A new partnership developed to advance technology education in the Gaston area is kicking off its first initiative.
On Aug. 22, Gaston College will launch a new basics of website development course at its Kimbrell Campus in Belmont. The eight-week course, which costs $2,790, will help about a dozen enrolled students become proficient in skills such as programming, coding, design, databases, software and more.
Upon completion of the course, students will earn a certificate of completion and possess the skills necessary to become front-line developers, build their own websites and web applications, and work with various programming languages.
“The reason we’re offering this course is there’s a pretty good demand in the Charlotte region for this kind of program,” said Dennis McElhoe, vice president of economic and workforce development at Gaston College. “This is a great opportunity for them to learn a skill and a really good wage just going through this eight-week program.”
According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, there are currently about 500 open job opportunities in the field of website development in the Gaston area, with a median salary around $72,000 annually. Job growth is expected to exceed 27 percent in that field over the next several years.
To satisfy that need, the website development course has become the first endeavor of a new partnership forged between Gaston College, TechWorks of Gaston County and Tech Talent South. The three organizations are collaborating to equip Gaston-area residents and businesses with the skills and education necessary to find work in the growing fields of technology and computer science.
The Charlotte-based Tech Talent South will provide the curriculum and instruction for the website development course. Through its 11 campuses in six states, Tech Talent South is a coding boot camp dedicated to fostering talent in technology through its own unique courses, mentoring and job-placement resources.
Tech Talent South Co-founder Betsy Hauser Idilbi says her organization’s programs, along with the course at Gaston College, can enable students to learn enough computer-based skills to enter careers in a variety different places.
“These job aren’t going anywhere,” said Idilbi, who grew up in Cramerton. “They’re only multiplying and they touch every industry that you can possibly imagine.”
The partnership’s tentacles will extend from the TechWorks facility under development in Belmont. The project is the brainchild of the nonprofit Gaston Innovation Group, which was formed in June 2016 and directed by Terry Cox. According to Cox, TechWorks will serve as a technology hub and workspace designed to incite entrepreneurship and inspire innovation through programming and mentoring, while also creating jobs and triggering economic growth. It’s also designed to connect existing tech businesses with needed resources.
It will all be housed in a former textile mill in a 12,700-square-foot leased space at 52 Ervin St. Cox says the facility will be home to a variety of advanced technology-based courses in coding, web development and more, and the building will have connectivity to high-speed fiber internet.
The idea, Cox says, is to not only teach people coding so they can create their own products and companies, but to create an awareness of the role that computer skills play in the workplace.
“With the pace of technology, everybody’s going to have to have an awareness of coding. It’s like a parallel of literacy,” said Cox. “That’s the purpose of doing TechWorks, particularly in Gaston County, is to educate a whole lot of people for the new jobs in the tech world.”
But construction won’t begin until TechWorks secures a $1 million pilot Broadband Grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce, which is all being applied to construction upfit. Gaston County commissioners have also offered $975,000 for the project. That money was backed by another $97,000 contribution from the city of Belmont, as well as a $10,000 grant from Duke Energy.
According to Cox, construction should begin in September, with opening targeted for early next year.
TechWorks is awarding four scholarships to students enrolled in the web development course, a program that Cox wanted to get off the ground even without the building complete.
Other plans for TechWorks include the installation of a wireless broadband internet network and the development of a curriculum to teach soft skills in partnership with Avid Exchange.
The partnership next plans to offer a mobile app development course at Gaston College beginning in January. Gaston College is still accepting applications for the website development course.
You can reach Eric Wildstein at 704-869-1828 or Twitter.com/TheGazetteEric.