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We’re off and running. Our first class at the Peabody Opera House was held on Monday, January 13th. It was amazing to see the Opera House filled with over 800 motivated and dedicated learners.

LaunchCode's first class at the Peabody Opera House


Note: This Blog Post was written for edX by Jim McKelvey and Brendan Lind from LaunchCode, a St. Louis-based initiative that removes traditional ‘credential’ barriers for entry into developer jobs. 

The promise of education is self-improvement. For most of us, this means a good job. We see this promise in all the educational advertisements – armed with their new degrees, graduates smile from the glass towers. Reality is somewhat different. Even in IT, many recent graduates have difficulty finding jobs.

Normally, one would expect the market to address this problem, but every year the IT talent shortage worsens. This is partially due to increasing demand for coders, but it is also due to problems with traditional educational and hiring systems. To solve these problems LaunchCode is teaming up with edX and opening a new path to employment for thousands of people.

The time and cost to pursue a degree prevents many students from even beginning their studies. Those who do begin formal study often learn skills that are irrelevant to employers. The end result is that students can graduate from accredited programs and still not get hired.

Some of the greatest programmers have no formal instruction or degree. Unfortunately, many human resource departments won’t even interview people without a college degree and several years of experience. The result is that even those who have the talent still cannot get the job. To remedy this, LaunchCode has made special arrangements with over 100 employers to bypass the traditional hiring practices and place new coders into jobs. If you have the skills, LaunchCode can get you the job.

But getting the skills is not easy. Many who would like to attend a top university simply do not have the time and money to do so. Free online education removes the financial burden, but the student must still know what to study and have the discipline to finish. Traditional schools do, however, have significant advantages: classrooms, peers and structured schedules all help students stay motivated. Even though you can learn in solitude, you will likely learn more as part of a group.

To support those who want to learn programming as the first step to a career, LaunchCode is holding city-wide study sessions to support HarvardX’s CS50x Introduction to Computer Science class. By creating peer-groups and supplying mentors, LaunchCode hopes to help more students learn the material. Our pair programming approach involves two programmers (one senior, one apprentice) each using their own keyboard while working from the same monitor. In addition to increasing work productivity and reducing mistakes, malicious code, and legacy issues, we have found that this type of pair programming is the fastest way to bring someone with base skills up to the level of an experienced developer.

CS50x is not an easy course, but we believe that people who complete it will be ready to apprentice at over 100 companies eager for new talent. We are committed to help however we can.

Although we have yet to make it through a  full run-through of CS50x, the groundwork has been laid to make this program a success.

PeabodyOperaHouse

Largely through word of mouth, over 1000 people have signed up to take CS50x at the St. Louis Public Library in less than a week. The outpouring of interest has recently forced us to move to a larger venue — The Peabody Opera House — to accommodate all of the aspiring coders in the St. Louis area.

There is still much work to be done, but for now we are grateful for this opportunity with edX and hope that this collaboration sets the stage for bigger and better things to come.

By Jim McKelvey & Brendan Lind, LaunchCode

LaunchCode is a St. Louis-based initiative that removes traditional ‘credential’ barriers for entry into developer jobs. They started five months ago with the basic premise that tremendous resources exist online for anyone to learn coding skills, they just needed a way in the door. LaunchCode has partnered with over 100 companies—from 2-person startups to Fortune 500 companies—to offer a new on-ramp to good jobs. You can follow LaunchCode on Twitter at @LaunchCodeSTL

Jim McKelvey is the Co-Founder of LaunchCode, a General Partner with Cultivation Capital and the Co-Founder and Director of Square – a mobile payments company that allows merchants to accept credit and debit card payments through their smartphones or tablets. 

Brendan Lind is the Managing Director at LaunchCode. 


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