Bob Jensen has spent most of his time in Wyoming thinking about improving the economy. For ten years he led the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development arm. Several months ago during a meeting of some Cheyenne entrepreneurs the idea of developing a coding school was pitched. And that discussion led to the development of Array, School of Technology and Design in downtown Cheyenne.
“It is a grassroots effort to try and effect workforce quickly for a growing tech industry in Wyoming,” said Jensen.
Jensen said that Wyoming has a growing, but mostly unnoticed, software industry and has made progress in developing data centers and tech companies, but he and an eclectic group of Cheyenne entrepreneurs noticed that the state lacked web developers and people who are trained to work in the technology industry. Now, they are hoping to change that.
The group traveled to other coding schools, interviewed businesses, and determined that there was a serious need for an operation like this in Wyoming.
“Basically said hey, here is what we are thinking of doing, here’s kind of the curriculum we will be teaching, do you guys have a need for these students? Do you have open positions? Basically the feedback I think we got was hey, why didn’t you open yesterday,” said Eric Trowbridge who is the school’s new headmaster.
Known as ET, he is a 2004 graduate of Cheyenne Central high school who left Wyoming and landed a job at Apple for 8 years and then returned to the state, where he launched a video game company. In other words, he’s your typical technology geek. The board decided that ET would be perfect to lead their school and develop the curriculum. As he sits among other young entrepreneurs in a refurbished shared office space in downtown Cheyenne, he explains that students will learn a number of key skills.
“We are going to be teaching everything from HTML, CSS, to user interface design, to color theory, to topography theory, then in the last half of the six months we are going to go into data base design and web application development.”
If that doesn’t mean much to you, here’s a translation.
“Generally what happens is a small business may look for a template or use something like word press to create their websites, so we are not teaching that, we’re teaching coders. These people these people can code from the ground up, so any kind of custom thing you want or have in your head, these people can do that,” said Trowbridge.
He plans to offer an advanced curriculum after the coding school gets established.
Jesse Fishman is a Cheyenne attorney who specializes in working with new businesses. As a younger member of the board she said this could be a big deal for Wyoming.
“I got really excited about the idea and the possibilities of what it could do, not just for Cheyenne, but for all of Wyoming if we could have a technology hub here and a school here that could bring a lot of people here that change the face of what Cheyenne and Wyoming look like.”
Cheyenne is one community in the state that has had a lot of success creating jobs outside the energy industry and in attracting business. In an effort to enhance that, the city has been to trying to clean up and improve the downtown to the point where it is attractive to young professionals. For that reason Board member Steve Borin says it’s no coincidence that the Array, school of technology and design will be situated in a refurbished older building in the heart of downtown Cheyenne.
“The more people we bring to the downtown, they start using more of the restaurants, it attracts their spouses and their partners, and you know, things grow.”
Fellow Board member Bob Jensen has a number of Wyoming economic development contacts and has spoken to plenty of business owners. He said it’s clear that there is a shortage of coders statewide
“And we want to be able to impact the industry and have a pipeline of students ready to go to work in these companies that are continuing to grow here. “
Jensen said if they create the workforce other companies will consider moving to Wyoming or start up here. Offering jobs that pay roughly 75-thousand dollars a year.
The school is currently accepting applications and will choose 12 students who will begin the six month program in October.