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‘It makes total sense’

Charles Ashley III, founder/president of Cultivating Coders, at the company's office in April 2018. Cultivating Coders is providing training for a new IT apprenticeship program. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Charles Ashley III, founder/president of Cultivating Coders, at the company’s office in April 2018. Cultivating Coders is providing training for a new IT apprenticeship program. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

There’s a new way to become a computer whiz in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions on Tuesday announced a new information technology career pathway program in which chosen students will take a 12-week computer coding boot camp, followed by an eight-week apprenticeship at a local tech company. The goal is to create a path to gain educational and professional experience in a high-paying field in a relatively short time span.

bright spot“We’re going to be allowing students to get the skills they need to go … into jobs right away,” said Bill McCamley, state Cabinet secretary for the Department of Workforce Solutions.

McCamley said the department will begin accepting applications for the apprenticeship program in the fall, which will lead to an initial class of between 10 and 15 students. Their education will be funded with money the state receives from the federal government as part of the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act, he said.

Cultivating Coders will provide a 12-week educational course, after which students will get a certificate and start an eight-week apprenticeship at one of several local tech companies that have committed to taking on the program graduates.

Cultivating Coders has trained more than 200 students in the past four years, the vast majority of whom have been people of color and women, who are underrepresented in the tech field, said CEO Charles Ashley III.

He said the ages of students selected for the apprenticeship program will likely be between 17 and 29. But there’s no set criteria or minimum requirements for students to get in the program, officials said.

Applicants will be chosen jointly by the workforce solutions department and Cultivating Coders on a case-by-case basis, McCamley said.

The selected students will get a living stipend of $1,200 month while enrolled in the educational part of the program.

“We’re trying to eliminate as many barriers as possible so people can come and focus on the training itself,” Ashley said. “When you eliminate those life stressors, it allows people to focus on the training.”

Charles Rath, the CEO of RS21, a growing tech company based Downtown and committed to offering apprenticeships, said many of those apprenticeships will lead to permanent jobs. And he said the program will also benefit local tech companies trying to create pipelines for local students.

“It makes total sense for organizations like ours to be located here in New Mexico, where we have a deep history of science and engineering,” Rath said. “… But what our state is missing are examples of places to apply (science and engineering skills) and be truly creative.”

It costs about $10,000 to train a student in the Cultivating Coders program, Ashley said.

McCamley said that though the initial class will be offered to only about a dozen students, the career pathways program could grow into the future.

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