May 12, 2021 - 4:09 pm
The tccodes and tccyber journey: Providing the Grand Traverse region with new avenues for tech educationBy Keith E. Kelly, Program Manager, tccodes & tccyber
I often hike sections of the Appalachian Trail and as awesome as it is, it always feels good to walk the final route back to the truck and take my boots off for the last time. The drive home is filled with thoughts of the trip – both highlights and what to do differently next time.
The journey of a grant project is very similar. You plan your route, take that first step, and adjust your course along the way to end up at your destination. Yay, we have arrived, and yes, with very significant course corrections along the way.
At 20Fathoms we just wrapped up a grant that we received in 2019 from the state of Michigan to provide the Grand Traverse Region with a new avenue for obtaining high-quality, career-focused technical education. The grant project became tccodes and tccyber. Here’s a look at our journey — how far we’ve come and what’s next.
250+ Northern Michigan Residents Participated
tccodes and tccyber is designed to not only provide high-quality tech education, but to be highly accessible, welcoming, and supportive for all learners. And we think this is something worth celebrating: 250+ people have attended one or more tccodes/tccyber events! Program participants include:
- Newbies learning the basics of coding and exploring new opportunities
- Developers beginning their careers and supplementing their education with coaching and mentorship
- Career changers gaining new tech skills and mentorship as they prepare for a new profession
- Experienced tech professionals networking and learning new skillsets from their peers
- Computer science teachers learning the latest tech skills to pass along to their students
- Local employers providing insights related to their needs for tech talent and skillsets
Responding to a Community’s Needs
We are big believers in Agile principles and we applied this iterative, solutions-focused approach to tccodes and tccyber in order to best meet the needs of our participants as well as respond to the realities of COVID.
Our program began with stand-alone in-person workshops, capped off by pizza and networking. Along the way we evolved to provide in-depth, multi-week virtual courses facilitated with community nights that enabled cross-functional sharing.
We also launched tccyber, applying our learnings from tccodes to a new program for cybersecurity professionals. Participants in our spring cohort are eligible to take the next step in their careers with certification in the field.
Partnerships Open Doors for Additional Opportunities
Through our partnership with the Center on Rural Innovation, we offered scholarships for tech education through Udacity’s online learning platform. Twenty people in the Grand Traverse Region completed foundational courses and gained new job skills in digital marketing, business analytics, and front-end development. Three of them went on to earn nanodegrees.
ROI of Learning Communities
Through tccodes and tccyber we have created valuable connections focused on education between local professionals.
Often the value is immediate: a new tool or technique shared during a workshop can be applied to a participant’s work right away. Other times the effect may be more long-term, as a young professional decides to pivot toward a career in coding, or a recent professional development listed on a resume leads to a new job opportunity.
The biggest impact may be a far-reaching ROI as the local tech professionals in our program not only provide peer-to-peer professional development, but also inspire new coding education in area schools and new software development and cybersecurity initiatives across the state.
A Critical Piece of the Puzzle
Our broader tech and start-up ecosystem understands how crucial tech talent is to their success as software development and cybersecurity have become critical services. tccodes and tccyber are now recognized as workforce development initiatives designed to address talent gaps and help meet demands for high-quality IT professionals.
What’s Next for tccodes and tccyber
We’ll be taking a recess from our courses for the next few months, so please enjoy summer in Northern Michigan. Meanwhile, our team will be busy planning for the future, including:
- Continuing to build our community of professionals
- Engaging more subject-matter experts to teach courses
- Getting back to in-person events
- Expanding our network of employers
- Creating an annual startup event and hackathon
- Developing new internship and apprenticeship opportunities
- Expanding digital transformation and digital literacy
How You Can Help
tccodes and tccyber are programs of 20Fathoms, a nonprofit organization. We launched these initiatives with funding from the MICA 2.0 grant provided by Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. That grant has ended, and we are now actively seeking funds to continue our workforce development for the Grand Traverse Region.
Do you know of any grants or funding opportunities that might support our work? Please email Keith and let us know. We want to continue this robust learning community but we need to secure funding to make this all happen.