Eleven Fifty Academy extends flagship program

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Not-for-profit coding school Eleven Fifty Academy in Fishers has extended and revamped its flagship program, partly a response to increasing employer demand for experienced software-engineering talent.

Since its inception in the summer of 2014 (when it launched at founder Scott Jones' estate in Carmel), Eleven Fifty had been offering nine-week courses in different programming languages, including JavaScript. The school had an internal apprenticeship program for graduates but had little or no involvement with them following that.

That changed in January when Eleven Fifty started offering 12-week courses. And that feeds right into a 12-week internship and a 12-month apprenticeship (the latter is considered an official track to being hired). Both post-grad programs take place at a local employer, but Eleven Fifty stays involved by checking with and offering aid to the student and employer.

President John Qualls, who came on board in 2015, said the 18-month program was prompted by increasing employer interest in developers with about three years of experience. So last winter, his team and outside consultants started crafting a model to "meet employers halfway."

"So, if they really want three years, and I don't have any time machines to make that happen faster, then we've got to provide support for the employer and for the student," he said.

The inaugural 12-week session concluded in March, Qualls said. About half the 26 graduates have landed internships, while Eleven Fifty is helping others secure spots. Some students are still weighing multiple internship offers, he said.

During the internship period, which is already underway, Eleven Fifty staff communicate with the graduates through a mobile application, checking in weekly on their experiences and offering assistance if someone encounters a coding hurdle, for instance. Eleven Fifty officials also touch base with host company officials.

If the graduate and the company are satisfied at the end of the internship, an apprenticeship would follow. The company could, at any point, decide to hire the student.

Companies that have picked up interns from Eleven Fifty this year include enterprise contact-center software firm Sharpen Inc., voice-over-internet-protocol company Axia Technology Partners, and addiction treatment center Fairbanks Hospital Inc.

The expanded program costs students $13,500, the same cost as the old program. Scholarships and grants are available to offset costs.

Eleven Fifty started experimenting with an unofficial version of the expanded program late last year, and some of those graduates went on to quickly turn internships into jobs. Scott Grotjan, president of technology consulting firm Silverback, said he picked up Eleven Fifty alum Chris Beckman in January to help automate some of the company's processes and just hired him full-time. 

He said Eleven Fifty, which stayed engaged throughout the internship, helped translate his vision "into a language Chris can write code for."

"I'm looking at it and how much time and money this is going to save our company," Grotjan said about the automation projects completed so far, "and that's why we decided to put him on our payroll full-time."

Sharpen picked up two interns earlier this year, one of whom has already been hired full-time. Human Resources Director Emily Wolfington said finding experienced software talent is a pain point, but the Eleven Fifty graduates do get a lot of experience in an abbreviated period.

She also said that compared to more traditional talent pipelines, like job boards or universities, Eleven Fifty did a great job playing matchmaker.

One of Eleven Fifty's staff members "took the time to meet with me, understand more on our culture and the type of person we were looking for and then offered specific suggestions," Wolfington said.

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