Ed-Tech Tidbits: Launch Academy, LearnLaunch Step Out

1/17/13Follow @gthuang

Everyone talks about the technical talent crunch in Boston (and other hubs). Few do anything about it.

But today is all about the “launch.” More specifically, Launch Academy. And, secondarily, LearnLaunch.

Launch Academy is an interesting new 10-week program designed to train new Web developers and help them land jobs in Boston-area tech companies. The first class starts May 1, in the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square, and student applications are now open. The program is organized by founders Evan Charles and Dan Pickett. They are shooting for 25 students in their inaugural class, and some have already been accepted. (You can read more about the program here.)

Charles writes in an e-mail, “We aim to play a role in offsetting the talent gap that exists within the Web development industry so that Boston’s tech companies can continue to prosper and thwart the ‘brain drain’ that is Silicon Valley.”

Those companies have a chance to get directly involved with Launch Academy. The program will have a “hiring day,” which is analogous to a “demo day” for startup accelerators; companies there will get to recruit students as junior developers. Some money issues: The course costs $10,000, and the program will pay a student up to $5,000 if he or she goes to work with a participating company. In turn, the company will pay Launch Academy a recruiting fee of 20 percent of the graduate’s first-year salary. That helps cover six months of post-grad support and structured mentorship after the 10 weeks are up.

“We think the full alignment between students, Launch Academy, and hiring companies is one of the things that makes us different than traditional education,” Charles says. “Our instructing mentors are incentivized to train at a high level so that students get jobs at hiring day and do well in those jobs so that companies come back for more talent at future hiring days.”

This looks to be an important addition to the non-traditional education cluster around Boston, which has seen the likes of Boston Startup School, Intelligent.ly, and General Assembly sprout up in the past year (focused on entrepreneurship), as well as efforts at MIT, Harvard, and other top universities. Together with accelerators such as MassChallenge and TechStars, these efforts seem to be reshaping the paths that people from all walks of life can take to become engaged in the local—and national—tech scene.

As for LearnLaunch, the Boston ed-tech nonprofit has unveiled the content and structure of its inaugural conference. The event is happening Feb. 1-2 at MIT, and its keynoters include Anant Agarwal of MIT’s and Harvard’s edX and John Katzman of Noodle (and founder of The Princeton Review). Some topics up for discussion: ed-tech adoption, selling to K-12 vs. higher education, new learning models, and investment trends.

All in all, there is a lot of activity in educational entrepreneurship around town. The traditional constructs of the field could end up changing a lot faster than we thought.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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