Q&A: LaunchCode’s Lind on Pacific Northwest expansion, long-term vision

After receiving close to $8 million in federal grants, LaunchCode is expanding to Portland and Seattle. The St. Louis-based organization provides technology training through apprenticeships, matching trainees with companies seeking new hires. Currently, LaunchCode operates in five locations, including St. Louis and Kansas City.

Brendan Lind is the executive director at LaunchCode and has been with the organization since its inception. Missouri Business Alert caught up with Lind to discuss LaunchCode’s expansion, mission and plans for the future.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: Why Portland and Seattle? Was there a need for coding education in these cities? Or a need for employment?

Brendan Lind: We believe that the work we do has value nationally, and kind of everywhere. For instance, there’s a coding talent shortage. There are 600,000 open jobs in computer programming currently going unfilled. There’s tons of jobs that aren’t getting filled, and so the work we do, we think it’s needed everywhere in the country. We applied for a number of federal grants and were funded in Seattle and Portland, and we’re partnering with local entities there.

There are five locations on LaunchCode’s website. With the additions of Seattle and Portland, are there other cities that LaunchCode is looking at for expansion?

For the most part, we are looking to bring the work we do to additional cities as there are local partners who will help us be successful there, as well as local funding. Those are the key things.

Is there a big-picture expansion strategy?

Our main goal is eventually to be able to help people anywhere in the country get jobs that they can do but may or may not have access to, or may or not have an open door to get in.

How many people currently work at LaunchCode? How many people have been trained by LaunchCode?

There’s about 30 people who work at LaunchCode around the country. We’ve got about 440 people who have done our apprenticeship program, and a couple thousand who have gone through our educational programs.

Does LaunchCode work at all with any kinds of social service agencies who help people find employment?

Yeah, we usually work with workforce boards. In St. Louis we work with SLATE (St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment). In Florida, we work with Resource South Florida. For our partners in both Seattle and Portland, along with the grants, some of those partners are the workforce systems.  We partner with those entities; we did a program in St. Louis called ReBoot You with a community college and SLATE. It could potentially be a long-term program.

How did you get involved in LaunchCode? What have you taken from (LaunchCode founder) Jim McKelvey as a colleague and mentor?

I heard about an interest that a group of people had in trying to fill the tech talent gap in St Louis and basically got an introduction. I was a person who had time, and the people who wanted to see this happen had connections. And Jim is a brilliant guy, and I’ve learned a lot working with him.

How has your job evolved since LaunchCode’s early days? What have the biggest challenges been?

When we first started I was like the only person working on it on a daily basis. For 10 months there were two of us, my friend Zach and I. And now we have 30 people, with staff in five cities and four offices. So it’s a lot more.

I think that the evolution of LaunchCode is interesting just from how it started. You know, are there people who want these opportunities? Are there people, with skills acquisition, who can transform their lives in this field, and can we open doors? I think the whole thing has been an evolution.


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