GRAND RAPIDS — Based on the success of prior technology workshops, a local nonprofit plans to leverage its partnership with a Detroit-based training firm to support a bootcamp specifically for women.
The Source, an organization charged with helping people enhance their skills and advance in their careers, is working with a range of organizations to bring the 12-week DEVELOP(her) Bootcamp for Women to Grand Rapids starting Sept. 12.
The workshop, a program of Detroit-based Grand Circus and staffing firm TEKSystems, is organized in a part-time format, with tuition waived for qualifying participants. The Michigan Council of Women in Technology also is supporting the workshop.
Along with the Women’s Resource Center, The Source will be helping connect women interested in technology to the DEVELOP(her) program, which launched in Detroit and Flint last year. The partners will hold information sessions on July 12 at the Women’s Resource Center and July 18 at Start Garden.
Applications for the 12 available seats will be accepted through noon on July 20 via the Grand Circus website.
For The Source, the upcoming program will build on previous training sessions it has organized, according to Executive Director Mindy Ysasi. In March, The Source partnered with Grand Circus to offer a 14-week coding course at Steelcase with 12 participants.
“We started having conversations with Grand Circus in the fall (about) how we were going to fund this,” Ysasi said of the initial session.
A $20,000 grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation helped to offset the cost of the prior bootcamp, a collaborative effort involving Grand Circus, West Michigan Works! and several local employers.
A portfolio company of Detroit Venture Partners, a VC firm headed by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, Grand Circus began offering workshops and bootcamps in Grand Rapids this past fall after establishing itself as a major player in the Detroit tech community. The company, founded in 2013 in Detroit and located across from the city’s historic Grand Circus Park, offers a number of workshops and bootcamps covering a wide range of I.T. training areas.
For example, its Front-End Coding Bootcamp costs $8,500, according to the company’s website.
Such a program likely would be off limits for the people with whom The Source works, according to Ysasi. Clients of The Source typically make between minimum wage and $25 per hour and they would have neither the flexibility nor the time required to attend the standard bootcamps offered by Grand Circus.
As a way to address these issues, Ysasi and Grand Circus representatives developed the 14-week bootcamp format, with participants attending two weekday sessions and Saturday sessions.
FILLING A NEED
Employers in the Grand Rapids area, including The Source’s 16 member companies, want to give their workers the skills and training to move into other areas, with a particular interest in technology, she said.
Laurie Craft, a program director with GRCF, said there is an increasing demand from businesses for employees who have I.T. skills. That’s why the foundation has made it a priority to ensure that people have advancement opportunities with their employers. In the case of the bootcamp, it represented a sustainable plan for moving forward and building skills using a piloted method, Craft said.
“Employers have expressed a need for workers with technology skills,” she said. “At the same time, low-wage employees want opportunities for higher-paying careers, but often face barriers to professional development including work schedules, family obligations, childcare and student loan debt.”
The way this particular bootcamp was offered allowed workers to participate while still working full-time, which made it a win-win for employers and employees, Craft said.
The collaborative work with Grand Circus is the latest in a long line of partnerships The Source has formed to address the needs of area workers who want to advance, and employers who want to support their efforts and retain a quality workforce.
Ysasi and her team of six employees — augmented by staff with the Department of Health and Human Services — work with 16 member companies that pay The Source to assist their employees who face a wide variety of issues, such as access to affordable childcare, housing or credit repair. These member companies include Butterball Farms, Cascade Engineering and Spectrum Health. They provide about 75 percent of The Source’s funding, with the remainder coming from grants and other philanthropic efforts.
Employees can seek out assistance on their own and referrals are made through human resources departments or supervisors.
“We work on a need or crisis basis. We do the initial assessment to figure out what the underlying issues are and we work on solutions to those issues,” Ysasi said.
Last year, the top three issues were housing, financial credit repair, and health care. Ysasi said her organization works inside the community with organizations like the Coalition to End Homelessness and also serves in an advocacy role on issues like access to quality, affordable childcare.
“The Source has specialized expertise we don’t have and they can ask questions we can’t ask,” said Linda Grund, corporate director of human resources for Cascade Engineering. “The reality of today’s economy is that we are all competing for good workers. Retention is paramount.”
Grund said The Source can eliminate barriers in order to help an employee come to work, focus on the job, and ultimately be more successful in moving ahead within the company. In addition, she said Cascade reaps other benefits as part of a collective group of member companies, such as pooling training needs to make career development and other education more affordable and accessible.
Ysasi said her team annually has handled more than 750 employee meetings, many of these being repeat visits.
“People who have money, power or privilege get VIP service,” Ysasi said. “While our clients don’t make a lot of money, we like to think of ourselves as the concierge in their lives.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its previous version.