LaunchCode's National Inclusive Tech Career Accelerator
Helping job seekers enter the tech field by providing accessible education, training and paid apprenticeship career placement.
Pitch us on your solution
LaunchCode’s National Inclusive Tech Career Accelerator is changing the way companies are approaching tech hiring and opening up job opportunities to folks traditionally underrepresented in today’s tech workforce.
In just a three month period (July - Sept. 2019), the U.S. had 918,000 unfilled IT jobs. Simultaneously, many Americans are barred access to career opportunities in technology because they simply cannot afford a $171,752 university computer science education or a $13,584 for-profit coding bootcamp education.
LaunchCode matches graduates of our no-cost, part-time computer programming training with hiring managers who have been encouraged to look at ability rather than credentials. After completing the 28 weeks of hard and soft skill training, LaunchCode graduates can apply to be placed on a tech team at one of LaunchCode’s 400+ company partners, earning hourly pay and health coverage until the company decides to onboard them to their team as a junior-level employee.
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What is the problem you are solving?
Traditionally, employment in technology has been restricted to those with a degree in computer science or those with another degree who have completed an expensive coding boot camp. University degrees remain too slow and costly for many, technical schools lag behind industry trends, and free online self-study programs offer no peer support. These limited pathways exclude people who lack the time or financial resources to participate, particularly low-wage earners struggling to support themselves and their dependents.
A trend that has popped up over the past few years as an alternative to university programs and trade schools are coding bootcamps. According to Course Report’s 2019 Coding Bootcamp Marketing Sizing Report, in 2019 the coding bootcamp market will grow by 49% compared to 2018, to an estimated 23,043 graduates. However, for-profit coding bootcamps are increasingly selective and the current tuition for a 15-week bootcamp is $13,584.
With 44% of Americans stuck in low-wage jobs and nearly a million U.S. tech jobs unfilled each year, colleges and for-profit bootcamps alone cannot address the tech talent gap; more accessible paths to these careers need to be paved for driven folks of all backgrounds and experiences.
Who are you serving?
LaunchCode helps individuals from all backgrounds develop employable tech skills through our education courses, and land permanent careers through our innovative apprenticeship program.
Nontraditional tech job candidates (underemployed, economically disadvantaged, female, POC, re-entering workforce) make up a large bulk of LaunchCode's enrollment. LaunchCode provides a more-accessible on-ramp for these candidates, compared to the traditional processes that structurally and inherently disadvantage the previously-mentioned populations. For the nearly 2,100 individuals whose careers we have launched, their average salary of $22,000 upon entering our programs more than doubled to an average of $55,000 upon apprenticeship completion.
Average demographics of the 7,000 individuals enrolled in LaunchCode training since 2014:
66.3% come from low-to-moderate income households
60.8% personally earning less than $30K a year
58.5% identify as people of color
44.9% identify as female
50.6% do not have a 4-year college degree
LaunchCode regularly solicits feedback from students, graduates, apprentices, contracted staff and employer partners, leading to program optimization that improves student retention - including referrals for students having issues with transportation/childcare/other barriers to success; implementing deferred enrollment; offering further training for contracted staff; auditing our application process to mitigate any bias; etc.
What is your solution?
LaunchCode’s National Inclusive Tech Career Accelerator provides an accessible on-ramp for individuals looking to learn technical skills and start careers in today’s dynamic tech workforce without incurring the debt associated with traditional credentials in this field (university degrees, for-profit coding bootcamps certifications, etc).
Each year, LaunchCode enrolls around 1,300 - 1,500 students across our markets of service in St. Louis, MO; the South Florida region; Kansas City, MO and Tampa Bay, FL. Enrollees participate in one of our no-cost, technical training courses, learning foundational skills to be successful as junior programmers, developers, or other entry-level positions adjacent to technology. These courses include:
CoderGirl: a 24-week or 45-week course (depending on which skill track students enroll) in which 100-150 women meet once a week in small study groups focused on learning a specific technical skill. The eight learning tracks include: Java; C#/.NET; Front-End Web Development; SQL Server & Databases; Data Analysis; User Experience (UX); Data Science; and Salesforce. This program offers a safe and inclusive space for women interested in entering the technology field.
Immersive CodeCamp: a 14-week full-time program that delivers the LC101 curriculum to a class of 20-30 students. Immersive Code Camp supplements the core curriculum with additional enrichment activities and mentorship support. Traditionally, students in these cohorts see a much higher graduation rate of 90% and find job placement quickly due to increased classroom hours and more individualized attention from instructors.
Upon completion of these programs, LaunchCode candidates can enroll for further job preparation in our 8-week Liftoff course or go directly into our federally-accredited Apprenticeship Program, where they will be matched with job opportunities at one LaunchCode’s 400+ employer partners.
In 2019, we helped 658 program participants launch careers in technology, with 359 starting tech jobs through our apprenticeship model, and an additional 299 beginning tech careers after participating in no-cost LaunchCode training.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:St. Louis, MO, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our Apprenticeship Program allows LaunchCode to sustainably support the growth of our programming while placing our candidates into career opportunities that provide continued learning & mentorship, and that lead to permanent, well-paid tech jobs.
Apprentices are taken onto LaunchCode’s books as a contracted employee, earning $20 an hour and having the option to enroll in LC medical benefits. Employer partners are generally billed $40/hr for apprentice work, providing earned revenue to LaunchCode after we pay the apprentices hourly wages and benefits. Each 90 days, the apprentice pay rate and bill rate increase by $5/hr until the apprentice converts to employment at the partner company. On average, 84% of apprentices convert to permanent employment within 4 months, with a starting salary of $55,000.
Unlike other similar programs, there are no hidden costs for participants, such as paying fees back to the organization once landing a job or having to apply for financial assistance in order to enroll in the program. More than half of LaunchCode’s 2019 revenue was earned through billing companies for our apprentices, which allows our organization to focus all philanthropic funding on providing no-cost training programs as a bridge into this apprenticeship model.
In the end, LaunchCode is incentivized by placing folks into careers instead of simply enrolling them in our classes and charging them exorbitant amounts of money to participate in training.
Additional program innovations which build participants’ skills include the continual evolution of curriculum to meet employer demand and mock interview / resume review sessions.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
LaunchCode’s National Inclusive Tech Career Accelerator has already been successful in changing employer perspective on the qualifications necessary to be successful in tech careers. Since 2013, LaunchCode has helped launch nearly 2,100 tech careers, with 1,510 of those careers beginning through our Apprenticeship Program.
The 380 companies that have hired LaunchCode apprentices range from Fortune 50 companies like JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Boeing and Comcast to growing startups in the regions we serve. More
Top hiring partners include:
Cigna / Express Scripts: 124 apprentices
Centene: 94 apprentices
Mastercard: 75 apprentices
Boeing: 61 apprentices
Anheuser-Busch: 58 apprentices
More than 150 additional companies have hired LaunchCoders after their participation in our tech training programs.
When LaunchCode enrolls our classes, we intentionally target populations who are typically underrepresented in the tech workforce, e.g. women, people of color, folks from LMI households and folks without 4-year degrees and/or degrees in computer science.
We see first-hand that companies can adopt hiring strategies that include folks without traditional credentials, but these companies also want to ensure that these strategies provide reliable pools of talent filled with diverse, driven individuals. Through developing ongoing partnerships with a wide portfolio of employers, LaunchCode has proven that our training is preparing community members with the tech/soft skills that hiring managers are looking for, and our Apprenticeship Model de-risks the hiring process - allowing companies to vet talent from diverse backgrounds/experiences without the commitment of commiting to full-time hiring immediately.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Annually, LaunchCode is training between 1,300 and 1,500 individuals through our no-cost tech education programs in St. Louis, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and South Florida. Additionally, we are launching around 650 program participant careers annually, with around 350 individuals starting their tech career through our federally-accredited Apprenticeship Program.
Within one year, LaunchCode will have further scaled educational program innovations that have been piloted in St. Louis to our other markets in an effort to increase course retention rates and apprenticeship placement rates. As a result, we will see between 1,400 and 1,700 individuals enrolled in our programs, with at least 750 program participant careers launched annually, at least 400 through our Apprenticeship Program.
Within five years, LaunchCode will have grown our current market programs and expanded to at least two new US cities. As a result, we will see 2,500 individuals enrolled in our programs, with at least 1,000 program participant careers launched annually, at least 650 through our Apprenticeship Program.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Goal 1: National Leadership In Tech Talent Development & Placement
Serves as a premier source of entry-level tech talent for an increasing number of employer partners across the country
Has a replicable model of success that while location agnostic fills community-based demand for tech talent; spurs employment and social mobility; and strengthens participating communities’ economies
Expands its geographic footprint using established criteria for new hub placement/investment
Is recognized nationally as a thought-leader and industry influencer on tech talent
Goal 2: Strategic Partnerships That Support & Scale The Work
Attracts new employer partners and extends relationships with its existing partners to increase the number of trainings, apprenticeships and placements in its markets
Establishes successful community partnerships that help it advance growth in “net new” tech talent from diverse backgrounds
Leverages its community relationships to better address the barriers to program completion and candidate workplace success
Secures more national funders, donors, foundations and government partners that help increase the diversity and magnitude of its funding
Goal #3: Strong Locations & Satellites
Has the right people, programs, and processes needed to ensure hub success both within and beyond St. Louis
Possesses highly engaged, satisfied and talented employees and contractors who:
Have clearly defined career development paths for both promotional and lateral growth
Have the resources and competencies needed to provide exemplary candidate support
Has a modular and adaptive training portfolio that aligns with employer demands
Provides effective candidate care and support services that increase program completion and placement rates
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
LaunchCode recently completed a year-long strategic planning process - engaging stakeholders from all aspects of our work - that identified the aforementioned organizational goals and the following potential barriers to success.
1) LaunchCode faces increasing competition from private agencies, community organizations and international outsourcing.
Decreases the number of potential candidates
Weakens LaunchCode’s brand in the workforce development arena
Confuses public as they attempt to differentiate LaunchCode from the competition
2) A possible economic recession in the future may become detrimental to LaunchCode, as the need for entry level tech talent may decline and/or employers may be more likely to hire more experienced developers and coders. (Note: This threat could also be considered an opportunity to secure additional candidates looking for tech positions.)
Reduces corporate philanthropy and individual giving, as well as governmental grants
Could limit growth in tech positions and threaten LaunchCode’s viability
Requires more resources to select qualified candidates
3) Placements are based on the relationships developed with key partner contacts. Personnel and organizational changes at partner locations can impact the ability to place apprentices. Additionally, mergers, acquisitions and dissolutions can reduce the demand for entry level technical talent.
Increases the costs of relationship building and introduces placement delays. It takes considerable time get new partners to trust in LaunchCode offerings
Decreases the pool of employer partners
4) With the rapid changes in technology, LaunchCode’s offerings could become obsolete / irrelevant if not frequently updated.
Make LaunchCode’s operating environment more complex
Challenge the organization’s ability to meet employers’ needs
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
1) In order to address competition from other private agencies, community organizations and international outsourcing, LaunchCode will:
Use our current relationships with nearly 400 U.S. employers to promote the success of our model, grow new partnerships and strengthen current partnerships
Ensure that our marketing highlights no-cost education, unique apprenticeship model that is low-risk for employers and offers pay/benefits to apprentices
2) In order to address potential economic recession, LaunchCode will:
Continue to strengthen relationships with a wide variety of hiring partners who will see maintaining partnership with LaunchCode as vital to tech talent hiring for their teams
Realize this as an opportunity to work with even more individuals in search of tech employment and highlight the growth in quality candidates in our pipeline
3) In order to address personnel changes at partner companies and mergers/acquisitions, LaunchCode will:
Continue to diversify our portfolio of employer partners through outreach and expansion
Ensure all hiring partners has SOWs and/or MOUs signed that define organizational partnership
Increase B2B communication, and get to know multiple stakeholders at partner companies
4) In order to address changes in technology, LaunchCode will:
Continue to optimize our program offerings to teach skills indicated by employer partners and teaching staff
Analyze if job opportunities for candidates related to certain skills justify program iterations to teach those skills
If you selected “My solution is already being implemented in one or more of ServiceNow’s primary markets,” please provide an overview of your current activities in those markets.
The bulk of LaunchCode’s current programming takes place from our headquarters location in St. Louis, Missouri, with around 800 students enrolled and 365 careers launched annually.
Additionally, LaunchCode serves the following markets:
Kansas City: 150 enrolled and 60 careers launched annually
South Florida: 115 enrolled and 50 careers launched annually
Tampa Bay: 100 enrolled and 30 careers launched annually
LaunchCode realizes that our brand and reputation has permeated the St. Louis market, allowing for hiring partners that trust our model, multiple streams of philanthropic funding to support additional classes, and widespread interest from diverse populations to enroll in our classes (with over 1,250 applicants for classes that enroll for 150 seats).
With growing support from national funders like MIT SOLVE and ServiceNow, LaunchCode will be able to grow our presence in our satellite markets (and new markets) with strategies that have been piloted and proven successful in St. Louis, including:
Mock interviews and coding project presentations with potential hiring partners prior to graduation
Success coaches assigned to each class to help refer students at-risk of dropping out to community resources and add accountability to their journey
Deferred enrollment to fill in seats of students dropping the in-person class with individuals who have been keeping up with the curriculum remotely
Leader fellowship for our contracted teaching staff (who are typically mid-level developers and former program participants) to provide 30 hours of training in teaching, pedagogy, working with at-risk students, encouraging good study habits, etc.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to one or more of ServiceNow’s primary markets,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product here?
Select an option below:
If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
- Full-Time Staff: 51 employees
- Part-Time Staff: 2 employees
- Contracted Staff: between 90 and 120 contracted instructors and teaching assistants annually
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
LaunchCode has been working with companies to address tech talent needs with our Apprenticeship Program since 2013 and has been training individuals traditionally underserved in the tech workforce since 2014.
LaunchCode is led by Executive Director Jeff Mazur, JD Georgetown Law, former Executive Director-AFSCME and member of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration.
Our Impact Team (in charge of course admission, delivery and vetting candidates for apprenticeships) is led by our Chief Program Officer Lin Wang, PhD and our VP of Impact Haley Shoaf. Their team has successfully trained over 7,000 individuals with foundational computer programming skills since 2014.
Our Company Relations Team (in charge of matching program graduates with job/ apprenticeship opportunities) is also led our Senior VP of Company Relations Lori Eaton and our VP of Talent Solutions Brian Feldman. Their team is responsible for over half of LaunchCode’s annual revenue and has helped launch nearly 2,100 tech careers.
Our Finance Team is led by VP of Finance Ethan Leigh, our Donor Relations Team is led by our Chief Development Officer Lori Rasmussen, and our Marketing Team is led by VP of Marketing and Design Tiana Berry-Jones.
Our Education/Technology Teams are managed by our VP of Education and Technology Chris Bay. Our Education Team has a unique mix of individuals with former careers as developers, programmers and educators, and is tasked with constantly iterating LaunchCode curriculum to present skills most in-demand by employer partners.
LaunchCode has hired 12 graduates of our programming.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Accenture (funder and consultants to help better reach, serve and retain low-income participants)
St. Louis Community College (partnership to run two CodeCamps per year and also offer 12 credits in Computer Science to any program completers)
NAACP (share our STL offices with local chapter and partner to better reach target communities)
Rockhurst University, Brewster Technical College and the City of Deerfield Beach (partners for classroom space and in-kind funding in our satellite markets)
Government Entities and Agencies like the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, the Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center and Deerfield Beach EDC (program funding and space)
Over 400 employer partners - from Fortune 50 companies to startups.
A wide net of nonprofit organizations in our markets to which we refer students struggling with transportation, childcare, technology access, stable living, etc.
What is your business model?
LaunchCode’s Business Model exists to serve a need that is at the intersection of two major societal issues in the US: the tech talent gap plaguing companies across the country and the cycle of low-wage employment that restricts the time and resources of many driven individuals.
Through providing our unique Apprenticeship Program to a growing number of companies across the country, LaunchCode is not only helping companies tap into new pools of diverse, driven talent that will help fill in gaps of skill, perspective and experience on their teams, but also, we are providing a foot-in-the-door for very talented candidates for upwardly mobile tech careers who would traditionally be screened out due lack of credentials. We are changing the face of tech talent in our country by upskilling individuals without the resources to pursue traditional means of Computer Science education and vouching for their passion, drive and aptitude with employers.
We are pleased to be serving 1.300 - 1,500 individuals through our no-cost tech training programs each year, and we’re excited about new strategies we’ve developed in St. Louis to better serve low-income students. Over the next year, our plan is to implement these strategies in our satellite cities in Kansas City, South Florida and Tampa Bay.
Within the next five years, we plan to continue scaling LaunchCode’s National Inclusive Tech Career Accelerator to expand to at least two new markets and increase the amount of individuals we are able to place annually at US companies.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
LaunchCode cultivates diverse funding streams to ensure our education programs are sustainable over the long term. Our apprenticeship program is revenue-generating; when a company takes on a LaunchCode apprentice, the employer pays LaunchCode on top of the apprentice's hourly fee. In 2019, this earned revenue accounted for over 50% of LaunchCode’s revenue.
LaunchCode actively solicits funding from local and national foundations and corporate grantmakers to support our operations. LaunchCode's Executive Team also manages a schedule of government grant solicitations. Furthermore, we are working to grow our individual donor base, and we employ a Donor Relations Team of four full-time members (a Chief Development Officer, Director of Institutional Giving, Donor Relations Manager, and a Grants Manager) to direct strategic fundraising opportunities and growth.Finally, we seek in-kind donations to minimize overhead costs.
Why are you applying to the Digital Workforce Challenge?
As exhibited in our “barriers” section of this proposed solution, one of the main remedies to our external barriers to success lies in LaunchCode’s ability to maintain strong partnerships with hiring partners and continually develop new partnerships with business looking to hire from our pool of talent. Not only will exposure through this process allow LaunchCode to connect with new partners looking for diverse, driven tech talent, but it will also give LaunchCode the opportunity to deepen relationships with current hiring partners - showing them we’re being recognized at a national level.
Additionally, a big part of overcoming barriers to being successful in new markets and with new partners is to develop a pervasive brand presence that will be brought to mind when folks across the country think about hiring non-traditional tech talent. The exposure that will come with this opportunity to discuss our solution will help us move toward this goal.
Finally, LaunchCode has seen much success from our training and job placement programs, and through our iterative process, we have optimized our curriculum and program offerings to increase rates of students graduating our classes ready to pursue careers in technology. However, we have never had a comprehensive third-party evaluation to look at the economic impact of our programs and the perception of tech career attainment to underrepresented communities as a result of our programming. We would love to connect with a third-party evaluator for this reason.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Obviously, we would love to meet with as many organizations on the Fortune 500 list as possible to assist with their tech talent needs.
However, LaunchCode does not only partner with large organizations; we would love to connect with as many small-mid sized business interested in tapping into our unique pool of tech talent. In fact, in Kansas City, over 60% of our hiring partners are startups, and we are proud to be an integral part of growing the entrepreneurial landscape of our country.
Finally, the more nonprofit partners we have for referrals the better. We want to ensure program participants have community resources needed to succeed in our classes.
If we can partner with additional educational institutions and trade schools, we can address the growing need for computer science graduates and offer alternative pathways on their campuses.
Third-party evaluation of our economic impact with MIT would be ideal, and we would love to explore offering ServiceNow training with our current and new employer partners (we have already trained in ServiceNow for two separate, large St. Louis employers).