Amid nationwide and local pushes for diversity, programs pitching tech training to those underrepresented in the tech industry are flocking to Philadelphia. The latest entrant is coding school General Assembly, aiming to replicate the success it’s had in cities across the world.
You’ll surely recognize the name: The global coding school with full-time and part-time schooling options has dozens of campuses, and has been a figure in the sector since its 2011 founding as a Manhattan coworking space. Technical.ly first covered the venture-backed company in 2012, when it launched a workshop series out of the University City Science Center, and it soon expanded into now-defunct coworking space Venturef0rth as its local homebase. It ended that original programming the following year.
This past Friday, it officially launched a new, online-only “community” focused on Philly with the goal of preparing local students and hiring partners for a post-pandemic job market. By going all virtual, program participants will have the support of instructors and hiring partners in 49 cities across the country and the world, company leaders said.
General Assembly, acquired in 2018 by Adecco Group for a cool $413 million, is one of the largest entities in the reskilling industry. Full-time coursework options include software engineering, UX design, data science and digital marketing. According to its latest Outcomes Report, within a year of completing programming, 99.2% of its full-time participants found jobs in their field.
And, like other bootcamps, General Assembly has seen increased demand for its virtual learning programs. Its expansion lead, Cari Perez, said the online model that Philly participants will be using started four years ago and its use has accelerated because of the pandemic.
“People in Philly will access the same curriculum that other cities have been implementing,” she told Technical.ly. “We can automatically plug people into our classes.”
That includes full-time, part-time and free one-off classes and events. As of now, there are no plans for an IRL campus — once General Assembly’s hallmark. What makes it a Philly community, the company says, is its network of local hiring and event partners. To start, that includes Philly Tech Sistas, Tribaja, CIC Philadelphia and Think Company. It also means locally focused events like May 12’s “A Better Tomorrow: Young Achievers In Tech OnePhilly.”
Perez said that diversifying the tech talent pipeline and inclusion of more BIPOC people is one of the key goals of General Assembly’s launch in Philly. By increasing these communities’ access to education, she said, the tech talent pipeline can become more robust.
General Assembly’s part-time Flex program is something Perez believes can help make the program’s experience more equitable: For those who can’t take time off from work and devote 12 straight weeks to participate in an immersive program, which cost between $14,950 and $15,950, Flex gives participants the option to learn in their own time over 24 months. Flex costs the same as the immersive program; part-time courses cost between $2,800 and $3,950. (The company offers financing options like loans and income share agreements.)
General Assembly community manager Albrina Mendes will support the company’s online Philly community. The goal of the Philly expansion is to enrich the tech talent already here, she said.
“With the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, job placement and accessing resources, we would love to be that bridge for people that don’t know where to start finding resources,” Mendes said.
The flexible online learning model can present in providing access to participants that would not normally be able to engage in a bootcamp experience, she said. Professionals who may live far away or that may not be able to afford childcare can still access the courses online.
Tribaja founder Shannon Morales is one of the local stakeholders working with Mendes and her colleagues to support local professionals interested in tech careers. With her recruiting platform’s goal of equipping its members with the qualifications to secure high-paying careers with equity-minded tech companies, teaming with General Assembly seems like a natural fit, Morales said.
“It’s important for companies like [General Assembly] to partner with organizations already doing the work because we are better together,” she told Technical.ly. “We are also in tuned with the unique circumstances that Philadelphians face when trying to enter into the tech industry and we provide guidance to how to better support our local communities.”
Brooklyn-based Mendes is looking forward to seeing participants in the online Philly community connect with other people around the country and world who are also using General Assembly’s online resources. She has already drawn one important conclusion about the new virtual Philly community with which she works.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is powerful, definitely in the Black and brown community,” she said. “I love to connect with people that look like me and align with my values.”
General Assembly joins LaunchCode, Resilient Coders and Tech Elevator as new-to-Philly tech bootcamps with similar goals of supporting diversity in the tech sector. Technical.ly will be tracking their progress over the next few months; if you’re a bootcamp participant and want to share your experience, get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.