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DMACC partners with Greater Des Moines Partnership to create coding education program

The Greater Des Moines Partnership and Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) are partnering on a new coding education program for adults called Code DSM.

The 15-week program—which is being described as a “code academy”—is designed to help working adults learn important STEM skills to meet the demands of the workforce. Students in the program will learn basic Java programming language, object-oriented programming, event handling, user interface programming and graphic techniques.

“I think there is a lot of value in providing an abbreviated version of the same Java curriculum that’s been proven at DMACC,” said David Kessler, Executive Consultant at Pillar Technology and a member of DMACC’s IT Partnership. “Basically accelerate that curriculum and measure those results to see what that provides to that community in our first slice.”

The academy is designed to give students an initiation into coding and see if it is right for them, rather than to make them immediately employable, Kessler told Clay & Milk.

“Candidly, we spoke across all the Partnership to employers in town and their response was that they would not be employable at that exact moment,” Kessler said.

The academy will have its first cohort in January 2019 and plans to run at least two times a year. Each cohort will consist of 20-25 students. The first session of the program is full, according to DMACC’s registration link.

“As a region, we’ve had conversations for the past couple of years as to why Des Moines didn’t have a code academy,” said Mary Bontrager, Executive VP of Talent Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “We just felt it was really time to pull the trigger. So we made it a strategic priority at the Partnership in 2018.”

The total cost of attending the academy is $2750. Tuition is all-inclusive and includes the cost of textbooks, subscriptions and a laptop for each student.

“First and foremost, one of the goals we had in mind with an academy was to bring new people into that talent pipeline,” Bontrager said. “At the same time, we know that there are incumbent workers in many of our companies across Des Moines who may be in some technology-type job but this will give them the opportunity to get into coding which opens many doors for them.”

Students will not receive any course credit for attending the academy but will be able to use the academy in place of a Java course if they decide to later pursue a degree at DMACC.

“DMACC has provided a similar program over the last four years, but it was stretched out over a longer period of time,” said Michael Hoffman, Executive Director of Continuing Education DMACC. “So the Partnership reached out to us to see if we could put something together that would be a shorter period of time.”

While a program of this type is new for adults in central Iowa, it is not new to the state. Delta V Code School has been operating in Cedar Rapids since 2016 and The University of Iowa ran “Dev/Iowa,” a 9-week intensive coding bootcamp in Iowa City in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, a Des Moines-based volunteer organization called Reboot Iowa helps adults seeking to transition to a career in IT, educating them on basic IT skills and coding.

DMACC partners with Greater Des Moines Partnership to create coding education program | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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