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Cultivating Coders, RS21 team up on apprenticeships

Starting this summer, high school seniors and recent graduates could jump from an eight-week boot camp straight into paid apprenticeships at a fast-growing Albuquerque software startup.

Cultivating Coders and local software company RS21 announced a new partnership last week to create pathways for youngsters to immediately pursue coding careers as RS21 apprentices after graduating from Cultivating Coders’ free, eight-week summer boot camps. Eligible youth will earn a minimum of $15 an hour to start, with up to 40 hours a week depending on their schedules, said RS21 founder and President Charles Rath.

“For companies like ours to thrive, we need a robust pipeline of world-class talent coming from our own state,” Rath said. “I’ve seen firsthand how Cultivating Coders is able to rapidly train kids. It’s mind-blowing the skills they come away with.”

RS21 will offer up to five apprenticeships after every summer program, and possibly more in future years, Rath said.

Other local companies are expected to join the partnership this year, potentially offering dozens more apprenticeships, said Cultivating Coders founder and President Charles Ashley III.

“It’s the next logical step for our high school graduates,” Ashley said. “RS21 is the first one to make this commitment, but we want to partner with as many local companies as possible. We’re concluding negotiations now with half a dozen other firms that could lead to 30 or more paid apprenticeships every year.”

Software startup 11Online will join the partnership in January, offering one or two apprenticeships annually, said CEO Alonso Indacochea.

That company was formed by graduates of Central New Mexico Community College’s Deep Dive Coding boot camp, and it employs many Deep Dive alumni.

“Our company is founded on people from nontraditional backgrounds who are breaking into software programming,” Indacochea said. “We’re excited about this partnership because it targets young high school seniors and graduates right at the start of their careers.”

Cultivating Coders launched in 2015 to provide affordable, mobile coding boot camps for adults in underserved rural and urban areas. In 2016, it formed a nonprofit arm to offer free summer camps for middle and high school students in Albuquerque’s South Valley and other places, with 120 graduates to date.

“We have three years of data showing that once kids complete our program, they’re capable of going into the real world to contribute to businesses,” Ashley said. “Now, senior graduates who put in the commitment can get rewarded with something that could be life changing.”

For RS21, which creates user-friendly web platforms for data analytics, the partnership could help it staff up as it expands its offices and operations at the Occidental Life Building Downtown. The company is approved for $800,000 in Local Economic Development Act funding during the expansion, which will more than double its workforce from about 40 now to 100, Rath said.

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