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CoderGirl course aims to draw more women into tech field

St. Louis-based group LaunchCode offers program
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Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 26, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Megan Orton had been a stay-at-home mother for two years, but was looking to build the skills needed to reenter the workforce.

She tried tried several self-guided online courses, but felt she needed something more structured. Then in January, she graduated from LaunchCode 101.

The course is part of LaunchCode, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that offers free technical education classes. After completing the course, Orton landed a job in the DevOps department of a local advertising company. She credits LaunchCode with preparing her for a new career.

"It really taught me to look at how to solve problems, not necessarily the solution to each problem I'm going to face every day, but it changed my way of thinking," she said.

Now, LaunchCode is aiming to draw more women like Orton into the tech field with CoderGirl, a new, free course in the Kansas City area aimed at helping more self-identifying women and non-binary people enter the tech field.

CoderGirl participants choose one of three specialized tracks: Data analysis, Introduction to product, or Java web development. After completing the course, they also have access to LaunchCode's job-readiness program, Liftoff, and its apprenticeship program.

The company partners with several local tech companies to potentially place students in paid apprenticeships. LaunchCode said 87% of placements turn into full-time job offers.

Its original course, LC 101, has been offered in Kansas City for several years and is open to anyone.

It's especially timely, given the COVID-19 pandemic's effect on women.

Between February 2020 and February 2021, 2.4 million women left the workforce, compared to 1.8 million men, according to Pew Research Center.

At the same time, demand for skilled tech workers is at an all-time high. In 2020, Kansas City added more than 1,700 new tech jobs, according to KC Tech Council. That's the largest increase since 2017.

"We want to be a solution to the current tech gap that we're experiencing," said Kate Kershaw, managing director of company relations at LaunchCode.

CoderGirl applications are open now. The deadline to apply is Sept. 12. Classes begin Oct. 18 and take place virtually once per week. Students are expected to spend at least 15 hours per week on coursework outside of class.

The application is available on the LaunchCode website.