Following Zip Code's success, what's next for TechHire? - Technical.ly Delaware

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Following Zip Code’s success, what’s next for TechHire?

A program for creating Delaware's jobs of the future is casting around for its next act. Big data? Cybersecurity? UX? Funding, however, remains a question mark.

Students from Zip Code Wilmington's second cohort work on projects.

(Courtesy photo)

Delaware’s first big TechHire victory was the success of Zip Code Wilmington. Then came the academy programs at Delaware Tech. Now with TechHire grant funding on the horizon — most likely in June — the question that remains is what Delaware’s TechHire folks will do next.

Jeff Flynn, Wilmington’s director of economic development, has been floating around an idea and wonders if it’s got any traction: Branding Wilmington as a city to learn specialized dev skills for big data and UX jobs. It would build off of Zip Code’s success, which tends to focus on Java training while simultaneously attract millennials to live and work in the city.

“I think it could be very powerful if we built off of the Zip Code paradigm but expanded it to include other skillsets,” he said, adding that research would be needed to find out if the city’s big tech employers — JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Capital One — would be interested in filling those kinds of jobs, as they have with Java and .net. “It’s too soon to tell if this has any legs.”

He has been in touch with Suketu Patel, a local who has put together a curriculum of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for learning the big data trade.

Flynn said some kind of educational piece involving MOOCs could be a possibility.

Zip Code isn’t necessarily closed to the idea of expanding. “If we determine there are enough jobs in that area, we are certainly open to that, we’d just have to see how it would fit into our model,” said Melanie Augustin, Zip Code’s director of corporate partnerships.

Damian DeStefano, from the governor’s office who’s on the TechHire team, said Gov. Markell has been pleased with Zip Code’s results thus far. “One great thing about TechHire is what has been done so far has been driven by what the private sector needs, and we feel that’s how it should continue,” he said.

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So what does the private sector need? At this point, it’s hard to say. Or companies just aren’t making those needs public yet.

JPMorgan Chase’s McDermott, who’s also a part of the TechHire cohort, said she’s been a part of conversations about what expanded focuses could be.

“Other areas of focus could be anything — they could be analytics, could be cyber — every company has different needs,” she said, adding that there have also been discussions about possibilities surrounding MOOCs on Coursera and online classes on Udacity.

Still, McDermott was cautious. “Our focus has been to start small and make sure we do it really, really well,” she said of TechHire efforts. “That was the Zip Code premise: ‘Let’s start with Java and make sure we’ve made it as effective and efficient as possible.’”

And everything, she said, is contingent on this impending grant funding announcement. The state of Delaware, she said, submitted an application for a piece of the $100 million being made available by the U.S. Department of Labor for TechHire initiatives across the country.

Once grant money is sorted out, she said (provided Delaware gets some), the D.C.-based Opportunity@Work program might send an intermediary to work with Delaware in maximizing TechHire opportunities.

We’ll just have to see what happens in June.

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