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NewForce Program Helps Nurture Software Development Careers in West Virginia

Generation West Virginia
Software development students who have attended the NewForce training program gather for a graduation photo.

Generation West Virginia’s NewForce program, a Huntington-based, tuition-free, software development school, prepares West Virginians with no prior computer coding experience for a career in software development.

The full-time program, which is currently accepting applications from residents across the state, lasts six months. It was formed as a collaboration between the West Virginia Community and Technical College System and members of the Nashville Software School in Tennessee. West Virginians, regardless of age or background, can receive training in programming and career skills.

“It can be a little daunting because of the amount of information you learn. However, the instructors do an unparalleled job at not only teaching the information, but setting the foundations for people to be successful in the field,” said Stephen Avila, a software engineer at Core 10 and recent graduate of the NewForce program.

Program leaders say they hope to set a standard for future employers and along the way, prepare students as future employees.

“If someone sees NewForce on a resume, they instantly know the quality of students that they're going to get -- how job ready they are,” said Courtney Susman, Generation West Virginia’s NewForce coordinator. “It's more than knowing the curriculum. It's making sure that our students have soft skills. We train them in all things job search -- from resumes, to LinkedIn, to cover letters. We also train them in interviews. Whether it's a technical or a cultural fit interview, we just kind of try to give them the full experience to set them up for as much success as possible.”

According to Susman, “the structure of the NewForce classroom is similar to what students would be facing on the job.” During the first three months of the NewForce program, students focus on front-end web development, which includes code languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The second three months of the program focuses on server-side development, which involves coding languages such as C-Sharp.

During the last half of the semester, students also learn how to build APIs (Application Programming Interface), and how to build full stack web applications. Susman says that NewForce students are, “building real world sort of apps. They’re simulating the work environment, so that by the time our students graduate, they will have already experienced real world examples.”

Avila said he felt well-prepared to tackle a job and to have a built-in network of support.

“The program is set up almost identical to what you would expect from the average work environment of a software engineer. That experience pays dividends once you start your first job as a software developer, and the continued support from NewForce and fellow alumni is incredible,” said Avila.

He added that NewForce also played a large role in connecting him to his current employer, Core 10. “NewForce has an incredible rapport with Core 10 and a great number of employers looking to build the software development infrastructure in the area. NewForce gives these employers a chance to meet the cohorts before they graduate as well, and there is even a "Demo Day" where members of the cohort get to demonstrate their coding experience in the form of projects for potential employers to see. Not only is this a great networking experience, but as in my case it becomes the foundation of the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Susman calls the structure of the program a talent pipeline. She adds that they have seen 86% placement of job-seeking graduates within six months of their graduation. “We have great support within the state to give resources to our students. And there are a number of tech companies within the state of West Virginia that we partner with and we're able to connect our students to. With NewForce, we want everybody to have the opportunity, whether it's someone's first career, second career, or third career. We're here for all ages.”

Avila said the program has shaped his future career.

“I came from a profession that I felt in my core wasn't the right path for me. I wanted a career that would help me pursue knowledge and feel a sense of pride in what I do,” Avila said. “I feel like people can get trapped in a job, especially in this area, because the job market is very limited. Software development is the great escape in my opinion. Not only does it offer a vast field of positions one could choose from, but you can also have incredible growth in those fields as well.”

He thinks such a program is targeted value-added for the state.

“West Virginia has needed programs like Generation West Virginia and NewForce for such a long time and I am so glad to see programs like them give people opportunities to chase their dreams. To those thinking about a career in programming, I say take the leap and see where this incredible journey takes you.”

Applications for the upcoming term are open until July 23. More information can be found at https://newforce.co/.

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