HUNTINGTON — While the technology sector is seeing rapid job growth in other regions, West Virginia is at risk of being left behind. Now a new training program in Huntington is aimed at helping close that gap by training and connecting people to existing technology jobs.
The tuition-free NewForce Software Development Program has been developed by Mountwest Community and Technical College and Generation West Virginia, with support from the West Virginia Technical College System and Jobcase. The goal is to produce highly trained employees for tech companies in the Mountain State.
Competition for slots in the program was keen, with about 180 people applying, said Natalie Roper, executive director of Generation West Virginia.
Now, the 18 students chosen for the program’s first class have started work in computerized classrooms on the mezzanine floor of the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Huntington. Three instructors are teaching the students about software and web development.
The Chase building is also home to CoWorks, Huntington’s first coworking space, and CoWorks Executive Director Julie Hewett described the two ventures as a “natural fit.”
NewForce students will graduate with in-demand software development skills and a direct pipeline to existing jobs. The program will finish with a job interview day where the program’s employer partners — Advantage Technology, Core10, Mountain Leverage, N3, Sparksoft and Strictly Business Computer Systems — will interview graduates for open positions.
The Huntington training program is using a curriculum developed by the Nashville Software School, which has seen 80 percent of its 700 graduates successfully land tech jobs.
Lee Farabaugh, co-founder of Core10, said her organization has had great success hiring graduates from the Nashville school, and they look forward to being able to hire West Virginia graduates.
“We have aggressive goals for the success of our company. We need a larger pipeline of talent to make those goals happen, and essentially that’s how this program was born,” Farabaugh said.
“What’s really important about this program is it’s not hypothetical,” said Roper. “We are training people for real jobs that are open and available right now.”
Roper said students were selected for the program not for their prior education or work history, but how good they are at problem-solving and being self-motivated.
Steve Platz, director of acquisitions at Advantage Technology, said they are always looking for new talent. “We all want to improve the outlook of West Virginia, and this program does that,” Platz said.
If the demand for the program remains high, it could be expanded statewide, said Dr. Keith Cotroneo, president of Mountwest.
Producing a stable group of software developers will cause prospective employers to look at Huntington as a technology-driven city, Cotroneo said. “It’s going to create an opportunity for businesses to start looking at us differently.”
The program will be a valuable recruitment tool for employers looking to locate in the city, said David Lieving, president and CEO of the Huntington Area Development Council.
“The fact that we have this program and can demonstrate that we have talent in the pipeline ready to go to work makes our job of attracting businesses must easier, “Lieving said. “Probably the No. 1 question we get is, ‘Can you deliver workers if we bring out business to your community?’”
For more information about the New Force program, visit newforce.co (no ‘m’ in the URL).