Tech Elevator, a programming boot camp, helps Cincinnatians reboot their careers

CINCINNATI -- Mary-Rachael Brown earned a Bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Kansas. But fourteen weeks ago, she realized she didn't want to make it her career, she said -- instead, she wanted to take her father's advice and look into programming.

"He said I'd be good at it," she said Tuesday. "I finally listened, and I dabbled in code a little bit, and I really loved it."

So much, in fact, she quit her job to fully immerse herself in Tech Elevator, a 14-week bootcamp for people who want to change their lives by learning to code. Brown's classmates come from backgrounds just as atypical as hers: Radio broadcasters, police officers, financial analysts and other adult professionals who decided to take a big chance on a new skill.

"It's amazing," Tech Elevator director Rita Stall said. "Most of them come in here not having written a line of code in their entire lives, and by the time they graduate, we get to watch the amazing applications they develop."

Businesses in and around Cincinnati posted about 4,700 technology jobs in 2017, Stall said, but only 300 people graduated from local colleges and universities with tech degrees. 

She wants to fill the 4,400-job gap with people from the Greater Cincinnati area, and she's already making a dent. Many participants in Tech Elevator, including Brown, receive job offers before graduation.

However, making it to that graduation is a process that requires commitment and a powerful work ethic from students. 

"We have a very intense screening process," she said. "We want to make sure the individuals coming here will successfully complete the program."

Once they're admitted and have made the first of two $7,000 payments for the program, students spend the next 14 weeks in a "fully immersive" programming course that teaches basic programming language, database management and even how to develop an app.

"By the time they're finished here, they're ready to be a full-stack software engineer," Stall said. "There's a massive demand for talent in this market that's just not being filled by traditional education models."

She hopes her non-traditional model will compensate.

Anyone interested in participating in Tech Elevator can learn more about the program online.

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