TheCoderSchool, a computer programming school for kids ages 7-18, which parents say builds creativity, logic and public speaking skills, has opened in Raleigh. It is the second Triangle location opened by franchise owners Ravisha Weerasinghe and Mehul Shah, after the successful launch of their first school last year in Cary.
Shah and Weerasinghe, who are married, said they were looking for a coding activity for their own two children when they learned about theCoderSchool. The school was started by Hansel Lynn and Wayne Teng in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2014. There are now nine in California and a smattering around the country, including Seattle, Dallas and Boston.
Shah said kids may get some exposure to computer programming in schools, but not nearly enough. Children “are the consumers of this technology, we want to make them creators,” Shah said. The schools offer after-school drop-off classes, trackout camps and summer camps.
Despite the advice of tech giant’s like Apple’s CEO Tim Cooke, coding education is not required in public schools in this country. “The United States is behind,” Lynn said in a telephone interview. “There’s this huge onrush of technology and there’s a shortage of coders with the right skills to do these jobs.”
Burning Glass, a Boston firm that analyzes data on the technology industry, estimated that in 2015 there were 7 million job openings that valued coding skills, and in 2016, the median salary of computer programmers was over $79,000. In the next few years, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be an 8 percent decline in computer programming employment by 2024 – a loss of 26,500 jobs.
The educational market has responded to the demand for coding skills: There are more than 90 different companies throughout the country offering coding boot camps, said Lauren Bauml, vice president of marketing at the Skills Fund, an organization that helps secure loans for individuals who attend these boot camps. But the growth means not all are profitable and bootcamps like Iron Yard and Dev Bootcamp have recently shut down. Given the enormous competition, Bauml said, “schools have to continue to evolve.” Coding schools must, said Bauml, make sure that the skills they teach are actually reflected in the local labor market.
Joseph Kozusko, a co-founder of the Skills Fund, said theCoderSchool is shooting for a very different market than traditional boot camps. Unlike people who already have degree who are underemployed or unemployed, theCoderschool will get parents who want to do something interesting and beneficial for their children. “The driver is how I need to help my child improve verses ‘oh crap, I need a job,’ ” Kozusko said.
TheCoderSchool, Lynn and Teng say, focuses on more fundamental skills than coding boot camps, and offers a more individually specialized program. “We get to know the child and their interests. If they are interested in video games, or in building a video game, we go down that path,” Teng said. As they work on projects, they learn basic skills.
The focuses on expanding the creativity and abilities of it students, Lynn said.
“Our belief is that coding is a lifelong journey,” Lynn said. “You can’t just crash course it in 12 weeks and say you’re done.” Learning to code, Lynn says is an art-form. “We’ve been coding for years and we’re still learning every day.”
Two-on-one training allows for individualized training. Teng says instructing the class “is kind of like ‘Hey, what interests you? Do you want to build video games or a more utility program? Do you wanna build a website.’ ” Along the way, the critical thinking and logical skills necessary to build programs are ingrained.
Shashin Desai, whose two children, ages 8 and 11, attend classes at the Cary location, said instruction goes at the individual child’s pace. When his older son was in a group that was below his level, the instructors made sure to place him where he should be. “It helps with not getting bored,” Desai said.
For the youngest students, ages 7 to 10, more simplified programming languages are used so the kids do not get annoyed with the complex syntax of full blown programming languages.
Kids who enroll in the App Team program will also learn to communicate about their programs to an audience. CoderSchool has Coder Fairs every few months where kids can present their applications.
“It creates confidence in their public speaking,” said Desai. “It makes them have some sense of pride in their own creation and to me it just essentially helps them be creative and start thinking outside the box.”
Lynn and Teng said it’s important to provide both the technical training and soft-skills. “Mark Zuckerberg is brilliant technically, but without his soft skill, of being a great communicator, he wouldn’t be Mark Zuckerberg.”
Classes range in price from $99 a month for younger kids to $249 a month for those who enroll in the App Team program. Track-out camps are $299.