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Code Crew Programming Seeks to Aid in Memphis’ Economic Development

Code Crew preparing adults for computer science careers.

12:33 p.m. Nov. 21, 2022

Photo Credit: Code Crew

After seeing a need for computer science education in a “boot camp form,” in Memphis, Audrey Willis, along with Meka Egwuekwe, and Petya Grady decided to form Code Crew.

Willis said that within a 300 mile radius, their program is the most unique as they take the time to meet with students. This is possible through their small class sizes and their solely in-person teaching methods. Willis is the program director of Code Crew’s “Code School.”

“If you look in like the 300 mile radius, there aren’t a lot of boot camp programs in the area, especially ones that focus on ensuring underrepresented attendance or inclusion in the tech community,” said Willis.

The Code School was formed in 2018, after Code Crew saw the success of their accelerated program that provided opportunities for middle school students to be taught computer sciences. Willis said that the Code School is the smallest, but mightiest pillar in their tiers of programming.

According to Willis, every year, Code Crew turns out “junior and intern-ready software developers”

“We take students that otherwise would have very little or no income at all, and we put them into the tech field, making upwards of 55-to-65-thousand dollars on average, ” said Willis. “ We have some students that have graduated from our program and are currently making six-figures.”

A report from CompTIA said that median tech wages in Tennessee are 100 percent higher than median national wages. The same report also said that median tech wages in Memphis are 93 percent higher than median national wages.

Willis said this not only helps the adult’s economic development, but it also helps companies and organizations, as they won’t have to outsource talent or have unfilled positions. Willis said that some of these positions are often left open for long periods of time.

“It’s a personal, economic lift for the individual, because they’re getting a salary that is industry rate, but it’s also a benefit to the economy of the city. They’re purchasing new vehicles, homes, and paying taxes. It’s a full lift.”

With more and more companies coming into Memphis, Willis said they are looking for “warm, fertile ground to grow on.”

“This becomes such an opportunity for the city, and its people because we’re able to fund those companies and fuel them with talent that’s homegrown,” said Willis. “Memphis still needs tech talent. Code Crew is here to grow that tech talent here, keep it here, and to ensure that these individuals have great paying jobs with these companies that are here. We want to make sure our home has what it needs to thrive economically.”

One of the misconceptions that people have when it comes to computer science that may stop them from entering the field is that it’s “hard,” said Willis.

Willis said that the spectrum of ways and areas to get into the field of computer science is “very wide and very deep.” While Code Crew is teaching individuals how to program and write lines of code, Willis said that these skills can extend into multiple fields such as animation, gaming, working in automotives and more. “Any field you can think of or imagine has some type of IT input too,” said Willis.

The CompTIA report said that the leading tech occupation jobs in Memphis are in software, IT support, cybersecurity and systems engineering, and networking engineering.

“We want to soften that image of thinking that it’s hard, that there’s a lot of math involved, and that it’s this difficult algorithmic thinking involved. Yes those things are involved, but we are here to literally hold hands along the way, and make it as easy to comprehend as possible.

Code Crew currently offers two programs for interested individuals.

The Code Collective is in partnership with The Collective Blueprint in Memphis, and is fully funded by the NBA Foundation. This program starts on January 3, 2023, and is for individuals 18-30. No college degree is required, and participants will receive a $400 stipend each month through the duration of the nine-month course.

The Code School program starts on January 30, 2023, and individuals receive the same instruction, however it is geared towards individuals who already have a college degree, and want to consider a career switch.

Those in the Code School program will not receive the $400 stipend from the NBA Foundation , but they are eligible to receive stipends provided by Bank of America and Region’s Bank. “Either way, any individual in our program will be able to be a recipient of funding through either the NBA Foundation, Bank of America or Regions Bank to further their computer science career,” said Willis.

Check out the Memphis Flyer article here


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