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The Iron Yard Co-Founder on Igniting Tech Education in Atlanta

by hypepotamus

By Eric Dodds, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at The Iron Yard

Just the other day, I met with an organization that gives a few hundred dollars each year out of their already-strapped budget to buy art supplies for local elementary school students. Seeing student artwork and hearing about the gratitude of under-resourced teachers was heartwarming, but understanding that hundreds of other teachers in the district have no supplies was equally as heartbreaking.

It’s no secret that education in our country faces significant challenges—problems that extend from pre-K to higher education. We’ve all seen headlines about the rising cost of college and huge amounts of debt that many graduates carry with them into the marketplace. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’re among the 1.5 million Georgians with student loan debt.

Thinking about how to solve these problems raises complex questions that plumb the depths of economics, politics and educational theory—issues that have been hotly debated since the founding of our country. As we’ve seen with similar issues, though, there isn’t a single human who possesses a “master key” that will unlock a solution once-and-for-all. Change, even when well-planned on a large scale, often must begin as a smaller effort in a community—and that’s the key word.

Communities are built around four main pillars: citizens, businesses, not-for-profits and government. Too often we see these groups operating in silos or in pairs, and rarely do we see coordination among all four. While those groups certainly can accomplish things individually, the power of their collaboration results in the growth and flourishing of cities.

The Iron Yard is proud to be a part of this very type of optimal collaboration in Atlanta, working with the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, TechSquare Labs and several local employers to increase access to cutting-edge education and jobs in technology. Atlanta-Slider2In March, the White House chose Atlanta as a TechHire cityTechHire is an initiative that “will develop an ecosystem that equips Atlantans with the skills to meet the technology needs of employers in metro-Atlanta and strengthen the region’s economy.”

Practically, that means engaging employers who have IT workforce needs, developing solutions that quickly provide Atlantans with the skills to pursue high-paying tech jobs and mobilizing Atlantans who are currently underrepresented in the tech workforce.

Today in TechSquare Labs, in conjunction with AWDA, The Iron Yard is teaching a diverse group of people in-demand software development skills. These young adults come from all walks of life and before this course, many had never dreamed a professional career in technology was within their reach. Now, not only will they go on to learn to code, they’ll learn additional professional skills and work at Atlanta-based companies like Turner, The Weather Company and the City of Atlanta’s Department of Information Management.

The Atlanta TechHire Initiative not only increases access to education, but ensures that these students are learning the exact hard and soft skills employers are hiring for and guarantees interviews as graduates enter the workforce. This model isn’t simply economic development, workforce development or even a new development in higher education. It’s community development where individuals, non-profits, businesses and the government have come together to work toward a common goal.

The path to change is never easy, but Atlanta is showing cities around the country exactly what true collaboration can do for the place where we live, learn and work. Atlanta-Slider1

Dodds leads marketing at The Iron Yard, one of the world’s largest immersive code schools with 21 U.S. locations, including two campuses in Atlanta.

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