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Upright, Columbia State to Offer Coding and Design Bootcamps

Columbia State Community College is preparing 10- or 12-week programs in software development, programming and user-centered design, in partnership with Upright Education, to bring more rural students into the tech fold.

An instructor on a laptop in front of a room full of students.
The needs of American industry are evolving. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, more than 1 billion jobs, representing a third of all jobs worldwide, will be transformed by technology over the next decade, exacerbating an already challenging shortage of qualified workers with IT-related skills. In 2020, a poll of 500 human resources directors published by the cloud computing company Citrix found that 62 percent of them believed workers will need to reskill or upskill annually in order to maintain a competitive advantage in today’s changing job market. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum estimated in 2018 that 133 million new jobs would be created by the end of this year “to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” where remote work and tech skills will become a new workforce standard.

To prepare students for such radical changes to come, Columbia State Community College in Tennessee is collaborating with workforce training company Upright Education to offer 10- and 12-week Coding and UX/UI Design Bootcamp courses this spring, teaching skills related to software development, programming and user-centered design.

Upright CEO and founder Benny Boas noted that many rural community college students remain without professional development opportunities that could help them in the future job market, despite the recent popularity of tech bootcamps in more urban areas. He said the training and online programs offered by Upright seek to help more students “get involved in the state’s growing tech economy from the comfort of their home.”

He added that the company has placed much of its recent focus on providing immersive training to students at smaller state universities and community colleges, such as Norwich University and the Community College of Vermont.

“The only way we are going to make a dent [in the skills gap] is if the community colleges get involved. If we do not involve these smaller more regional schools, there’s no way we’re going to access these rural regional populations,” he said, noting Upright’s bootcamps are currently offered at about 20 higher ed institutions in Tennessee, Massachusetts, Colorado and Vermont. “What separates us from every other program is that there are no — and I’m talking zero — offerings for community colleges, smaller state universities and state schools to have one of these types of very high-touch, white-glove programs on the market currently.”

The partnership announcement from Columbia State and Upright Education comes amid an ongoing workforce development initiative in neighboring Nashville, where city leaders hope to double the tech workforce by 2025.

Dearl Lampley, vice president of the college’s Williamson campus and external services, said that goal will be reached more easily by attracting students outside of urban metro areas who are looking for accelerated training programs as cost-effective alternatives to degree programs.

“Depending on what stats you look at, there’s somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 open IT positions in the greater Nashville area, so it’s really a great need,” he said. “This just seemed like a great fit to fill that void.”

Boas said the training teaches translatable skills for work across the tech industry and serves as a gateway into a variety of high-paying professions, such as software and web development, tech support and digital strategy, among several others.

“Even if they don’t go into being a software developer, they are learning the skills they need to get a tech job generally,” Boas noted, adding that their software development training has a job placement rate of 91 percent and an average 40 percent salary increase for trainees who complete its courses.

“It’s important to see bootcamps as not only a springboard into a specific career path, but as a springboard into an entire industry,” he continued. “The idea is that we’re trying to widen the net of what students can jump into after taking our course.”

According to Columbia State’s Director of Workforce and Continuing Education Melody Murphy, the college began hosting its first info sessions for prospective students earlier this week to teach about the benefits of the bootcamp.

She said students seem to be drawn in by the program’s high job placement rates and Upright’s industry-specific career mentorship that helps students find jobs after completing training.

“They work with employers in the industry when they finish,” she said. “There’s a place for students to go when they finish these programs.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.