The Bourbon Friday Show with Jeff Mazur from LaunchCode

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

On this episode of the Bourbon Friday Show we had the opportunity to talk with Jeff Mazur, Executive Director at LaunchCode, about their work to close the tech skills gap in St. Louis.

Closing the Tech Skills Gap

Right now in the U.S. there are hundreds of thousands of tech jobs going unfilled. By 2020 that number is projected to be nearly 1.1 million. Many of these roles could provide a great career and a competitive salary. So, why are these jobs not being filled?

Mazur believes that it’s a problem of not having enough pathways to get people prepared for a career in tech, or discover the skills they will need to succeed in tech roles. The path that most take to get a career in tech is a four-year degree, which is typically very costly and creates a high barrier to entry.

Put simply, there are structural barriers to pursuing a career in tech. “LaunchCode exists to help solve those problems and we do that two primary ways: we provide free, accessible training; job focus training and coding,” says Mazur.

The LaunchCode program is free and taught in an accessible manner so that students can take care of their daily responsibilities while still being able to gain valuable coding skills. And not just any coding skills.

LaunchCode cultivates strong relationships with potential tech employers in St. Louis, so that they are able to assess what skills these enterprises need and train students accordingly. Learning at LaunchCode is usually conducted at a more agile pace than formal education.

The second part of the program is to assist their coding students with job placement. LaunchCode has over 500 employer partners across the tech market. They connect employers who need to fill open positions with their students, and advocate on their behalf, as they may have the necessary skills but don’t have the traditional credentials.

Launching Careers in Coding

In the past five years, Launchcode has helped place 1,400 of their students into in-demand tech positions. Clearly an impressive feat.

Another important aspect to the LaunchCode program is helping people who are traditionally marginalized by the tech industry gain the skills, as well as the confidence, to be successful in those roles. An example of one such initiative is the CoderGirl program. This program is led by women in the tech space and designed for women who have a desire to be a part of that space. The goal is to give women a positive role model who is receptive to the struggles they may face.

While Mazur admits that there’s always work to be done to remedy the tech skills and diversity gap, LaunchCode takes pride in the great relationships they’ve cultivated both within the St. Louis tech community and with their students.

“It’s really about bolstering the entirety of pathways that exist in any market,” says Mazur, “to meet people where they are and to let people find a path that actually gets them to a place where they can be successful and contribute to the larger tech ecosystem.”

For more information about LaunchCode or to apply for their program, please visit www.launchcode.org/get-started.

The Bourbon Friday show livestreams every Friday at 4:30pm (CT) from T-Rex.

Bourbon Innovation

As always, the Bourbon Friday team does their best to choose a fitting drink for the occasion.

The bottle this week was Urban Bourbon. A product of the Spirits of St. Louis Distillery, part of the Square One Brewery, this bottle is one of very few bourbons made in St. Louis.

Furthermore, the bottle this week came from a barrel that was recently discovered in the storehouse facility, ten years after it was put into the barrel to age. This bottle was one of the fifty that came from that special barrel, and is a perfect homage to LaunchCode, who are also St. Louis natives.

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Megan McDonnell is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Tenacity, an open source web development agency based in St. Louis. Originally from Kansas City, Megan graduated from St. Louis University in May 2017 with degrees in Communication, Marketing, Spanish, and Graphic Design. Besides managing all marketing and communication efforts for Tenacity, she also covers the Bourbon Friday Show hosted weekly by EQ, Tenacity, and Connect Marketing.