Coding for GOOD: Why Businesses Need to Participate in Educating, Not Just Recruiting
The 8.1 percent unemployment rate was logically one of the most discussed and debated issues during this election season. And while I think it's fundamental that the response comes from Washington, the business sector must proactively engage the issue—not just from the end of civic responsibility, and not just from the dependence on a healthy economy, but truly from the immediate need that exists to fill nearly four million jobs that are currently available across the nation.
Visit some of the largest news websites, scroll past the big headlines talking about the Fiscal Cliff and unemployment reports, and click the "Careers" link at the bottom of the page. You're likely to find dozens of open job positions. In fact, the Huffington Post is looking to fill more than 20 positions itself. At GOOD, we too are looking to fill a number of critical job openings—web developers being the most challenging to hire. I would also wager that other websites like ours are significantly challenged to find qualified talent for their tech teams.
Partly to blame for this disparity between an 8.1 percent unemployment rate and four million open jobs is the changing nature of our economy—manufacturing jobs are disappearing and those who are left behind don't have the skills for the jobs that are available. But that's not the full story; you don't have to look far to read that nearly half of recent college graduates can't find work or are underemployed. So the shifting sands of our economy isn't the only reason we see these unfortunate realities.
I imagine that many companies currently experience the same questions we face at GOOD when it comes to hiring qualified employees: How can we ensure that the candidates we evaluate actually have the very specific skills necessary for the very specific job we would hire them for? And if we cannot find enough who do, how can we create a scalable way of teaching those skills to potential employees? Simply put, we have our own very real skills gap issue, and it's messing with our business right now.
This is most painfully felt around hiring for our tech team and we don't have the option to just cross our fingers and hope the situation improves on its own. In turn, with the support of Apollo Group, our partner in investigating the future of education, we've launched Coding for GOOD.
In a nutshell, rather than pay a fleet of talent recruiters or sift through volumes of resumes to find our next developer, we've worked with Apollo Group to create our own 16-lesson online curriculum at good.is/codingforgood that will teach anyone—from novice to veteran—the essential coding skills required to begin a career on our tech team. Our CTO, Doug Sellers, helped build the curriculum, and we very gratefully got our friends at Twitter, Electronic Arts, SoundCloud, Grooveshark and HUGE to teach video lessons around key topics.
After completion of the lessons, applicants are challenged to develop a final project by December 3, 2012 using their newly acquired coding skills. We'll then announce the top three applicants January 11, 2013 and fly them to Los Angeles to compete in a Code-A-Thon at GOOD's headquarters. With the results of the Code-A-Thon, we will be able to make an informed offer to one of the three finalists to join the GOOD tech team. Ultimately, people who complete the lessons will still benefit from the coding skills acquired and will be able to carry those new tech skills forward as they continue their job search.
Coding for GOOD has just launched and the response has been huge. It's exciting to think that what we see as an efficient means of filling a critical hire, simultaneously adds to the skill sets of all those who participate, regardless if they end up on the GOOD HQ team. I think it's going to work. I hope it's going to work. Regardless, we will learn from the experience, iterate, and continue down this path as accepting the status quo is not a feasible option—both for our business and for our mission. Hopefully, this question of how we can triangulate the needs of those looking for jobs, the companies looking for employees, and the educational resources that the web has enabled to yield outcomes positive for all.
Got questions about any of the lesson plans in Coding for GOOD or what a day in the life is like for a coder? If you find yourself needing help, click here to live chat with the GOOD tech team during our office hours Thursdays 12-4 p.m. PST. You an also email any questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.