Iron Yard to offer intensive coding course

Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-18 07:00:39-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati soon will have a new training option for prospective programmers.

The Iron Yard is slated to open its first Ohio campus in Over-the-Rhine, with a back-end engineering course kicking off May 23. 

“The fact that they’re looking here is very flattering,” said Eric Weissmann, director of marketing for startup community catalyst Cintrifuse.

The Iron Yard is a South Carolina-based coding school offering courses in back- and front-end engineering, data science, design and mobile engineering. Each course is an immersive 12-week experience, covering a different topic nearly every day.

What that looks like, in terms of the back-end engineering course, is five days a week of lecture and lab time learning to use programming languages Java and Clojure. Students will learn about the fundamentals of the languages, storing data and debugging and testing programs, among other things. 

Between lectures, labs and homework assignments, students can expect to spend between 60 and 80 hours a week on course work, said Eric Dodds, chief marketing officer for The Iron Yard.

“It’s a very fast-paced, immersive experience,” he said.

The coding school, which took shape in 2013, was created to help fill the need for programmers at startups coming out of The Iron Yard Accelerator. Now with 20 campuses in the United States and United Kingdom, relationships built in the company’s early days as an accelerator are helping bring it to Cincinnati.

“We started out as an accelerator program … and actually had connections in Cincinnati long before we launched our code school,” Dodds said.

Before launching a campus, the company’s leaders look at job listings over a three-month period, to verify the steady need for programmers in the area. They also meet with representatives for local businesses to determine what jobs they’re hiring for and what skills they seek in candidates.

In the last 90 days, there have been more than 1,200 job openings for software developers in Cincinnati, Dodds said. Of those openings, almost 400 were junior-level positions. Iron Yard representatives expect to produce about 150 graduates each year to help fill those jobs.

“We think this is a great addition to our ecosystem,” Weissmann said.

While colleges and universities can prepare students for programming careers, Iron Yard’s emphasis on employers’ needs helps set the school apart.

“We focus on a very, very specific skill set that’s in demand with employers,” Dodds said.

The courses’ hands-on programming lessons help students build portfolios of code to share with potential employers.

“We’re giving students proof they can give to employers that they’re ready for a junior-level job as a software developer,” Dodds said.

The school’s leaders are still establishing hiring partners and working to put together an advisory board, which will meet quarterly to share employers’ needs and what they’re seeing in the market. Iron Yard representatives have been in talks with representatives for Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Macy’s, Cintrifuse and longtime Cincinnati connection The Brandery.

“We’re in active conversations with people across the spectrum of companies that need to hire software developers,” Dodds said.

In addition to the back-end engineering course, The Iron Yard will offer a front-end engineering course starting July 18. Each course costs $12,000.

Free one-night crash courses also are available “to allow people to dip their toe in the water and learn a new skill,” Dodds said. Free code classes also are available for kids.

Depending on employers’ needs, more courses may be added later. 

“We’ll collect feedback through the advisory board to possibly offer more courses in the future,” Dodds said.