Ohio-based technology academy We Can Code IT plans to bring its digital skills training programs to Ashtabula County.

Later this year, it’s set to launch Ashtabula County Web Tech — a “technology talent pipeline” that will pair academy-trained workers with employers in need of those skills.

Officials are also after buy-in from area employers, many of whom have cited difficulty in finding skilled local workers.

The academy is already working with various community partners, according to a release from the academy.

“We’re doing some polling of our companies, contacting our companies to find out what IT skills they may be looking for and looking for an opportunity to pair them up with the training that’s offered in this program,” said Greg Myers, executive director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County.

By 2020, about 1 million IT jobs will go unfulfilled in the United States, according to the academy. Polls of 39 “key” county employers indicated 72 percent “found it difficult to find the technical resources needed” and 63 percent are looking “to hire one or more technical positions” this year.

Those companies are looking for workers skilled in database management, web development, the Java development platform, social media management, digital marketing and more, the release states.

“Those skills could be applied to healthcare, to retail, manufacturing,” Myers said. “That’s the nice thing about the skills they’re going to be teaching is the transferability to various industry segments.”

The 10-week courses are set to begin Sept. 11 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, with a couple hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings — at a county location that’s yet to be determined. The courses are open to Ashtabula County residents who have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent.

The courses will be mostly conducted in-person with instructors available to answer questions, “to ensure a high quality” and “make sure everyone understands it,” said Mel McGee, the academy’s CEO and founder. She said the academy, which runs coding “boot camps” in the Cleveland area, often advertises for qualified instructors, or invites IT experts with whom the academy is familiar.

“We’re always interviewing potential instructors to find the right fit,” she said. “We’re very hyper-focused on quality instruction.”

The courses cost $2,000. Employers who want to train up their workers can, however, sponsor their employees for that cost. Those without employer sponsorship are eligible for scholarships to cover some or all of the tuition, McGee said.

The company found about $296,000 in grants for students last year, according to its website.

“If someone’s unemployed, they will receive a full grant — period,” she said. “It will cost them nothing. ... (Employers are) getting something back. They’re getting a very well-trained person back.”

Those who complete the course earn a certification from the academy, McGee said.

The academy also needs area employers to be on board, said Kristy Amy, marketing vice president. The company’s recent surveys not only identified the area’s web skill needs but also sought businesses looking to volunteer and interview academy graduates, she said.

“At the end of the day, if we can work with the people who are passionate about making this work ... we’re part of the solution,” she said.

“A big core of (county employers) are looking for a broad base of technical expertise — somebody that knows some web, some database. A lot of companies are looking to add expertise in the social media space.

“To me, that says companies know they need to do more in the digital space and don’t know where to begin.”

Commissioner J.P. Ducro IV said county officials are “excited” for new tech-training options in the county. He said specialized technology training will “fill a huge void.”

“I am especially encouraged that this training often leads to jobs that earn a living wage to support a family,” he said. “Creating a trained workforce is crucial to business growing and locating in our community.”

For employers looking to learn more or hire graduates of the program, or to apply or nominate someone for the program, visit https://wecancodeit.org/ashtabula.

Justin Dennis covers southern Ashtabula County for the Star Beacon. He can be reached at (440) 998-2323 ext. 124. Follow him on Twitter @JustinDennis.

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