Boulder software developers look to grow apprenticeship program

BOULDER  — A software development company is looking to close the talent gap in coding through a program to create more diverse developers.

Techtonic Group Inc. is a software development firm, but over the past four years it has created an apprenticeship curriculum to train more people in coding and engineering. Unlike a boot camp, which requires students to pay around $20,000 to be trained over six months, Techtonic has developed an exclusive course where students are paid to learn.

Heather Terenzio, CEO of Techtonic Group and creator of the program, said that out of 400 or 500 applications, about 20 people are selected for the course. But those who make the cut are paid $15 an hour to start. They go through a 12-week classroom period, then spend three months working on projects overseen by senior developers. After six months, they are entry-level developers and are paid the entry-level rate.

Techtonic Group is hired by clients to work on various software projects for them. After a person who has gone through the Techtonic course has worked on a client’s project for 1,000 hours, that apprentice is eligible to be hired away from Techtonic and hired full-time by the client.

The result ends up being a mutually beneficial one for everybody, Terenzio said. People interested in developing are paid to learn debt-free and can end up with a job either at Techtonic or with a Techtonic client. Techtonic benefits by widening the talent pool of people working for them and in software development in general. And clients benefit by not only having their software developed, but by also having a ready pool of talent they can hire from to work for them.

Because it’s an exclusive program, Terenzio said they have very specific qualities in mind when they select the people who will be admitted.

“We’re looking for people who have already dabbled a little in code, who understand what they are getting themselves into and know they love this,” she said. “We’re looking for people who aren’t just skilled at code but have an aptitude for a career in software development. They’re someone who is not just looking for a good job but for a career.”

Techtonic’s program is exclusive, but it’s hoping to get more applicants. The firm recently closed on a $2.2 million funding round, a follow-on to its seed round from April, using its existing investors. The goal for the additional funding is to hire more engineers, increase the size of the classes and possibly expand its model into cities beyond Boulder. Terenzio said she is considering cities like El Paso and Kansas City as options.

“The beautiful think about software development is if you love it, you don’t need a full-on college degree,” she said.  “If you like writing code and like figuring things out, it doesn’t matter if you’ve taken history or Shakespeare. If you have this skill, you can learn things on your own and get into this career debt-free and have a really nice middle class or upper-middle class career. There is a huge talent shortage for software development. We have a way to find people who are baristas and busboys and Uber drivers who want a career in software, and we can get them into high-paying careers.”

An added benefit of  the Techtonic model? Without screening for it, the company has found that its classes are more diverse than boot camps that require people to pay up front. Terenzio said that 70 percent of each cohort is a combination of women, minority and veteran students.

“If you think about a boot camp, you have to take six months off from work and pay $20,000 to be in it,” she said. “That excludes a population that doesn’t have the luxury of taking time off and paying that money. By lowering our barriers to entry, we’ve really seen an amazing percentage of diverse candidates come to our program. We’re not screening for diversity, but when we lowered the barrier the numbers just started showing up.”

For those interested in the program but are not sure whether coding is right for them, Terenzio said she encourages people to explore their interest first.

“Get online and take some free classes online,” she said. “Start trying to build things on your own. And if you enjoy it and enjoy building things like that, come talk to us.”

 

BOULDER  — A software development company is looking to close the talent gap in coding through a program to create more diverse developers.

Techtonic Group Inc. is a software development firm, but over the past four years it has created an apprenticeship curriculum to train more people in coding and engineering. Unlike a boot camp, which requires students to pay around $20,000 to be trained over six months, Techtonic has developed an exclusive course where students are paid to learn.

Heather Terenzio, CEO of Techtonic Group and creator of the program, said that out of 400 or 500 applications, about 20 people are selected for the course. But those who make the cut are paid $15 an hour to start. They go through a 12-week classroom period, then spend three months working on projects overseen by senior developers. After six months, they are entry-level developers and are paid the entry-level rate.

Techtonic Group is hired by clients to work on various software projects for them. After a person who has gone through the Techtonic course has worked on a client’s project for 1,000 hours, that apprentice is eligible to be hired away from Techtonic and hired full-time by the client.

The result ends up being a mutually beneficial one for everybody, Terenzio said. People interested in developing are paid to learn debt-free and can end up with a job either at Techtonic or with a Techtonic client. Techtonic benefits by widening the talent pool of people working for them…