WATCH NOW: Want to get high-tech training for free? Jockey, LaunchCode launch free coding, web development classes to begin July 5 | Education

Kenosha-area residents looking to enter the tech workforce with job-ready skills have a unique opportunity to learn basic coding and web development for free.

More than a dozen people took the first step Thursday night, attending an information session to learn about the partnership between Jockey International, Inc. and LaunchCode, a national non-profit workforce development organization. It specializes in assisting and identifying those who have the aptitude and passion for technology, but may not be able to afford the educational requirements that go along with it.

“What we do is provide a free and accessible education and job placement program so we can help people start tech careers,” said Lin Wang, LaunchCode’s chief program officer, who led the held at Jockey International’s headquarters at 2300 60th St.

In April, LaunchCode began accepting applications to the free, full-time course, which is open exclusively to Kenosha County residents. The course will start on July 5 and will be held virtually.

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Applications will be taken through June 10. From there, applicants will be sent a link via email that will take them to a 10-question, multiple choice assessment for problem solving, also due June 10. The assessment will not have coding questions, she said.

“The earlier you apply, the better,” she told the group.

Candidates selected will be invited to attend a 20-minute virtual interview, with admission results sent by email no later than June 17.

No coding experience needed

Applicants need not have coding or web development skills to apply for the course. They must live in the Kenosha area, have an aptitude for problem solving and a willingness to commit to an intensive program that will and go through Oct. 15, with one holiday, Labor Day, in between. The classes are held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a lunch hour, Monday to Friday.

Students must also be eager to enter an apprenticeship after they complete the full course, Wang said. Eligible residents will also have earned a high school diploma.

Technical requirements for the virtual course include the use of computers that have reliable internet access. PC owners must have Windows 8 OS or a more recent operating system version, but Windows 10 is strongly preferred. The most recent Mac OS is strongly preferred for Mac users. Laptops used for virtual courses also need to meet Zoom’s system requirements.

The course, which will have a maximum of 30 students, is divided into two units.The first half will involve students learning computer programming fundamentals using Java Script, while the second half will focus on “back end” web development.

During the final two weeks of the course students will have a chance to apply their new-found learning toward a personal project that showcases their job ready skills. A graduation date has yet to be announced.

Wang said that some might find the offer for the free course in web development and coding “suspicious” and wanted to allay any concerns about the company’s ability to provide the course at no cost.

“I know that is actually quite a bit alarming and suspicious to people who don’t already know us,” she said.

Wang said the non-profit company’s model is based in philanthropic grants and other funding from organizations aligned with workforce development. LaunchCode also has a donor program that solicits funds from individuals, including alumni of their course program.

“We want to take that burden of cost from individuals and then transfer it back to the corporate world, which says, ‘We need more talent,’” Wang said. “They need to do better at investing and improving the culture and just really being creative and trusting people who don’t always have the opportunity to pursue the most traditional type of four-year-degree program.”

Bringing talent back

Wang said that companies like Jockey not only think about their own talent, but want “to bring it back to the community.”

Jake McGhee, vice president and chief philanthropy officer for Jockey, said that the company was interested in the work that LaunchCode has done in training and recruiting a diverse workforce for tech jobs because the community needs skilled workers.

“As an employer who is constantly looking for talent, we thought we could help bring the program to our community and essentially bridge that gap,” said McGhee. “We’re really excited about it.”

At the end of program, students who graduate will be eligible for the opportunity to be an apprentice for either LaunchCode or Jockey.

According to officials, more than four out of five of the program’s apprenticeships result in a full-time job offer and, on average, LaunchCoders more than double their previous salary after securing a full-time job.

According to Code.org, there are almost 9,000 open computing jobs in the state of Wisconsin, each with an average salary of over $80,000, which is significantly higher than the average statewide salary.

LaunchCode has previously worked with such companies as Boeing, Mastercard, Microsoft and Spectrum, among others, to place course graduates into apprenticeships and jobs with top companies, providing opportunity for upward career mobility.

Those interested in the Jockey-LaunchCode partnership can go to launchcode.org/Kenosha to learn more and begin the application process.