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ABQ firm takes boot camp concept on the road

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Charles Sandidge, left, and Charles Ashley III, co-founders of Cultivating Coders, at the South by Southwest conference in Texas March 11-15. (Photo by esurance, provided courtesy of Cultivating Coders)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque-based Cultivating Coders is taking its new, intensive boot-camp training for aspiring web developers straight to the masses, beginning with Native American students in northwestern New Mexico.

The company, which formed in late 2015, signed a deal this month with the Farmington-based Episcopal Church in Navajoland to train up to 45 tribal students in three eight-week classes. As part of the arrangement, the company will help the church establish a local software development shop for program graduates that can provide immediate employment opportunities for students, said Charles Ashley III, co-founder and president of Cultivating Coders.

The partnership with Navajoland is the company’s first formal gig and one that reflects Cultivating Coders’ founding goal of providing under-served communities with access to training and job opportunities through mobile boot camps in rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods.

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“We’re excited about this partnership, because apart from the boot camps, we’ve agreed to fully create a software shop together with the community,” Ashley said.

The company’s business model is garnering broad attention. It won first place at the prestigious Tech.co Startup Night pitch competition at the annual South by Southwest technology conference in Austin, Texas, this month, making it Tech.co’s 2016 “Startup of the Year.”

Ashley formed Cultivating Coders with business partner Charles Sandidge, whom he met while serving as marketing manager for Central New Mexico Community College’s STEMulus Center. Sandidge is a recent graduate of the Center’s Deep Dive Coding program.

The two realized boot camps are often inaccessible for people in rural areas and many urban zones where distance from training sites is an impediment and program costs are often prohibitive for low-income households. Mobile training takes boot camps straight into communities. And the company now has Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act certification, allowing low-income students and people in under-served areas to receive federal aid for training.

The company has partnerships with local businesses to provide internships, and students give back by working on web and software projects for organizations during the program.

“I think it’s a brilliant concept,” said Charles Rath, president and CEO of the Albuquerque-based information technology firm Resilient Solutions 21. “We’ve committed to provide internships to select graduates interested in what we do.”

Coding boot camps are growing nationally because they rapidly prepare people for high-wage jobs that are difficult to fill, said John Mierzwa, director of STEMulus initiatives.

“Demand for developers in general just keeps going up,” Mierzwa said.

The mobile concept is new, said Charles Sandidge.

“In some places, programs offer mobile workshops, but not full mobile training courses for under-served communities,” Sandidge said.


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