HUNTINGTON — Move over, Silicon Valley. West Virginia is ready for its debut in the technology world.
With the addition of a brand-new, tuition-free coding school in the city, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is not joking when he says Appalachia is poised to be the next Silicon Valley.
“It’s in our DNA,” Williams said Thursday at the program launch. “What we’ve got to do is create the system as we are, so we are certainly excited to fast-track these students’ careers to be able to move into something. Make no mistake about it — we won’t run second fiddle to anyone. Just because they started at Silicon Valley and advanced to Boston and New York doesn’t mean we can’t ramp up very quickly and show we are providing a competitive edge.”
NewForce is a new six-month intensive technology training program developed in partnership 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 companies in the Mountain State.
The program is based on the curriculum of the successful Nashville Software School, which has seen 80 percent of its 700 graduates since 2012 find work in tech fields within six months, said founder and president John Wark. The Huntington program is the second community partner the Nashville school has partnered with.
The program finishes with a job interview day where the program’s employer partners — Advantage Technology, Core10, Mountain Leverage, N3, Sparksoft and Strictly Business Computer Systems — interview graduates for open positions.
WorkForce West Virginia labor trends data indicate software developers in West Virginia make between $47,000 and $90,000 a year, depending on experience.
Potential students need no coding, software development or even math experience, but must be willing to learn new things, problem solve and work as a team.
“[Tech industries] are coming — it’s not if; it is,” said Christopher Scranton, director of nonprofit and government partnerships at Jobcase, a job recruitment platform. “Build, build, build. There is a waterfall of work and economic opportunity that is not going to be contained in the dams of the coasts. That waterfall is going to spread across the country, and regions that build out tech base with skill and talent are going to be able to step up and say, ‘Bring that water here.’”
Lee Farabaugh, co-founder of Core10, said her organization has had great success hiring graduates from the Nashville school at their headquarters in Tennessee, and they look forward to being able to hire West Virginia graduates and include them in their future success.
“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.
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.
The first class of NewForce will begin Jan. 14. Developers hope to have at least 15 students but can accommodate up to 25. Applications are open through Nov. 9. To learn more and to apply, visit www.newforce.co.