New effort aims to pair job applicants with local tech firms

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by Diana Zoga/ KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on September 6, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 10 at 9:50 PM

(KMOV.com) -- As St. Louis becomes more well-known as a technology hub, the demand for local computer programmers is growing.

”There’s a talent shortage worldwide, but nationwide and certainly in St. Louis, we don’t have enough programmers to fill all the positions,” said Jim McKelvey, co-founder of mobile payment company Square.

Programmers may have basic coding skills, but lack real-world experience. Companies want the work experience.  There’s a gap that McKelvey is now trying to bridge with a new effort called LaunchCode.

On September 23rd, from 6-9 p.m., LaunchCode will attempt to pair programmers with tech companies that have open positions.  The event will be held at McKelvey’s Third Degree Glass Factory on Delmar Blvd.  

Participating companies have agree to cap the pay at $15 an hour.  Why?  McKelvey says it prevents a bidding war for applicants while pushing aspiring programmers to learn quickly.  

Applicants must pre-register


LaunchCode is looking for people who already have basic programming skills.  In the future, it's possible LaunchCode will reach out to those who aren't as familiar with programming code.  For now, LaunchCode offers a link to other resources. 

McKelvey also recommends Harvard's free on-line courses in programming.

"I think the average person can learn to program.  It's tedious.  It's not terribly fun at the beginning, but once you start getting some success it becomes really interesting.  Some of the best programmers don't have four year degrees," said McKelvey.

The founders of Aisle411, a locally founded app that helps customers navigate stores and map out their shopping lists, plans to participate in the LaunchCode effort and pair a new programmer with an experienced one at the start-up.

"IT is huge in St. Louis right now.  There are a lot of IT companies, so the need for coders we're all competing for that talent right now.  So, anything that we can do to increase that pool of talent and get them the experience helps everyone." said Matt Kulig of Aisle411.

More than 100 companies have signed on to participate in LaunchCode this year, according to McKelvey.  Organizers will see how the first round of matching goes before finalizing the the next phase. 

"The big picture is to change the entire ecosystem in St. Louis from one where we have a deficit of talent to one where we have a surplus.  Once we have a surplus of talent, I know companies right now in Silicon Valley that would move out here and take a thousand programmers if we had the ecosystem," added McKelvey.

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