Editor’s note: The following story is sponsored by Yoodle, a partner of STARTLAND, the parent organization of Startland News. Click here to learn about the FEC Coding Academy courses or to apply for its coming cohort, a partnership between Yoodle, the Full Employment Council and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This story was produced independently by Startland News.
Luck was short and change was necessary, Drew Simons said, reflecting on his experience with a coding academy backed by the Full Employment Council and University of Missouri-Kansas City that rebooted his life.
“I’ll just be honest with you, I got fired on Dec. 30,” Simons said, recalling the circumstances that prompted him to pursue a new beginning, strengthen his skillset, and increase his income potential.
“I’ve just had some struggles in life. I was actually homeless for a while and I’ve just kinda been pulling myself up out of the gutter,” he added, noting the first place he turned when times got tough was the Full Employment Council — which works to provide avenues for success for the city’s unemployed and underemployed.
“They actually helped me get a job before and the secretary there said, ‘Hey, if you put your nose to the grindstone, we can probably get you into this class,’” Simons said of how he first learned about the FEC Coding Academy, which offers two web development and full stack classes designed to get displaced workers back on their feet as quickly as possible.
The coding academy — which was launched in summer 2019 by the FEC and UMKC and designed to deliver a 21st century workforce — recently wrapped its first cohort of 2020 with plans to begin its second in July.
“This whole experience has really kind of uplifted me as far as what I’m capable of,” he said, noting the opportunity to rekindle a past love for math as he pursued coding courses was enough to help him compile a new chapter — at no cost.
“The no-debt thing was certainly attractive to me,” Simons said. “When I look at my bank account, after all is said and done, there’s nothing in savings and I’m just keeping my head above water. This gives you the freedom to have a good paying job and to be honest with you, the salary is really attractive.”
The ability to offer training and continuing education opportunities without the financial burden, means the program is delivering community impact even bigger than job placement, added Shawn Ortega, multimedia specialist at Yoodle — a local content and marketing agency and the third partner that’s made the coding academy possible.
“We know that a lot of similar training comes at a heavy price — anywhere between $5,000, $10,000, $20,000. So when people enroll in this and get approved for the coding academy courses, the financial obligation is taken off the table, but what still remains is the time commitment,” he said, noting the courses meet three times a week for up to 16 weeks — dependent on which cohort students are enrolled in.
“On top of that, there’s so many extra hours that go into studying and group work. You have to be a focused individual and an outcome-oriented individual to really invest your time in this,” Ortega continued, noting that before COVID-19 hit, students were able to make use of UMKC facilities and resources.
Plans to resume in-person training are on the table should the COVID-19 outbreak show signs of slowing, he said.
“It’s cool to be a part of a program and have a partnership with somebody like the FEC because they’re not only providing the funding, but they’re data-driven. They do the research and analysis for where the gaps in the market are and what type of training is out there that the employers need,” Ortega explained.
Such an approach is one of the many things that appealed to Yoodle when the company chose to partner with the initiative, he said, adding the coding academy and its collaborative structure have a real opportunity to change the luck of many job seekers in a similar position as Simons.
“It’s been a great rollout. It was a great first class. We’re excited for the second and third cohort. We’re excited to continuously expand,” Ortega said of the effort and the importance of remaining connected with students.
“Just because there’s an end date doesn’t mean things stop there. And Drew’s a perfect representation of that,” he said. “The 16 weeks is up, you have that congratulatory moment and that celebration — and then you keep the momentum moving forward and you really take the bull by the horns to not only start a job, but to start your career in a field that’s worthwhile for you.”
“When I finish this in December, I’m going to be top of the list for entering the job market, having to have these boot camps under my belt,” he said, excited about the possibility of reaching a new high one year after he hit a new low.
“I cannot emphasize enough [for incoming students] just be prepared to work your tail off,” Simons laughed.
“Honestly, the sense of confidence that you get [as you] begin to enter the job market, all the imposter syndrome [I experienced] it’s completely been shed from me and I’m just so grateful for where I’m at. I’m really excited about my future.”
Click here to learn about the FEC Coding Academy courses or to apply for its coming cohort.