Nearly a decade after tech companies began leaving the coast for the Silicon Prairie, the Midwest continues to find itself at the heart of the growing tech industry.
Along with the recent announcement of Google’s groundbreaking on a $600 million data center in Papillion, technology careers around Omaha have become increasingly in demand, with more open positions than qualified candidates.
Midland University’s full-time Code Academy, based in Omaha, closes the gap by creating qualified candidates in just 12 weeks. Often, students enter the program with little to no previous knowledge of programming or web development and leave ready to capture a career in tech.
Amy Sand, front-end developer at Fusion Medical Staffing, is one of Midland’s Code Academy graduating members, of which nearly 20% are women. Sand attended college with a major in creative writing and began working at a website company in 2012, which sparked her interest in web development. After leaving the company in 2015, she returned to the Omaha area, accepting a job offer at a local nonprofit organization.
“When I moved back to Omaha I ended up getting an office job but was always curious about this new career path and I finally took the leap,” Sand says. “Coming into the program, my goal was to have a job by the time I completed the program. On week 8 of 12, I accepted a job offer.”
While the backgrounds of all students from Midland’s Code Academy vary, they all share a common thing: cultivating an interest into a career.
“If you’re unhappy somewhere and you want to get somewhere else, it’s OK to take that leap now,” says Michelle Vu, Aviture software engineer and Midland Code Academy graduate.
Vu began her career with an e-commerce company and a nonprofit shortly after graduating from college with a marketing degree. Her focus was centered on copy, print materials and design. But working on graphic design and the company’s website sparked an interest in how things work on the web.
“I started to gravitate toward graphic design, web design and how everything should function,” Vu says. “There was no direct route for me to get into that area unless I took a leap, and that’s where Midland’s Code Academy came into play.”
Vu, like Sand, saw the full-time structure as an opportunity to turn her interests into a career in just 12 weeks. As the demand for qualified candidates becomes larger, the push for new-to-market tech workers quickly has become more prevalent, especially in the Omaha area. The Greater Omaha Chamber has set goals to help fill these openings, aiming to attract tech workers throughout the region to the local area.
“When Marketwatch named Omaha and Lincoln the hottest tech region in the nation this past August, they shared what many already knew: We are one of the most attractive places for jobs in technology in the U.S.,” says David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. “We’re grateful to Midland University for making careers in tech possible, and for creating pathways for women in technology in particular.”
The push for the creation of pathways and gender-balance in the technology sector continues, but remains an uphill battle for women.
“While the numbers are improving for women in tech, they’re certainly not yet balanced. I applaud all the recent tech graduates, women or not, that value diversity of thought, experience and background. The future of our interfaces rely on it. And for the women who still find themselves a minority in the room, know you’ve got allies everywhere,” says Erica Wassinger, cofounder of The Startup Collaborative.
With the full-time intensive program, Midland’s Code Academy quickly enables candidates like Vu and Sand to take advantage of this job climate and launch a career. Through three cohorts a year, Midland has built a program responsive to the immediate needs of employers and will welcome their next class in January.
Founded in 1883, Midland University is a liberal arts college providing relevant opportunities in more than 30 academic areas, four graduate programs and a variety of professional studies programs to students at both their Fremont and Omaha locations. Recently recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education as the ninth fastest-growing private, nonprofit baccalaureate institution in the country, Midland takes a modern approach to liberal arts education. Its innovative approach of working from the marketplace back provides students with the relevant skills to lead in the world with purpose.