Coding Boot Camp For The Formerly Incarcerated From Coding Dojo And PFS

About 45% of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed one year after their release and 68% are rearrested within three years.

Also, there are a lot of jobs for people with coding skills.

That’s why Coding Dojo and The Prison Scholar Fund (PFS) are launching a new coding boot camp program aimed at helping formerly incarcerated individuals develop programming skills and find work.

“We believe talent is evenly distributed, but opportunities are not,” says Richard Wang, CEO and co-founder of Coding Dojo. The goal, he says, is to use the company’s platform to democratize social and economic mobility for a wider population of people.

Pay and Mentors

In addition to three months of intensive, eight-hour-a-day coding instruction, the program also will provide wraparound services. That means paying participants while they’re going through the program, plus providing access to industry mentors. Classes will be free of charge.

The first cohort, which will include five to eight students, is slated to launch fourth quarter of this year. For Covid reasons, it will be conducted online.

Alumni will be able to apply to the 16-week Microsoft LEAP apprenticeship program, which provides on-the-job training. It they’re not accepted, they can still get job-hunting and career services help from Coding Dojo and various PSF partners.

So far, Coding Dojo and PFS have contributed about $25,000—$12,500 each—to fund the program. They’re also in the process of raising more money—a total of $50,000—from organizations and companies, like Goodwill, Microsoft and Zillow, according to Wang.

Looking for Grit

 PFS, a nonprofit that helps people in prison pursue an education and transition back to society, is taking care of recruiting formerly incarcerated individuals to join the program. Plus, they’re reaching out to potential employers. Applicants, who need at least a high school diploma or GED diploma, according to Wang, will go through an interview process.

“We need people who can go through some really tough material and not quit,” says Dirk van Velzen, PSF’s founder. “We’re looking for grit—interest and stick-to-itiveness.”

PFS contacted Coding Dojo in the spring about working together. Wang was immediately interested.

This isn’t the first time Coding Dojo has offered programming instruction for struggling populations. Starting about five year ago, it worked with Jewish Family Services to train highly skilled refugees—doctors, engineers and the like with skills that couldn’t be transferred to the U.S.  Funding for that effort was cut but, more recently, they’ve begin talking again about working together, according to Wang.

Driving Impact

Plus, Wang is considering launching a program for Afghan refugees in the Seattle area. As of earlier this month, about 1,700 Afghan evacuees were slated to be resettled in Washington State.

“We’re continually looking at how we can leverage the platform to drive impact,” says Wang.

Launched in 2013 in Bellevue, Wash., Coding Dojo has sites in Boise, Chicago, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley and also teaches international students online. (During the pandemic, all classes have been held remotely). Sessions last for three to five months, depending on whether they’re full-time or part-time.

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