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Omaha Code School students getting hired by “supporting employers”

Flywheel. Lemonly. Agape Red. Errvin & Smith. Those are some of Omaha Code School's employer partners. They're also some of the companies that have hired code school graduates in recent weeks. At least four of 12 students have been hired for jobs while others have internships or plans to move.

Omaha Code School students graduated from the inaugural class on May 16. Since, many have found jobs.

Flywheel. Lemonly. Agape Red. Ervin & Smith.

Those are some of Omaha Code School‘s employer partners. They’re also some of the companies that have hired code school graduates in recent weeks. At least four of 12 students have been hired for jobs while others have internships or plans to move.

  • Andy Von Dohren was first hired as a junior Rails developer at Flywheel, a WordPress site-hosting company in Omaha.
  • Todd Nichols took a position as junior developer at Agape Red, a dev shop in Omaha.
  • Michael Todd will move to Sioux Falls, S.D., to create at Lemonly, a infographic creation company.
  • Cara Heacock will work at Ervin & Smith, a digital marketing agency.
  • Matt Hovanec will do a three-month stint at iGroup Creative before he and his wife/fellow code school classmate, Kaitlyn, seek to move to San Francisco, a lifelong dream of theirs.

Code School co-founder Sumeet Jain said he’s heard positive feedback from the employers already, saying they are getting access to a qualified pool of candidates for a fraction of what it would cost to recruit. 

The $900-1,500 partnerships help offset the cost of the school for students while employers get a table at OCS’ job fair, get to present their company during class and get to give input on the type of curriculum that would meet their job needs.

“The private job fair we held for our supporting employers and graduates was truly unique,” Jain said. “Eight interested companies and eleven qualified job-seekers—that’s a powerful ratio.

“I’m proud that my students are seeking jobs at prestigious, innovative companies. The list of places where they’re placed reads like a who’s who of Silicon Prairie leaders.”

Providing an ecosystem that benefits everyone

For Rick Knudtson of Flywheel and Dave Kerber of Agape Red, partnering with Code School was mutually beneficial. Both sad they wanted to contribute to the developer community, but both were growing their companies and needed to hire people. The Midwest has developed a reputation for a lack of talent, but both refuted that claim, too.

“I don’t think we have a talent shortage in Omaha, we have a skills shortage,” Kerber said. “We have an abundance of talented working people here, but not enough employers willing to invest in them to give them skills they need.

“We’re happy to identify good talent and teach them good skills.”

For Agape Red, it was beneficial that Code School pre-screened students who could learn quickly and think with an entrepreneurial mindset. 

Kerber said it’s difficult to teach a lot in 12 weeks, and he doesn’t have an expectation for their hire, Todd Nichols, to come in and tackle a project by himself, but he knows he can come in and start learning. He will work as an intern for 90 days and it could turn into a full-time gig.  

“We want to make sure they do another class so we can keep hiring [their students],” Kerber said. 

Finding the right fit

Michael Todd has applied to jobs in Omaha, Lincoln and Chicago that aren’t associated with OCS.

Most didn’t even bat an eye.

“My resume didn’t seem to impress people outside the supporting employers,” Todd said. “Others might not be as eager to try out a code school student.”

But that’s the beauty of Code School’s setup, he said. He credits co-founders Sumeet Jain and Rahul Gupta.

“They had 10 employers willing to interview us, get to know us and learn about our different backgrounds,” Todd said. “Once employers talked to us, they could get a feel for who we were and what we were good at.

“Jonathon [another code school student] was a construction worker so they see his tremendous work ethic that maybe others don’t have.”

Todd, who has a background in journalism, music and a bit of design, will be a junior developer for Lemonly, working on interactive one-page website infographics. It fits the vein of his background and he’s happy with his decision to quit his job and do Code School. 

“We took a little bit of a chance on this new school, but I think we’re all happy with the way it turned out,” he said.

For employers to be happy, it takes some tempering of expectations, and Knudtson of Flywheel knew that. Part of his company’s goal in hiring is to find people who will be lifelong learners, he said. That was the case for Von Dohren.

“He may not be as experienced as our senior developers, but that’s not what we expect of him,” Knudtson said. “We’re excited that Andy has shown a commitment to learning and he will learn and knows how to work hard. His character stands alone. At Flywheel, we want to focus on growing the individual.”

Matt and Kaitlyn Hovanec are deferring full-time jobs with supporting employers and instead will work for iGroup Creative, a web design shop in Omaha, before looking for work in the Bay Area. It may not be as easy as working for a supporting employer, but the couple has wanted to move out of Nebraska for a while.

“We recognize how many opportunities there are in the Midwest and it’s hard to leave, especially with all the OCS sponsors pursuing talent,” Matt said. “There are so many great things here, too.” 

But he feels their coding skills will open new doors, new contacts for them. It’s already started to work. They’re traveling there next week to lay out feelers, meeting with 10-15 people whose jobs they admire and would like to have a similar one.

“Finding a job out there is almost like trying to attract a girl,” Matt said. “You don’t want to ask them on a date right away, you ease into it, build those friendships. And that’s exactly what we want to do out there: learn from others, tell them what we’re about and hopefully at some point, there’s an intersection.”

He hopes to connect his hardware skills with his software skills in a job.

Knudtson said he believes all the students will get placed in jobs and continue to grow and learn in them. Todd agrees. 

“We learned how to write code that works in projects, but there’s still a learning process to turning that functional code into beautiful, more concise code,” Todd said. “It’s a matter of us all honing our skills.”

The need is there

There’s still a need. More than 500 programming jobs are listed on CareerLink.com, a job site dedicated to tech jobs.

Before Omaha Code School and Interface School launched, some questioned whether the schools, which cost in the thousands of dollars, are really worth it compared to free, self-taught online courses. Some worried about getting jobs after they quit their own stable jobs to go to school for three months. As of now, it’s proving not to be a problem. While not everyone has been hired, students say they aren’t worried.

Students say they weren’t only paying for the instruction; it’s also the mentorship and connection.

Knudtson says more companies should get involved, whether that’s being a supporting employer or having a table at the job fair, or just spreading the word about Code School.

He’d like to see OCS grow with larger classes. The need is out there.

“As we grow as a company, we’ll always need technologists,” he said. “We believe in OCS and want to invest in developers at any level,” he said.

Omaha Code School’s second class begins July 28.

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