“If you can do the job, you should get the job.” That’s what President Obama said in March 2015 when he announced TechHire, an initiative to fill tech jobs through accelerated training. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. companies say they have unfilled positions due to a lack of qualified applicants. General Assembly is one of the companies trying to address that.
“We’re ultimately solving the education-to-employment gap,” says Anna Lindow, general manager of campus education and operations at General Assembly. Founded in New York, the school has been around since 2011 and offers courses in fields such as user experience design, data science, and web development. It has trained more than 240,000 students.
Jake Schwartz, Adam Pritzker, Matthew Brimer, and Brad Hargreaves initially opened General Assembly as a coworking space, Lindow says. “At the time, the tech industry was really growing, but there wasn’t an area for entrepreneurs to gather and freely use space.” Once the community came together, General Assembly offered events for the general public. Lindow says the response to the events, which were geared toward learning new skills, was so strong, the four men increased their educational offerings. The company now has 14 campuses and more than 600 employees across the globe.
The training differs from traditional university or community college offerings. General Assembly vocational courses mimic real tech industry work. The courses are updated through consultations with tech companies and taught by instructors who have worked in the industry. General Assembly also has more than 500 corporate training programs with clients that include American Express, Condé Nast, and Viacom. The trainings have included more than 10,000 corporate students and more than 2,000 Fortune 500 C-level executives.
The overall market for teaching coding skills, just one aspect of the courses at General Assembly, is expected to bring in $172 million in tuition in 2016, according to Course Report, a resource that compares different coding schools. Investment shows as much. To date, General Assembly has raised $119.3 million in four rounds.
It’s not cheap. Tuition ranges from $3,500 to $10,000 for courses. Because coding schools are not typically accredited, financial aid can be difficult to come by, though General Assembly has a partnership with loan providers Earnest and Climb. The TechHire initiative will help by creating $100 million in educational grants. In March 2015, General Assembly, along with others in the coding bootcamp sector, formed the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA). The association will establish best practices, standards, and increase accountability for associated organizations with the goal of securing financial aid easier.
Lindow said more programs and campuses are planned for 2016 geared toward decreasing the job gap, while allowing students to enjoy the learning process. “We really love helping people pursue work they love,” Lindow said.
— Hoa Quach Sanchez
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