Learn more about how a need for tech driven talent birthed a new South Carolina initiative, and how CODE/+/TRUST is helping bridge the gap while providing real world experience to budding software developers
Software and IT has become one of the fastest growing industries globally, with the need for software developers alone increasing by 25% post-pandemic. Couple that with the labor shortage going on across the country right now and over 700 tech companies alone currently calling Charleston, SC home, the need for local developers and programmers in the Lowcountry has simply never been greater.
SC Tech, an initiative geared towards accelerating growth in the statewide technology community and establishing South Carolina as a global hub for innovation, completed a 2020 Economic Impact Study and found that employment in the tech industry has expanded to more than 180,000 with an $89 billion economic impact and a 245% growth since 2000.
Due to the glaring need for tech talent, the South Carolina Commerce Department Office of Innovation has teamed up with the SC Council on Competitiveness (which runs SC Tech) and Build Carolina (which runs SC Codes) to create Develop Carolina.
Develop Carolina is a fellowship program for new software developers who are interested in becoming professional programmers and need a pathway to stepping into their new career. Each fellow starts as a newly-trained developer fresh out of a four-year institution, traditional community or technical college, certificate program, or other training initiative, and spends six months meeting as a cohort with dedicated mentors, spending two days a week in a virtual classroom and the other three days inside a participating South Carolina-based tech company where they work on real-world development projects.
Multiple companies currently partner with Develop Carolina to help foster the next generation of tech talent through this fellowship program, including organizations like Booz Allen Hamilton, Land Intelligence, Logicle Analytics, Hyper.io, and now, CODE/+/TRUST.
When Kaity Miller, Program Director for both SC Codes and Develop Carolina, approached CODE/+/TRUST about joining the fellowship program as another partner, we were more than happy to jump right in.
Kaity is confident that this new program is going to help move things in the right direction:
"Develop Carolina was born out of recurring conversations with both junior-level software developers and tech employers that highlighted the disconnect between education and career. On one side, you have technically skilled software developers who lack hands-on workplace experience in tech. On the other side, you have tech employers who are struggling to find talent. Through the first-of-its-kind program in South Carolina, we've been able to bridge this disconnect by partnering with employers who are passionate about talent development, like CODE/+/TRUST, and provide opportunities for junior developers to enter the field and grow their skills. Additionally, we are confident that by including non-traditional students in the Develop Carolina program, we are not only creating access to more talent for the state, but more diverse talent as well!"
The relationship between Develop Carolina and CODE/+/TRUST started with a mentor training program, where our team (along with the other partners) went through 6 weeks of weekly interactions, discussing goals, expectations, and an overall game plan as to how the pilot program would play out. Once completed, our company was assigned our first two official fellows, both of which started at the beginning of January 2022.
The first fellow to join our team is Ariana Konhilas. Tired of the grind of working in food and beverage, she decided it was time for a change and was nudged into taking classes for IT. Originally interested in Network Systems management, she fell in love with the idea of becoming a software developer during her second course, which was Introduction to Programming. Armed with a newly found passion, Ariana graduated from Trident Tech this past December with an Associates of Applied Science in Computer Technology - Computer Programming. Her college professor knew about the incumbent Develop Carolina program, and recommended Ariana apply.
To Ariana's excitement, she was accepted as part of the flagship cohort:
“The Develop Carolina Fellowship felt like an opportunity that was meant for me. Having only a two year degree along with software development being in a constant state of advancement, it’s been such a powerful bridge between graduation and employment. Kaity is so wonderful and you can tell Chandler, Alex, and the whole team truly care about developing developers. I have learned so much and have felt so welcomed since day one here at CODE/+/TRUST that all my anxieties about starting completely dissipated. Hart has been so incredible and warm, and TJ has really helped us to dive right in and start working and learning. I’m really excited to continue to learn from every single person here. The entire team has really taken the pressure off, making it so much easier to grow as much as I can as a junior developer!”
The second fellow to join the CODE/+/TRUST team is Janie Warren. Similar to Ariana, Janie’s original passion was also in something well outside the world of software development – event planning and hospitality. Janie’s inspiration to make the transition to the world of development came from, believe it or not, watching a Netflix docuseries titled “High Score”, which takes a look at some of the earliest video games and the developers that brought them to life. With a piqued interest in the world of software development, Janie dove head first into researching what it takes to tackle a career makeover, and quickly discovered SC Codes. She wasted no time and enrolled in courses right away, and was eventually approached about joining the Develop Carolina fellowship program.
Already eyeballing CODE/+/TRUST as a potential landing spot and seeing that the company was a partner with the program, Janie was thrilled to take the challenge:
“I honestly could not have asked for a better place and time to start this new chapter of life as a software developer. The support provided by CODE/+/TRUST, Develop Carolina, and SC Codes is unreal. I’m going to absorb as much as I possibly can over the next six months to not only advance my career, but to pay all this kindness forward to the next generation of developers.”
With two eager junior developers ready to learn and grow, CODE/+/TRUST assembled a team that would be able to guide them throughout their fellowship program. Led by team members TJ LaBaugh, Jordan Riser, and Hart Jeffers, each instills their own unique expertise to give the junior developers real world experience into what it’s like to work in an actual software development firm.
TJ and Jordan, both seasoned software developers with CODE/+/TRUST, are immersing the junior developers in the technical side of software development. Reviewing best practices and code concepts, showing when to use certain tools, explaining how to tackle troubleshooting and debug errors – these are just some of the topics our developers are covering when working with Ariana and Janie.
TJ, with the CODE/+/TRUST team since August 2019, knows how important practical exposure to development is when first starting out:
“When you’re taking courses in software development, most, if not all of what you learn is focused on theory, fundamental programming concepts, implementation methods, and various languages. It doesn’t typically involve real world experience, which is why this program is so valuable to the junior developers. When I’m working with the devs, I’m keeping in mind my personal experience and sharing things that I would have wanted to be taught or trained on when I was first starting out.”
- TJ LaBaugh
Hart, a Project Manager for CODE/+/TRUST, is focused on bringing value and experience particularly to the business development side of developing software applications, like working with timelines and deadlines and ensuring they know to ask the right questions to clients like “Is the product market viable?” or “Who is the target market?”.
Hart sees the true value in the relationship between our company and the Develop Carolina initiative:
“Not only does this program work to prepare aspiring developers for the world of software - it also prepares mentors for the process of continuing the education of those developers. My personal exposure to the program has helped improve my ability to teach and lead young aspiring professionals. The team at Develop Carolina is not only great to work with, but they care a lot about their students and improving the software industry as a whole. Searching for new talent is increasingly difficult in this highly competitive field, so having a partnership with Develop Carolina has been a great way to deepen that search for the next generation of great coders.”
- Hart Jeffers
Even though the program is just getting started, the junior developers are already jumping head first into real world development. To start, the team is working on taking the admin for an existing client and rebuilding it in a new stack.
As the program continues over the course of the next 6 months and beyond, the sky is the limit for both the junior developers and the Develop Carolina program.
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