The Iron Yard is the largest immersive code school in the United States, and a community fixture in Las Vegas. The team recently launched the Tech Opportunity Fund in collaboration with with Code Fellows and Operation HOPE. By unifying the efforts of code schools, government, civic organizations and employers, the goal of the Tech Opportunity Fund is to increase diversity in the tech industry by removing financial barriers and increasing access to tech education for all. In addition to technical skills training, the initiative will include core financial literacy education and entrepreneurship training through programming partner Operation HOPE. The Tech Opportunity Fund was mentioned in a speech by Vice President Joe Biden in St. Louis.
“Personally, this initiative is close to my heart as a Latino American,” said Las Vegas Campus Director Gabriel Shepherd. “The impact of this commitment from The Iron Yard and our partners will do amazing things for communities similar to the one I grew up in. Exposure to tech career choices backed by realistic access to learn those skills could change the diversity problem so many tech companies want to solve.”
Peter Barth, CEO of The Iron Yard, said to maximize the potential of the tech industry, we must maximize the potential of a diverse tech workforce.
“The Tech Opportunity Fund builds off of the momentum generated by innovative initiatives like TechHire to ensure Americans of all backgrounds have access to tech training programs that can open the door to a career in tech,” said Barth. “There is a true need in the industry for an organization to unite the many groups that are working toward this goal and by coordinating our efforts, we can truly change the industry for the better.”
Over the next five years, the Tech Opportunity Fund aims to award $100 million in diversity scholarships to in-need students from groups that are currently underrepresented in the tech workforce including women and minorities. The Iron Yard has committed $40 million in full-tuition scholarships to the school’s immersive programs over the next five years, Code Fellows has committed $5 million in full-tuition scholarships, and Operation HOPE will serve as the Fund’s financial literacy and entrepreneur training partner. To reach the goal of awarding $100 million in scholarships, the Tech Opportunity Fund is calling on employers, code schools and civic organizations across the country to join the Fund by providing funding for scholarships and contributing resources that will support for scholarship recipients.
“The creation of the Tech Opportunity Fund is unprecedented,” said Rodney Sampson, a partner of the Tech Opportunity Fund and partner at TechSquare Labs. “By far, it is the largest tangible strategic financial commitment to diversify the technical talent and workforce that will drive our nation toward an inclusive innovation economy for all.”
In addition to providing full-tuition scholarships to code school programs, the Tech Opportunity Fund will work to remove other barriers that can prevent people from pursuing a code school education. Partnerships with city-level government bodies and civic organizations will assist scholarship recipients by addressing needs such as affordable housing, financial literacy, counseling and transportation as needed.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will increase access to tech education and improve diversity in the workforce,” said Barth. “The Tech Opportunity Fund approaches these issues holistically and coordinates local and national resources to provide students with both academic opportunity and the support system they need to be successful.”
Applications for Tech Opportunity Fund scholarships will open by January 2017. To receive a scholarship, applicants will need to first be accepted into a participating code school through that program’s standard admissions process. After acceptance, students will apply for a Tech Opportunity Fund scholarship through the website. Scholarships will be awarded to qualified students on a first come, first served basis. Scholarships will be available on all of The Iron Yard and Code Fellows’ campuses.
“The Iron Yard currently offers a $1,000 tuition discount diversity scholarship for students who represent groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the tech workforce,” said Jessica Mitsch, Executive Director of the Code School at The Iron Yard. “There is no cap on the number of students per class or campus who can receive support. To date, across all of our campuses, The Iron Yard has awarded more than 450 diversity scholarships. In Las Vegas, we’ve awarded approximately $18,000 in diversity scholarships.”
For more information and to learn more about how your organization or code school can be involved in the Tech Opportunity Fund, visit: www.techopportunityfund.org. Learn more about The Iron Yard in Las Vegas in a recent interview with instructor Mike Sweeney.