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Digital marketing giant to contract Navajo coders

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Starting Monday, Navajo Nation graduates of New Mexico’s Cultivating Coders program will begin constructing web sites for one of the world’s largest digital marketing agencies.

The work is part of a new partnership between the New Mexico office of WSI — a Toronto-based firm with 1,000 franchises in over 80 countries — and Albuquerque startup Cultivating Coders, which offers intensive boot-camp training for aspiring web and software developers in under-served areas.

By next year, at least 40 boot-camp graduates in Farmington and Gallup will begin work on WSI contracts with starting pay  at $25 to $30 an hour, said Charles Ashley III, founder and president of Cultivating Coders.

“WSI will channel up to 50 web-development contracts per month next year, with plans for more later,” Ashley said. “About 40 hours of work usually goes into a simple website, and when it’s more complex, it can take a lot longer. This partnership will allow us to create information technology development hubs directly in Farmington and Gallup, providing employment opportunities for Native Americans and others in those areas.”

To date, about 74 percent of Cultivating Coders’ 54 program graduates are Native American, more than half of them women, Ashley said. The company expects to graduate another 150 people next year from its boot camps.

A lot more jobs could become available for those graduates because the local WSI office plans to channel contracts to local coders from WSI franchises worldwide, said Jukka Jumisko, local WSI franchisee.

“I will be the conduit for all WSI sites that want to use these services,” Jumisko told the Journal. “I’m fully confident these boot-camp graduates can handle this, and I’m passionate about helping these people.”

A team of graduates already built websites for two of Jumisko’s local clients as test runs for the partnership. And dozens of WSI franchisees worldwide have expressed interest, because many want to move away from India-based contractors who handle most website and other software development today.

WSI franchisees face a myriad of issues with India-based shops, such as language problems that can lead to errors and quality deficiencies, time zone differentials and non-synchronized work schedules that affect production, Jumisko said.

“WSI’s 1,000-plus offices contract for a lot of websites made in India, and that’s what we want to change,” Jumisko said. “I was looking for a partner to do websites for my own clients here in New Mexico, and then I met Cultivating Coders. Now we have much bigger plans for website development for WSI worldwide.”

Cultivating Coders, a startup that launched last December in Albuquerque, offers intensive, eight-week classes that turn lay people into full-stack developers for websites and software, including mobile apps.

The company has Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act certification, which allows low-income and disadvantaged students to receive federal aid for training. That’s helped it gain a lot of traction, including boot-camp contracts with the Farmington-based Epsicopal Church in Navajoland, the Navajo Nation’s Department of Self Reliance and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Albuquerque.

The WSI partnership now paves the way for Cultivating Coders’ long-term goal of providing good-paying jobs for program graduates.

“Our goal was and always has been to create technology hubs in places like Farmington and Gallup,” Ashley said. “I feel like we planted a cherry tree and now we’re seeing the first fruit growing right here in New Mexico.”

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