Though it’s far too early for LaunchCode to declare victory, the St. Louis-based programming apprenticeship has produced promising early returns.
Of the first 45 apprentices placed with St. Louis companies by LaunchCode, 22 have been hired as salaried programmers. Only one has left the employer. LaunchCode participants include a former pizza delivery driver, a former FedEx worker and a computer science degree holder who eked out a living by playing cards for six years.
LaunchCode was established last year in an effort to connect people interested in working as software developers with companies in need of tech talent. Jim McKelvey, who founded LaunchCode and also co-founded mobile payments company Square, established the organization with the goal of creating a surplus of programming talent in the region within two years.
LaunchCode quickly found 100 companies willing to hire apprentices, but the program rejected most of the first 500 applicants for apprentice positions. In order to increase the pool of qualified candidates, LaunchCode started an introductory programming course in January, and 250 people are taking the class.