Downtown computer software academy to graduate first class

Downtown computer software academy to graduate first class

Written by Alan Snel

Las Vegas’ reputation as a market in demand for computer software programmers and tech workers is getting around, so Eric Dodds figured Las Vegas was fertile ground to launch a new academy to teach software coding.

Based in a 5,000-square-foot space in the Las Vegas Arts District, the school called The Iron Yard is graduating its first class on Sept. 8 after christening its 12-week program on June 29. The Iron Yard has schools in 20 cities, with plans to open academies in San Antonio, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C. The Las Vegas space at 1112 S. Casino Center across from the Arts Center was previously used by Shift, which was the former Downtown Project-funded, car-sharing business, and by an art gallery.

Las Vegas tech companies such as Banjo have complained the local workforce lacks the tech know-how needed to fill positions, so Dodds believes his Greenville, S.C.-based school chain can teach the skills necessary in a dozen weeks to make students job-ready. He said there are 80 software development job postings every 90 days in Las Vegas.

“From day one, we try to simulate the actual things they do on an actual job,” Dodds said. Dodds was in Las Vegas Thursday for a community dinner at the school, where prospective employers were expected to join Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilman Bob Coffin to recognize the school at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Two teachers hold lectures in the morning, then students work on projects and homework in the afternoons. Iron Yard, founded in 2012, holds three 12-week sessions a year. A 12-week program costs $12,000.

The nine students in the inaugural class can expect jobs that pay $40,000 to $60,000 a year, said Tish Looker, the Las Vegas campus director. The students range in age from 18 to about 50, and have various backgrounds. Their previous jobs included being a yoga teacher, electrician and dog trainer.

The former yoga teacher is student Traci Armstrong, who has a computer engineering degree from the University of Florida before teaching yoga in Florida.

She received a $3,000 scholarship from Downtown Project’s VegasTechFund toward her $12,000 tuition bill.

“It’s a great way to get up to speed on getting a job,” Armstrong said.

The Iron Yard self-funded its financing to open its first 10 schools, before an investor helped with funding the schools after that, Dodds said. He said the costs of opening a school varies based on the market and did not know how much it cost to open the Las Vegas location.

The Iron Yard receives no funding from Downtown Project, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s $350 million initiative to redevelop a downtown area along the Fremont Street corridor. But Zappos is a prospective employer for Itron Yard graduates and Downtown Project’s tech arm, VegasTechFund, does provide scholarships.

It competes against two- and four-year computer software degree programs and online programs.

The Iron Yard is good for students who want to “bite the bullet, put their nose to the grindstone for 12 weeks and get job-ready,” Dodds said.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel

Downtown computer software academy to graduate first class