The sites for a pair of technology-centered programs that are part of a recently announced regional network to spur digital workforce and economic development in Missouri have been revealed.
The Efactory, Missouri State University’s business incubator, and various locations operated by Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, along with several schools in the Queen City and Branson area, will host programs beginning in August developed by Cape Girardeau-based technology incubator Codefi LLC. Rollout for the programs was announced at a May 19 event hosted by the Efactory.
The event was the second in as many months featuring Efactory and Codefi officials, as the organizations previously unveiled the launch of the Southern Missouri Innovation Network, dubbed Innovate SOMO, in Cape Girardeau.
“The objective of the first-of-its-kind regional network is to accelerate innovation, workforce and economic development across 47 counties in southern Missouri,” said Rachel Anderson, Efactory director, via email. “We believe this is the largest regional workforce and business development network in the state’s history.”
Anderson said Efactory and Codefi envision expanding the network as more communities express interest and funding is obtained to deliver services.
Codefi programs set to expand later this year in southern Missouri are Code Labs, a skills-based software developer training program for adults seeking entry-level development roles, and Youth Coding League, a co-curricular education program that introduces fifth through eighth graders to computer science and coding.
In the lab
Code Labs covers front-end, back-end and database development, ensuring graduates have a well-rounded skill set and are prepared to enter the workforce. Its front-end development course in Springfield is set for Aug. 15-Dec. 16 on Monday and Thursday evenings at the Efactory.
The one-year program is available to working adults with no prior technology background or education. Up to 30 people are admitted per cohort, and it’s free to participants, according to officials.
Codefi co-founder James Stapleton said recruitment campaigns for the Code Labs cohort in Springfield will begin in June. However, an online application is now available at CodefiWorks.com/codelabs. Deadline to apply is July 18, and a virtual course option is offered for southern Missouri residents.
“We also conduct personal interviews with every applicant,” Stapleton said. “We really want to make sure that anyone that gets involved, there’s at least a pretty good likelihood they can be successful.”
The program is split into two parts, covering front-end and back-end web development. Stapleton said that allows for two cohorts to run simultaneously twice a year, with the classes expected to start in January 2023.
“We anticipate really high demand for the program,” he said of Code Labs, which started in southeast Missouri in 2016 and has trained over 300 adults. “We’ve learned a lot over that time frame and what it takes to help people successfully enter and stay in these jobs.”
Codefi Foundation on Rural Innovation, Efactory and Crowder College in Neosho will receive nearly $1 million in seed funding over two years from the state for new and existing Codefi programs, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The sum includes a $250,000 grant Efactory was awarded earlier this year from the Missouri Technology Corp.
Code Labs programs with high schoolers also are planned for August in Carthage, Joplin and Neosho, in collaboration with Crowder College.
Youth Coding League is an after-school program for middle school and junior high school students that uses Google’s CS First curriculum and the Scratch programming language. Through a partnership with the local Boys & Girls Clubs nonprofit, eight sites will have access to the program when the next school year begins in the fall, according to officials. Efactory’s grant from the MTC will cover the program’s cost in Springfield, Stapleton said.
The designated Boys & Girls Clubs sites are:
Boys & Girls Club CEO Brandy Harris said the Efactory connected with her about partnering for the Youth Coding League program. It was an easy yes, she said.
“When I met with Efactory and Codefi to learn more about this program, it was so special,” she said via email. “As they were talking to me about their goals and their why, it was clear that our missions aligned.”
Harris said the program initially will be implemented at the eight sites with a small group of club members.
“It’s essentially a pilot at each unit so we can make sure we develop the best possible experience for our kids,” she said.
Additionally, four other schools are set to host Youth Coding League programs this fall: Buchanan Intermediate School and Cedar Ridge Intermediate School, both in Branson, and Hickory Hills Middle School and Pershing Middle School, both in Springfield. Crowder College also will provide the program to 20 schools in the Joplin area.
Stapleton said a structured regular season for the league introduces key computer science principles in a project-based learning environment, with students learning new computer science concepts each week and applying them in a project. Students then showcase their new skill set in a competitive postseason with prizes on the line. The program currently reaches more than 2,000 students in seven states, according to officials.
Boys & Girls Clubs staff who take on coaching roles in the program will receive training from Codefi this summer, Stapleton said.
“We’re excited about working with them,” he said. “Obviously, they have such an infrastructure in place already to serve young people with a lot of their needs.”
While Codefi will keep its headquarters in Cape Girardeau, Stapleton said the organization also plans to have a Springfield presence within the next couple of months. He expects roughly six staff members will work out of the Efactory for Innovate SOMO’s first year.
“It’ll really depend on the funding that we raise for some of the programs long term,” he said of future staff growth in the Queen City.
When fully funded and implemented, Innovate SOMO is estimated to create over 700 jobs in high-wage occupations, including cybersecurity and software development, as well as launch over 150 new businesses in its first three years, according to officials.
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