A boom in tech companies founded in cities away from the coasts means the demand for skilled workers is only increasing. A recent report from CompTIA found that the fastest-growing states for tech employment in 2016 were UT, NC, MI, WA, and MT.
“Computing jobs–not just for coding, but for networking, data analysis, cybersecurity–are in every state and every region,” said Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org. “In fact, 91% of these jobs are outside of Silicon Valley, and two-thirds of them are outside of tech companies–at banks, retailers, or manufacturers.”
For example, Partovi said, in Detroit, there are twice as many job openings in computing as there are in manufacturing, and they pay twice as much. Even farmers today need to learn about computing to manage their tractors, he added.
There are half a million open tech jobs across the US, which boast average salaries of $85,570, according to the US Department of Labor–significantly higher than the national average of $47,230 for all jobs.
However, K-12 students in rural areas are less likely than their peers in cities and suburbs to have access to strong computer science courses, research has shown. Often this is due to a lack of qualified teachers and funding deficits.
“We believe every American should have the opportunity to learn the foundational concepts of computer science, regardless of career–just like you learn about biology, chemistry, or algebra,” Partovi said. “But if what matters is building talent to fill jobs, the no. 1 source of all new wages from new jobs in this country is in computing–in every state, in every region.”
SEE: Launching a startup: A primer for new entrepreneurs (Tech Pro Research)
Filling the gap
To fill the rural tech skills gap, web designer Tyler Richards and full stack developer Cahlan Sharp founded coding bootcamp DevMountain in Provo, UT, in 2013, with the intention of teaching coding skills part time. However, the program quickly gained traction, with its first course receiving 40 applications for 20 open spots. Richards and Sharp began offering both full-time and part-time bootcamp options, in subjects including web development, iOS development, and UX design.
“We identified Provo, UT, where we were living at the time, as a great market,” Richards said. “We realized there were going to be a ton of other markets like this that are underserved in terms of education. The huge skills gap with tech is everywhere, in rural and metro areas.”
DevMountain has since expanded, with two more locations in Salt Lake City and Dallas. Between its three campuses, DevMountain graduates about 160 students every 12 weeks. Its graduates have been placed at 130 different companies in UT alone. The bootcamp also offers free housing for out of town full-time students at each of its campuses.
“DevMountain’s mission from the beginning has been to be as accessible as possible, whereas if we were to open shop in San Francisco or New York City, the rent alone for a student to come attend a full time program would be wildly expensive,” Richards said. “We identified that the more second- or third-tier markets are more affordable as far as cost of living as cost of operations. We can pass the savings we’ve experienced into tuition.”
Tuition is $10,900 for a full time course–lower than the national average of $11,451, according to Course Report.
At the Provo, Utah campus, about 40% of attendees are from Utah, while 60% are from out of state. Many students enroll from CA, NY, and WA, he said.
“I think the reason we operate well in these second- and third-tier markets is there is so much less distraction,” Richards said. “People come to bootcamps to learn and further their career. If they’re around friends and bars, come 5 p.m. on Friday they will be out partying, whereas in Utah there’s not a ton to do. It’s to the student’s advantage–they can hone in on their craft, and dedicate themselves for 12 weeks to further themselves in the tech space and the skillset they came to learn.”
The tech industry in UT is growing rapidly, Richardson said. Adobe, Microsoft, and Oracle all now have large satellite offices in the state. “They can get high quality talent for a third of the cost of San Francisco just by nature of cost of living,” Richards said.
Programs such as the federal TechHire grants are also attempting to bring more people into tech, by offering funding for high quality, accelerated tech training in rural communities. In economically disadvantaged eastern Kentucky, a TechHire grant funded a 33-week coding academy teaching students to build and support mobile applications in preparation for tech jobs.