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CNM Ingenuity: earning cash for college, students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque residents can thank novice coding students for next year’s debut of a free, online website that will directly match individuals with the local resources that best fit their needs.

Students and recent graduates of the Deep Dive coding program at Central New Mexico Community College’s STEMulus Center Downtown built the new website under a $50,000 contract with the Albuquerque Partnership for Community Action. A grant from the McCune Foundation allowed the community group to hire Deep Dive interns through the new CNM Ingenuity Software Labs, a novel STEMulus entity set up to employ both students and alumni on commercial projects with paying customers.

CNM Ingenuity, a nonprofit established by CNM to manage commercial activities, launched the software labs as a revenue-generating business that earns financial resources for the college while allowing students to get paid for real-world experience.

“It’s a virtuous cycle,” said CNM Ingenuity Executive Director Kyle Lee. “We identify work opportunities and then hire interns to do it. They’re now working on some large projects.”

The initiative has generated about $250,000 in revenue so far this year, employing 15 current students and recent graduates.

Apart from the Community Action Project, students are now building a website portal for the Department of Workforce Solutions to guide people into internship opportunities across the state. They’re also working on a $25,000 contract with the city to build websites and apps for businesses along Central Avenue affected by construction of the Albuquerque Rapid Transport project.

“We’ve done about a half dozen projects to date,” said John Mierzwa, CNM’s director of STEMulus initiatives.

Real-world experience hones students’ new-found skills while building a resume to help find jobs after graduation, Mierzwa added.

The Deep Dive coding program, which launched in 2014, has graduated 118 students from ten boot camps to date. Alumni have since launched seven new information technology businesses, some of which have worked with Ingenuity Software Labs. Students from other computer-related programs have also served as interns.

CNM charges commercial rates for contracts, which can range from a few thousand dollars for a simple website to $100,000 or more for a complex project, Lee said.

Adri├ín Pedroza, Partnership for Community Action’s social enterprise and development director, said he’s happy with the results.

“I’ve been quite satisfied with what we’ve accomplished,” Pedroza said. “The students are getting good experience while helping our organization. There’s a lot of talk about growing Albuquerque’s technology workforce, and we’re happy to be a part of that.”

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