Over the past year, the LaunchCode team has been diving deeper into what makes a successful LaunchCoder and evaluating student outcomes and support systems to see where we could continue to improve.
Accenture, through both Corporate and Foundation support, has been one of LaunchCode’s pivotal partners through the years and has enabled the ongoing support of our education and job placement programs as well as the evaluation and development of new program components.
Through this partnership, Accenture’s Inclusive Future of Work initiative, and learnings from a pilot program that used Accenture’s Success Coaching work-based model, LaunchCode has also been able to implement more strategies to market to, enroll, and support students historically underrepresented in tech (women, people of color, and those from low-income households), specifically targeting residents in the St. Louis Promise Zone.
“A better future depends on increasing equality and bridging the gap between talent and opportunities, and we partner with organizations in our hometown and across the country toward that vision,” says Mary Kate Morley Ryan, Principal Director, Accenture.
“By sharing tools, like coaching—which we use both internally and with clients—we hope people will better recognize and use their strengths to advance their careers. This is just one of the ways we invest in skilling as we help create a more inclusive future of work.”
LaunchCode educates community members of all backgrounds and experiences for free. Therefore, we continually break down barriers that may hold folks from underestimated populations back while pursuing tech careers. Because LaunchCoders come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, and many are seeking a transition from low-wage jobs, a number of them need support outside of the classroom, such as childcare, transportation, and access to additional resources.
Accenture’s Success Coaching work-based model was a perfect fit to offer these support systems. In the pilot program, we provided training to Teaching Fellows in “Success Coaching” to equip them with the tools they needed to direct their students to helpful resources and services. After evaluating the pilot’s impact, LaunchCode realized the need to build out a more robust program utilizing aspects of Accenture’s model to best serve students in this capacity.
LaunchCode is currently piloting a partnership with the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University to contract practicum students as “Student Success Specialists”. So far, this partnership has helped develop the early stages of our wrap-around support program including research and listening sessions with current students and alumni to determine how we can best serve LaunchCoders.
What makes the LaunchCode journey so unique is that students aren’t just learning how to code; they’re building a relationship within an existing network – LaunchCode staff, students, instructors, and Teaching Fellows, company partners, and community organizations. All of these relationships and connections are there to help them land a job in tech and continue to be successful.
In broadening this network by creating more community partnerships, LaunchCode has been able to develop the following student support systems which are still in their early stages:
Sarah Freymiller, LaunchCode’s first practicum student and Student Success Specialist, found Accenture’s model and consultation incredibly helpful in developing LaunchCode’s resources. For example, Accenture pointed Sarah in the direction of Lyft’s transportation program which has benefitted students who cannot drive or who lack access to consistent transportation.
“I have also found that, in this time of extreme mental stress, students benefit from knowing that they can talk to someone at LaunchCode who can help them reach out to therapy or resources around disability,” said Sarah. “Conversations with students drive my work and inspire me to go deeper, asking, ‘What does it look like to access this resource? What are the requirements?’ I see myself as a shaper of goal conversations and a conduit for information. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to take the next step, and it helps to have someone walking with you.”
LaunchCode ensures that the demographic makeup of our classes in St. Louis mirrors the demographics of the St. Louis region as a whole. With Accenture’s help, we have also been able to develop more focused strategies for recruitment within Promise Zone communities. The St. Louis metro area is made up of 92 zip codes, 24 of which are located in the St. Louis Promise Zone and identified as target areas to increase economic activity, improve educational outcomes, reduce serious and violent crime, invest in transformative development, and improve health and wellness.
This targeted recruitment not only helps us increase the vitality of the St. Louis community, by launching community members into secure jobs in tech that transform their financial futures, but it also builds a diverse tech talent pipeline for local employers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has widened the career opportunity divide in St. Louis and showcased the significant disparities that exist in the security, benefits, and wages of working folks. The crisis has made it even more clear that LaunchCode’s work in breaking down barriers to tech careers for underestimated folks, especially individuals located in the St. Louis Promise Zone, is ever-important in helping address racial equity in St. Louis’ workforce.
Je’Nell McCrary, a resident of a zip code located within the St. Louis Promise Zone, recently launched her tech career through LaunchCode’s apprenticeship program after completing our CoderGirl program in July, nearly tripling her income after starting as a Scrum Master at Centene. For years, McCrary juggled multiple jobs while trying to find a career that offered financial stability and utilized her passions for design without incurring debt. With the help of LaunchCode, she found it.
Je’Nell described her LaunchCode journey as a “rocky blast”, especially in having to navigate the transition of in-person classes to virtual delivery in the wake of the pandemic, but she noted LaunchCode’s supportive learning environment helped her continue to succeed. Je’Nell is now at a company she feels fosters diversity, inclusion, and continuous learning, and notes that she feels she can bring her authentic self to work every day.
“I’m so thankful to have gone through such an awesome program and at no cost,” said Je’Nell. “It has truly changed my life. I no longer feel broke, stuck, or stagnant. This is truly a new chapter for me.”
LaunchCode is grateful for the support from Accenture in helping expand our outreach and services. This partnership has allowed LaunchCode to think more intentionally about the barriers to success to ensure LaunchCoders of all backgrounds and experiences have access to our programs and to the additional resources needed to launch their careers in tech.