experience to put on their resumes before they leave the program.
“If we’re creating the talent, lets give that talent some experience while helping the startup scene and provide them with a real actual product they can do something with,” Jirovetz said. “Maybe more startups will want to be here because there are resources like us around and smart people.”
Free coding and engineering work on certain projects could be a game-changer for a fledgling early-stage startup that needs to free up time and money to focus on scaling.
One local startup that has taken advantage of Jirovetz’ offer is Scanalytics, Inc., a company co-founded by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate Joe Scanlin in 2012 that uses sensors and an analytics platform to measure human behavior and activity in retail settings. Scanalytics is also based out of Ward4.
“When they first engaged us, I was conditioned to ask: ‘are you going to ask for the IP?’ Scanlin said. “That’s the conversation I’ve had to have in the past when people approached us and said, ‘Hey, we want to do a free development project for you.'”
Scanlin said that when Jirovetz said he could give him a team of four students to code a program for him with absolutely zero strings attached it was “music to my ears.”
“We didn’t have to hold their hands,” Scanlin said. “When I look at engineering talent and tech talent, nowadays, I’m looking less at how long have they been developing in a certain language framework, and more for: I’m going to give you something and the left and right lateral limits might be blurry, but I want something built within this construct, go solve the problem.”
The devCodeCamp developers did a great job, he said, and he’s planning on leaning on them again in the future. The 14-week devCodeCamp program costs $15,000. For more information, visit the devCodeCamp website.