One of the Country’s Largest Coding Schools Opens Detroit Campus

The Iron Yard, one of the biggest coding schools in the nation, today announced that it’s opening a Detroit campus, probably in the vicinity of downtown.

Starting next month, the Iron Yard will offer two 12-week programs—one devoted to teaching front-end coding skills, and one that covers back-end coding. Each course costs $12,000 per student, though there are some scholarships available (more on that below). As for why the Iron Yard chose to open a Detroit location, the school’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, Eric Dodds, said it typically sets up shop in places where the demand for tech talent far outpaces supply.

With more than 600 developer jobs posted in the last 90 days alone, Dodds said, “Detroit is a great city in general, but there’s an energy around rebuilding that is really exciting to us. People are truly interested in making technology a central part of the economy.”

The Iron Yard was launched three years ago by Dodds and Peter Barth. They originally set out to nurture software startups at the Next Big Thing accelerator in Greenville, SC, but they realized almost immediately there was a fundamental challenge getting in the way: an “acute need” for better local programming talent.

“We decided to solve our own problem by creating a training program where, at the end, graduates could jump right into a junior developer job,” Dodds explained. “From there, it took on a life of its own. We started getting calls from surrounding cities with the same issue: huge demand and not enough supply. We stepped back, reconfigured, and launched our coding school.”

Today, the Iron Yard is in 20 U.S. cities, with an additional campus in the United Kingdom. Dodds said when the Iron Yard is first researching a city it wants to move into, representatives talk with local businesses to find out what their tech-talent needs are. “We make sure we’re offering material that fits with the skills they’re looking for,” he added.

The Iron Yard was interested in Detroit after President Obama included the Motor City in his TechHire initiative, an effort to teach workers in 21 American cities coding and other technological skills. Detroit also proved to be interesting, Dodds said, because there are so many legacy businesses here “trying to transform into tech companies” or implementing significant new processes that involve coding and software.

“For us, it was an exciting opportunity to engage with these legacy companies and industries,” he said. “And with the way software is being integrated into vehicles, we thought we might be able to help provide some of the talent making advances in that area.”

Enrollment is now open; classes begin on March 14. After the students spend 60 to 80 hours per week for three months learning front-end or back-end coding skills, the Iron Yard holds a demo day to showcase what they’ve learned. Dodds said the tuition fee covers post-graduate matchmaking with prospective employers.

The school offers $1,000 “diversity scholarships” to students who are traditionally underrepresented in technology—women, for instance—which Dodds said are subsidized directly by Iron Yard staffers. Because the Iron Yard seeks to become a citizen of the local tech community, it also offers free crash courses and kids’ programs, usually held one night per week for six weeks.

“[The free courses are] for anyone who wants to dip their toe in the water,” Dodds said. “It’s a great way for people to get exposed to coding.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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