Computers rule the new world, and people who know how to use them well have the enviable position of being wanted.
Metropolitan Community College has started a noncredit program in conjunction with some local businesses and organizations to help employees gain skills in the highly technical, high-demand discipline of computer coding.
Typically, students in the nine-month coding program will be sponsored by their workplace or supported by the state’s Community College Gap Assistance Program. The Gap program provides grant money to low- and moderate-income students for certain courses.
A Metro spokesman said the cost for an individual to pay their own way to enter the program is $13,950.
Computer coding is roughly the creation of instructions that drive websites and computer applications. The ability to write code enables a person to tell a computer what to do and how to do it.
Programs and coding “boot camps” have proliferated around the nation over the past several years, said Richard Price, research fellow with the Massachusetts-based innovation think tank called the Christensen Institute. Some are standalone programs and others are tied to colleges, he said.
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All aim to fill a demand for highly skilled computer professionals. The Nebraska Department of Labor estimated that Nebraska will deal with at least 1,460 openings annually for computer systems analysts, programmers, software developers, network architects and web developers for at least the next few years.
The Metro program isn’t for computer novices. Skip Paschall, project manager for the MCC Code School, said a person needs to have a foundation of computer programming to benefit from the challenging class. Prospective students must perform skill assessment exercises to show they are ready, Paschall said.
The Metro school meets Tuesday and Thursday nights, and Saturday afternoons.
In many instances, the code school trains employees with new skills that may help them be more productive and rise in their company.
Metro, along with Mutual of Omaha and Kiewit Corp., this week announced the creation of the code school. The school started last month at Millwork Commons, 1111 N. 13th St. Millwork Commons houses small businesses and programs. That building also is called the Mastercraft.
Midland University is among the colleges in the region with a coding school. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Wayne State and Bellevue University are among colleges that include coding in some computer-related courses.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln said that it offers coding outreach programs through Nebraska Extension and that coding is a key part of UNL’s computer science and engineering curriculum. Doane University next year intends to offer a program in conjunction with Lincoln software developer Don’t Panic Labs.
Paschall said computer systems are increasingly complex and the jobs the students are training for require varied skills. No employee can do them all, Paschall said, so the code school also emphasizes teamwork and other “soft” skills, such as communication.
Tina Mischke, one of 18 students in the new program, is a software quality assurance analyst at Kiewit. Mischke said she gained her computer skills on her own and through work experience.
She quoted one of her fellow students as saying the program is “like drinking from a fire hose.”
“And that is not inaccurate,” said Mischke, 43. “It’s challenging, but it’s not impossibly hard.”
The Metro program includes employees from Kiewit, Mutual of Omaha, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska Medicine and the state’s Gap program. For information, call Metro at 531-622-2400. Another group will start classes in January.
Shonna Dorsey, senior business systems consultant with Mutual of Omaha, said her company hopes the students can transition into software developers.
“One of our students told us that he’s already applying what he’s learning to his day job,” Dorsey said.
Michael Baumgartner, executive director of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, said coding is an excellent skill to master.
“These are skills that a lot of people can put to good use,” Baumgartner said. “So it’s a growing thing.”
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