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LaunchCode Opens In Kansas City, Aims To Close Tech Talent Gap

032916launchcode.jpg
Lisa Rodriguez
/
KCUR 89.3

When Jim McKelvey started his company Square in St. Louis, he noticed a big problem. 

Every time he would hire a new engineer, he would get an angry phone call from their previous company accusing him of stealing their best programmer. 

"By the time I got the fourth call, it was obvious that the only way we could grow our company was at the expense of other firms in town," McKelvey says.  

As heartbreaking as it was to leave his hometown, McKelvey and his co-founder closed their St. Louis office.

What he took away from that experience was that St. Louis wasn't alone — cities all over the country were struggling to fill tech jobs. What's more, those jobs were out of reach for many people because of the education and experience necessary. 

Now, McKelvey is trying to solve the problem with his nonprofit, LaunchCode, which just opened an office in Kansas City.

"Companies in Kansas City desperately need talented people and there are a lot of people here in Kansas City that can meet those needs, we just need to hook them up together," McKelvey says. 

LaunchCode matches potential developers and programmers with companies who will offer paid apprenticeships. 

As part of its Kansas City program, LaunchCode will offer a free introductory programming course, known as  CS50X, to be taught at UMKC starting April 13. 

The 16-week course requires no coding experience and promises to get people on the path to tech careers, regardless of their educational background. 

"Anybody can take this course if they are willing to work hard, and if they pass this course they're well on their way to getting a job," McKelvey says. 

The Kansas City LaunchCode office is located at the Sprint Accelerator in the Crossroads Arts District.

Lisa Rodriguez is associate producer of KCUR's Up To Date. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig

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