Initiative Means to Bulk Up St. Louis Tech Workforce

In hopes of deepening the talent pool for programmers in St. Louis, a group of entrepreneurs is launching an initiative to pair those just starting out with more experienced developers. Called LaunchCode, the program will formally kick off September 23.

LaunchCode LogoIn pair programming, two coders work at a single workstation, talking through the work as they go. “When you’re pair programming, you’re finding out what they know — will they be able to adapt to a new technology or deal with the front lines appropriately — and also understanding if they’ll fit in with the core values at your corporation,” explained Matthew Porter, CEO of hosting company Contegix, in the St. Louis Business Journal.

Besides Contegix, participants include World Wide Technologies, Monsanto, Savvis, Enterprise, Build-a-Bear, Express Scripts, Lockerdome, Shipworks and FoodEssentials.

Through the initiative, new recruits will work from one to six months with a more experienced professional, and will be paid $15 an hour during the period. The intent is to offer the person a full-time job once they’re done. The founders consider it more of a contract to hire position than an internship.

On reddit, while some commenters worry that companies just want cheap labor, others say that those just starting out, or even experienced programmers who want to learn a new language, might not be able to make much of a contribution at first.

The participating companies will determine which projects coders will work on. The scope of those efforts will vary greatly, according to Spokeswoman Lindi Niedner. Those coming in will have to show they have enough skills to be a good fit with the company, she said, but overall the necessary skills have yet to be determined.

Initiative Founder Jim McKelvey, who also co-founded mobile payment company Square, told the Business Journal LaunchCode is meant to solve a problem for established companies and startups alike. “We’re all having the same problem and this is a grand effort to change that region-wide in a very significant manner,” he said.

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