Zip Code Wilmington launch features big names

     Governor Jack Markell speaks at a launch event for Zip Code Wilmington. (Avi Wolfman-Arent, NewsWorks)

    Governor Jack Markell speaks at a launch event for Zip Code Wilmington. (Avi Wolfman-Arent, NewsWorks)

    Zip Code Wilmington has no students and no track record. But as a launch ceremony Monday proved, the non-profit coding school does have some big-name backers.

    Governor Jack Markell and U.S. Senator Chris Coons appeared at the Nemours Building for a kickoff event alongside Zip Code co-founders Ben duPont, Jim Stewart, and Porter Schutt. A promotional video aired at the gathering that featured Markell, Coons, and fellow Senator Tom Carper–a trifecta of Delaware power players.

    Markell was instrumental in bringing the school to Delaware, according to multiple speakers. The Governor personally lobbied a California-based coding school to open a branch in Wilmington. After being rebuffed, Markell and his administration encouraged duPont, Stewart, and Schutt to launch their own school. The state also supplied $250,000 to help cover start-up costs.

    “We could not get a company to come here,” Schutt said. “So we said we’re going to start one ourselves. And that’s when [Markell] jumped into action.”

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    Tech Impact, a local non-profit, will help run and manage Zip Code Wilmington. The school will offer an intensive, 12-week course designed to teach students the Java computer coding language.

    The course costs $12,000. If students commit to a 26-week, post-course apprenticeship up front, the price tag drops to $2,000.

    In these scant twelve weeks, the school promises to prepare students for a career in the fast-growing and lucrative field of computer coding and development.

    “There’s never been a better time to be someone with the right skills,” Markell said. “And there’s never been a worse time to be someone without the right skills.”

    The inaugural Zip Code Wilmington course will launch this fall with 20 students. Hopefuls must submit a written application, take an entrance exam, and complete two interviews to be considered for admission.

    “Twenty lives are going to be better because of this,” Markell said.

    Similar schools have popped up in San Francisco, New York, and even Omaha. Zip Code Wilmington, however, is the first of its kind in Delaware.

    Officials hope the school can serve a dual purpose, launching students into middle-class work and providing an employee pipeline for local companies. Barclay’s, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Capital One are among 12 partner companies who have helped shape the curriculum and committed to take on Zip Code Wilmington graduates as apprentices.

    Apprentices will earn $26,000 for their half-year of work.

    After that, the school says students will be prepared to earn jobs as entry-level coders and developers. According to Zip Code, 675 jobs requiring expertise in Java were made available last year in Wilmington.

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