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How St. Louis Is Bootstrapping Hundreds of Programmers

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the water-twice-a-day-plant-in-full-sunlight dept.

Education 147

itwbennett writes "The MOOC (massive open online course) failure rate is notoriously high — only 1% of people who take the beginning computer science programming class, CS50, that Harvard offers over the EdX online platform complete it. A new effort in St. Louis called LaunchCode is changing that — and solving the city's programmer shortage. For the past several weeks, about 300 hardy souls have been gathering in a downtown St. Louis library to listen to the CS50 lectures and work together on the various programming problem sets. But the support offered by the all-volunteer run LaunchCode doesn't end with meet space. They're also doing an end-around on the traditional coder hiring process by pairing the students who complete the course with experienced programmers in one of more than a 100 tech companies who are looking for talent."

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Meat Space (1)

sabs (255763) | about 7 months ago | (#46463917)

If you're going to co-op cyberpunk terms, at least get them right. It's Meat Space.

Re:Meat Space (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464035)

I imagine it's somewhat of a pun, because there are 300 people meeting to work on the course.

Good model for higher level education (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 7 months ago | (#46463919)

I've wondered why more online educational institutions don't try something this, real groups that meet somewhere public to work through a course together.

The aspect of being paired with a working programmer eventually is also a great advantage, but just having a group to work with would lead lot more people to have enough motivation to complete a class.

Re:Good model for higher level education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464167)

Because they are trying to reduce costs of getting money from people. All of that requires them to put out more money

Re:Good model for higher level education (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 7 months ago | (#46464987)

They would not have to put out a lot, just start some seed groups in a few cities for some people taking a course to encourage them to meet somewhere central to get a study group going.

Re:Good model for higher level education (1)

azadrozny (576352) | about 7 months ago | (#46465565)

Isn't that the same as taking a traditional class that meets on a college campus? In my view the real benefit to the St. Louis program is the pairing with an experienced professional. The student can see a direct benefit to participating in the program, due to the high probability of a job offer at the end.

Re:Good model for higher level education (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 7 months ago | (#46465785)

Isn't that the same as taking a traditional class that meets on a college campus?

Which costs a LOT of money, hence the draw for a similar model that is far cheaper - thus a lot more people could explore topics for study without spending a small fortune to find what they like, or even if pursuing further education makes sense for them.

Re:Good model for higher level education (1)

azadrozny (576352) | about 7 months ago | (#46466363)

This program works because local area businesses are willing to back it by allowing students to learn on the job. It would fall apart quickly if it was just a regional study group.

Re:Good model for higher level education (5, Insightful)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 7 months ago | (#46464369)

I've wondered why more online educational institutions don't try something this, real groups that meet somewhere public to work through a course together. The aspect of being paired with a working programmer eventually is also a great advantage, but just having a group to work with would lead lot more people to have enough motivation to complete a class.

Some schools do. Back in my academic days in the 1990s, my school (a state university) partnered with the local AFB for such things. Some of the people in the lab spent half their day working on fighter jet programs and other systems on the base. In exchange a lot of people got recruited by the base and by the base's contractors as civilian programmers before graduation.

However, I note in the story that they businesses are looking for a specific class of programmers: The low-paid programmers who have enough background to be useful but not enough background to demand a high salary.

Specifically the businesses are looking for people with one year of training on how to use the language. Those who graduate from the program will likely enjoy a few years on the job --- probably paid a living wage for those few years --- and then will be dumped when they start asking for professional wages.

Contrary to what those business want you to believe, there is not a shortage of programmers. Instead, there is a mismatch between what the businesses want to pay versus what programmers believe they should earn. Skilled programmers provide valuable services, are very much white-collar workers, and are able to demand a high salary just like doctors, lawyers, pilots, architects, and other highly-trained, highly skilled professionals. Businesses who pay well have no difficulty finding skilled and talented programmers. Businesses who pay their programmers the same rate as their hourly call center workers, well, they get the quality they paid for.

Software runs the world. I wouldn't want a minimum-wage physician, or a minimum-wage airline pilot, or a building designed by a minimum-wage architect. I similarly wouldn't trust custom-built software written by minimum-wage programmers.

Re:Good model for higher level education (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465085)

Software runs the world. I wouldn't want a minimum-wage physician, or a minimum-wage airline pilot, or a building designed by a minimum-wage architect. I similarly wouldn't trust custom-built software written by minimum-wage programmers.

Here is a GNU idea, let's don't pay them anything. Trust, but verify!

Re:Good model for higher level education (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 7 months ago | (#46465237)

yes but some of the H1B are near min wage and they are pushed to work long hours as fired = deported.

Re:Good model for higher level education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465875)

Thanks for saying exactly what I was thinking and putting it in a better way than I could of.

Re:Good model for higher level education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46467455)

It should probably be noted that architects are compensated far less than even below-average programmers.

Re:Good model for higher level education (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | about 7 months ago | (#46464465)

Agree!
Or at least have the opportunity to organize your own meet-up at a convenient location, Or get a list of willing volunteers to help set up the meets and get local tech or other sector businesses involved in your general area. (Fair amount of the MOOC are not IT related!).

I've tried a dozen or so different courses from different providers and I only can be bothered to go 1 or 2 days through the courses before giving up!
I learn better in a group, actually interacting with other students and teachers rather than sitting in front of my PC with a bunch of youtube vids and a page of multiple-choice questions! (which is weird as I generally can't stand the company of other people!!)

no one teaches programming, you learn it (5, Insightful)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 7 months ago | (#46463995)

David Malan, who went to Harvard himself and is a rockstar teacher, teaches the course. I watched a couple of his lectures and found them interesting and engaging, even when he covers some basic concepts that I have long known. If I had him teaching me programming back in the day, I might have stuck with it and become a coder myself.

i'm sure its just me, but isn't this possibly the dumbest excuse for not becoming a programmer around?

almost all programmers i know who really add value to projects learned the stuff mostly on their own...teachers don't teach this stuff, the computer does. for the first six months almost everyone who is trying to write a program is going to be pounding their head on the desk.

only through that struggle will you begin to grok it.

i still thank my first Comp-Sci undergraduate teacher (FORTRAN for those interested) for issuing this offer to his students...

"anyone interested in getting an A and skipping having to come to class, if you write a bowling league manager that does this, this, and that and have it done in 10 weeks, talk to me after class"

I believe i was the only one who took him up on his offer, and to this day i'm thankful for him for the things i "learned" about PROFESSIONAL programming.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (0)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 7 months ago | (#46464019)

If only you had had someone to teach you sentence structure, capitalization and grammar.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464197)

Honest question: what is the point(s) of capitalization? Is it simply a line marker built into the writing system or is it completely superfluous?

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 7 months ago | (#46464339)

Depends on if you can tell a period from a comma.

Some fonts make it hard.

Lots of older eyes make it harder.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46465213)

Lots of older eyes make it harder.

I would think it would make it easier, considering most people have to get by with no more than a pair.

Ba-dum psht.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 7 months ago | (#46466037)

Unfortunately, I'm down to about 1.5.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46464383)

go type up 20 pages of whatever with no grammar, capitals, periods or anything and see how readable it is

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 months ago | (#46464545)

Depends on the language, but in English it denotes the start of a sentence or a proper name. For the first usage, it's much like data formatting in computers: a stream of data has a header so you know what the following data is. A capital letter shows that a new sentence is starting, and the punctuation at the end of the previous sentence (if any) wasn't just a speck of dust or mistake. Most languages have a certain level of redundancy built-in, if you think about it, since speech (especially hearing it) is naturally unreliable, and written words can be unreliable (esp. handwritten, but even typed pages can get damaged or torn). Capital letters are just another form of redundancy to improve reliability. They also look nice. For the second usage, they denote proper names, as those are considered more significant than regular nouns or other words.

In German, all nouns are capitalized. I'm not sure why.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465195)

Honest question: what is the point(s) of capitalization? Is it simply a line marker built into the writing system or is it completely superfluous?

yeah why use periods or commas or any punctuation or capitalization at all i mean even someone with the most basic experience in english should be able to tell where one statement ends and another begins right so i like your idea lets go with it when do you want to start

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 7 months ago | (#46464363)

yeah i dont know anythinga bout that stuff

its just pure ignorance that i dont follow convention

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 7 months ago | (#46464783)

Yo, wait Geezer. The Point was it was done in FORTRAN, back in the day, while you go on whining about, "sentence structure, capitalization and grammar".

Do you think someone that could adhere to your standards of, "sentence structure, capitalization,[*] and grammar" could have made this FORTRAN achievement back in the day, and also make the point now for the Slashdot public to learn from?

* The comma is my editorial contribution to your original text; should I have used [sic]? instead?.

For a punctual citation reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

So please lighten up while not digressing on the whole point, ok?

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46466671)

I think the point is that--for all intents and purposes--"sentence structure, capitalization, and grammar" represent the syntax of the written English language.

And as software people, we probably should focus on the rules of each language (be it English, or C++) we might be using along the way.

The nice thing is: even if one totally bastardizes capitalization and grammar, it still almost always compiles.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465687)

If only you had had someone to teach you basic manners and some social grace. I had no trouble understanding the post in question. In fact, I found it quite interesting and informative. It was only when I saw this post and looked back at the parent that I noticed the eccentric structure. Formal? No. Effective? Yes.

Have a nice day asshole.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 7 months ago | (#46466447)

I had no trouble understanding the post in question.

Good for you. I had trouble following it, and apparently the GP did too. Maybe you are the asshole.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (4, Insightful)

gnupun (752725) | about 7 months ago | (#46464319)

almost all programmers i know who really add value to projects learned the stuff mostly on their own...teachers don't teach this stuff, the computer does. for the first six months almost everyone who is trying to write a program is going to be pounding their head on the desk.

only through that struggle will you begin to grok it.

Exactly, you can't become a samurai sword wielding ninja by vegging out in front of a flash video showing ninjas fighting and an instructor explaining tricks and theory. You've also got to pick up a wooden stick and fight.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 7 months ago | (#46464525)

Wonderful analogy.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 7 months ago | (#46467123)

Not true -- I found a great tutorial on how to be a ninja and now I'm an expert. I am now able to totally dominate any enemy.*

*Note: Enemy must be shaped like a fruit.

Re:no one teaches programming, you learn it (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46467421)

But how do you defend yourself if you don't have a tiger?

We are the 99% (4, Insightful)

Evan Kent (3574545) | about 7 months ago | (#46464005)

I'm one of those people who dropped it. Namely, because my IT classes (I was getting college credit for) picked up. I wouldn't discount a 1% completion rate as a sign of failure, or even one of difficulty. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that every person who signs up for it for any sort of personal growth is a success, even if most drop it later on.

Re:We are the 99% (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#46464177)

Good old economics kicks in.
If you offer a class at too low of a price, failure or just quitting is an option when there is little to loose. So you take a few classes, it isn't your cup of tea you quit.

If you drop a few grand down for a class, and it isn't your cup of tea, you will still stick threw it and get those credits, as you have already paid for it.

Re:We are the 99% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465775)

"Stick threw it"? Are you training to be the ex-CEO of a certain large tech outfit ("that pile of sticks used to be a chair, before I threw it at the wall"), or something?

Give us men of ability (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 7 months ago | (#46464095)

The plea began to hammer progressively louder upon the desk of the Unification Board, from all parts of a country ravaged by unemployment, and neither the pleaders nor the Board dared to add the dangerous words which the cry was implying: "Give us men of ability!"

Why is it so hard to find talented people?

Re:Give us men of ability (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 7 months ago | (#46464551)

talented, cheap people.

Re:Give us men of ability (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 months ago | (#46464579)

What I've always found interesting about these calls for "more XYZ workers" is that the people crying for more of these workers are themselves never willing to do those jobs. Instead, they're politicians, HR drones, etc.. If these jobs are so great, then why aren't they doing them? It smacks of disingenuity.

Re:Give us men of ability (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46464757)

Why is it so hard to find talented people?

Because people with real programming degrees aren't willing to work for $25,000/yr.

Re:Give us men of ability (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 7 months ago | (#46464859)

The dirty little secret- it isn't hard at all if you are willing to compensate adequately (including, if necessary, training to create men of ability).

Re:Give us men of ability (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 7 months ago | (#46465215)

Right - so whats the systemic problem? Under-educated politicians? A culture which dismisses individual achievement and hard science?

Re:Give us men of ability (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about 7 months ago | (#46465765)

Right - so whats the systemic problem? Under-educated politicians? A culture which dismisses individual achievement and hard science?

We have a political system beholden to an economic system that rewards and empowers sociopaths. New Jersey just outlawed direct sale of Tesla automobiles, to give just one example.

...and no power on Earth could tell whether their blankly indifferent eyes were shutters protecting hidden treasures at the bottom of shafts no longer to be mined, or were merely gaping holes of the parasites's emptiness never to be filled...

Re:Give us men of ability (2)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 7 months ago | (#46465895)

It's either the Peter Principle or the Dilbert Principle, depending on the business. Has almost nothing to do with government, and everything to do with either promoting people past their competency or hiring sociopaths who don't know the first thing about what a man with ability looks like because they have an MBA from Phoenix.

Noncompletion doesn't mean failure (4, Insightful)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about 7 months ago | (#46464141)

The point of MOOCs is that since they're free, those who enroll in them can pick and choose from what's there that interests them. Plenty of people enroll in a MOOC because they want a refresher on something, or to learn about just one aspect of what's covered, or just to see what it looks like. It's not failure when those people don't go through everything in the course.

will the real corepirate nazis please stand down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464185)

aka cease fire with the endless decepteyecon hypenosys of pretend dogooder foibles all in beta forever

NOT a programmer shortage. It's a SALARY SHORTAGE! (0)

JohnnyConservative (1611795) | about 7 months ago | (#46464193)

NOT a programmer shortage. It's a SALARY SHORTAGE! I live in Missouri and have tried to gain employment in the St. Louis area over the past 8 months. When you look at the salaries being offered you see they are WELL BELOW what they should be!! St. Louis is on the democrat side of the state and IS democrat controlled. Really, you would not like living there. You will be taxed to death, regulated to death and surrounded by idiot, moron, democrats!!!

Re:NOT a programmer shortage. It's a SALARY SHORTA (-1, Troll)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 months ago | (#46464593)

That's no worse than being surrounded by idiot, moron, Republicans.

Smart people know not to live in Missouri at all, in any part of the state. The Republican parts are full of morons who think "a woman's body has ways to shut that down", and St. Louis is one of the most crime-ridden, dangerous, and economically blighted cities in the country. There has to be something wrong with you to live in that state.

You really need to stop believing the lies democra (0)

JohnnyConservative (1611795) | about 7 months ago | (#46464707)

Yet another lie spread be democrats: "a woman's body has ways to shut that down", Not true: "St. Louis is one of the most crime-ridden, dangerous, and economically blighted cities in the country". No more so than New Your City, Los Angles, Detroit, and other democrat enclaves! And it is because democrats love criminals (don't want them put to death; caught, punished, etc.) - they are voters after all!

Re:You really need to stop believing the lies demo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465047)

Having a ton of fun trolling today, are we?

Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (2)

js3 (319268) | about 7 months ago | (#46464199)

Where is this shortage or programmers problem coming from? Last I check there are lots and lots of them. If they are looking for good programmers, they wont solve it by offering one course...

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464315)

The shortage is in cheap programmers.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (4, Informative)

bobaferret (513897) | about 7 months ago | (#46464415)

For one, this is the midwest. The pay isn't nearly as attractive as the coasts. And if you move away from the STL area it gets even worse. We have a very hard time down in Southern IL finding programmers. Everyone wants to go to the Valley, and make a fortune writing Games or Social apps. No one WANTS to come here and write court case management software. There's no glamour in it, and the pay is meh. We also want our applicants to have some programming experience when they show up; and NO, a quicksort algorithm you did in a CS class at the local university won't cut it. Plus we have to compete for hires with companies like Yahoo and Google for the decent folks coming out of school. In your mid 20's there are not a lot of kids looking to start families and live the quiet life around here. Local companies can't compete on Money, nor Ultra Urban lifestyles around here. So there's a shortage as far as we are concerned.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464687)

the pay is meh

See that? That's the problem. I (and plenty of others) don't want to write BS "social apps" or some adverts platforms. But we also want to get the money we can live on.

and NO, a quicksort algorithm you did

I hope you are not talking from algorithm standpoint here. Sure, no one needs to re-implement quicksort with bugs - plenty of standard libraries do that already. But if you are looking for better sorting algorithm, quicksort is the best you get for many applications.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (3, Informative)

js3 (319268) | about 7 months ago | (#46464811)

So what you are telling me is there is a shortage because you aren't willing to market value for good programmers, but you won't take average programmers either. So what exactly is this supposed to solve? You'll just end up with a bunch of average programmers in the end anyway because the good programmers will be attracted away by market forces.

Maybe what you need to do is increase the pay to make it a more attractive place to work.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

bobaferret (513897) | about 7 months ago | (#46464989)

There is a 57.67% cost of living difference between here and the west coast. What people see is that we offer $40K starting where as the coast will offer $63K. Yet, they are the same amount as far as cost of living goes.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46465297)

You have to pay a premium to get people to live in a shithole. That's just a fact. (From Missouri, California for 25 years).

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46465327)

There is a 57.67% cost of living difference between here and the west coast. What people see is that we offer $40K starting where as the coast will offer $63K. Yet, they are the same amount as far as cost of living goes.

Sounds like excuse-making to me.

$40K/yr dries up PDQ when you've got a mortgage, car payment, and $70K worth of student loans to pay.

Even in the Midwest. Hell, even in the rural Midwest.

So, seems like you've got 2 choices here: Keep paying peanuts to hire monkeys and whine about it, or try something else and see if it makes a difference.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465581)

This is unfortunately true. Even in depressed, very low cost of living areas all that 40k will get you is a nice apartment and maybe an ugly wife.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

bobaferret (513897) | about 7 months ago | (#46466967)

I said 40K starting. No Experience just a degree. At that point you are a monkey get over yourself. And the student loans suck. I think that's a very good point, you can't graduate from college with that much debt and take a job in rural America. Our clients (Courts) can't afford to pay more than they are. Hell they can't even pay their own staffs around here. It sucks from that point of view. What's happened around here, is that the cost of college has gotten so high because they have to pay competitively for professors to be willing to work here, while pricing the cost of tuition out of reach of the local people for whom the college was supposed to help. While at the same time, except for a few departments, the quality of teaching and the degree is so low that only big city kids who couldn't get into a decent school attend, and then leave after trashing the place. There will always be more opportunities in a large urban area than a rural area, and more on the coasts than the midwest. That just life, but as far a shortage of programmers go, we have one. All we can offer are cheap cost of living, safe schools, nice enviroment, lots of nature, wineries, and fiber to your house.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465439)

The fact that your city/town/neighborhood sucks balls and there is no competition for housing or services there does not mean you're off the hook for the part of their salary your competitor is willing to pay them to live in a bad ass area with tons of intrinsic value. I hope looking it at from this light helps.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

g8oz (144003) | about 7 months ago | (#46466017)

>>There is a 57.67% cost of living difference between here and the west coast. What people see is that we offer $40K starting where as the coast will offer $63K. Yet, they are the same amount as far as cost of living goes.

How is that rationalization working out for you?

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

bobaferret (513897) | about 7 months ago | (#46466679)

Not my company, and we manage to get by.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (5, Insightful)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46464881)

So you want someone who is experienced, willing to work for dirt cheap in a boring shitty job, in a boring place, with no perks?

Well shit, I want to marry a supermodel. Looks like there's a supermodel shortage too!

Maybe I just run to Congress and demand that they start importing me some slave supermodels.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

Slugster (635830) | about 7 months ago | (#46465463)

So you want someone who is experienced, willing to work for dirt cheap in a boring shitty job, in a boring place, with no perks? ...

This is really the problem with 'finding programmers in the St Louis area'..... --Or at least, it was ~10 years back when I tried getting into the field.
The educational requirements and experience that companies wanted was way out of line with what they were willing to pay, and they were generally unwilling to allow any flexibility in either regard.

The whole thing with the online course seems odd. It's just going to give local businesses more applications they already don't want.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

bobaferret (513897) | about 7 months ago | (#46467255)

The kind of experience most companies seem to be looking for is insane. We generally will take anyone with experience in writing or involved in decently large projects. If there in one of the main languages we use then that's great. But we always look for more than just a pile of completed homework assignments. With so much opportunity to write software out there in open source projects and what not, there is no reason for people to not have some experience. We don't require you know the problem space or any particular framework all we want are people who love to code and want to help people. In return, we'll help you. There's no one starving here, we're laid back and have a good time. No one is expected and it's discouraged for you to work more than 39 hours a week. So you actually want to spend time your family? Please do, this is a job, not your whole life. Take the afternoon off because it's the first day of spring. Point being, there is a lot to be said for low-key low-stress jobs where we pay people great wages for the area.

In order to be competitive, you have to compete (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465169)

By that argument, the onus is on the companies, rather than the individuals. As has been discussed, there is a massive supply of talent willing to work, but the companies that refuse to compete in the market are having a hard time. There are ways for companies in areas with low costs of living to compete -- they just don't want to. You said it yourself: you want experienced talent, but you aren't willing to pay for it. People can complain about a "bad economy" or "labor shortages" until the cows come home, but cases like this are entirely self-inflicted. Hiring and retaining talent is a cost of doing business, and the talent itself is an asset, not a liability -- only by tackling those issues head-on can real progress be made. Sure, it's going to cost you a little more on a per-person basis, but you'll save money in the long run by reducing training costs with less-frequent turnover/hiring, increasing your overall production quality (and thereby reducing time spent debugging/refactoring/etc), and increasing internal morale (happy people are motivated to stay that way; dissatisfied people can get stuck in a rut). Even small companies can do this -- it's just a matter of prioritizing your goals (and budget) and keeping the big picture in mind.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 7 months ago | (#46466503)

So if I understand your post correctly
1. People don't want to live in the area your company is located in for the wages your company is offering.
2. Your company only wants to hire top tier employees who can make substantially more at other companies.
3. Your company doesn't want to train people.
Sounds to me like your company should actually follow the standard BS management line of investing in employees instead of whining about a shortage of people. How about increasing your pay offerings and compensation since you clearly stated that they pay is meh. Another idea might be to work with the local schools and offer paid internships you know so that you might actually be able to nab some of those college grads who already have experience. Also you could actually try and compete with Yahoo and Google for those new grads.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (1)

bobaferret (513897) | about 7 months ago | (#46467439)

to address these:
1. People don't want to live in this area period, wages have a lot less to do with it.
2. I never said "top tier employees" all I said was more than a few homework assignments.
3. We'll gladly train people who can show some aptitude or energy.

We do offer paid internships, we do work with the local schools etc. But you'd be a fool, unless you're a family guy looking for stability at a young age, to work for us if you can get Google or Yahoo or whatever on your resume. Rural america is the end of the line as far as your career goes. What we are seeing are midlife people, who are tired of the rat race. And that's generally what we hire. We have one person in their 20's and everyone else is pushing 40 or over, out of 16.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464575)

St Lois has high demand for programmers?

What salary are these jobs offering, and what kind of work/life balance can an applicant expect?

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464971)

Starting salary in the 20k range. City sucks ass. Software companies all boring as fuck. No chance for advancement. City night life non-existent.

Sound appealing?

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (2)

b1tbkt (756288) | about 7 months ago | (#46464737)

You're failing to grasp the inference. There is a serious shortage of *good and cheap* programmers. The more you put into the marketplace, the cheaper they get. St. Louis is a great place with lots of potential but the tech environment around here is still somewhat dictated by the interests of large conservative companies (this is changing but not quick enough) who insist that all employees have a minimum of a bachelor's degree for the privilege of obtaining a $12/hr coding job - even for those who have 5+ years of experience in the field. The underlying economics work great for the employer's but not so much the other way around. Though I'm not a developer (well, I code when I need to but have never held that title), I've been working with closely them for a long time. Coding is one of those things that is so inherently complex that you simply can't train random people to be good at it. Speaking from experience, a team of 20 average coders can be far exceeded in output volume and quality by two good ones in the same amount of time. It scares me when efforts like the one mentioned here try to generate broad appeal for the profession. There will always be mediocre performers (true for doctors, mechanics, lawyers and actors alike) but the talent pool is already well-stacked in that category.

Re:Taking one course solves a "shortage"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464835)

I've got a programming degree that required me to take about 25 courses (including 2 years of Java, 4 semester-long courses). And yet I work in another field, because it's the only way to make decent money. Of all my degrees, I'd say my programming degree is easily the most worthless.

But, yeah, these guys think they're going to walk in off the street, take one course, and earn $50,000/yr. Uh huh, yeah.

I failed out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464239)

I did not complete edx cs 50.
The problem was time. The course is broken into weekly segments. If all segments were open at the beginning i would have sailed through.
When I signed up I had plenty of time to complete the assignments. 3 weeks later none at all. The problem was that the course didn't have the option for me to get ahead far enough so I could continue the lectures in sync.
I still did the course work but did not bother with doing the tests out of order to complete the course.

The truth is (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 7 months ago | (#46464247)

There has always been and will always be a shortage of good programmers. It's the way the art is .

Re:The truth is (1)

non0score (890022) | about 7 months ago | (#46464597)

It's not the way the "art" is. It's poor teaching and a lack of will to learn. Sure, maybe not everyone can become an excellent programmer without putting in at least 15 years, but almost everyone can be a good programmer with a good few years of learning/training. And no, college doesn't teach you everything you need to know to be a good programmer.

Re:The truth is (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 7 months ago | (#46464663)

IMHO i'm trying to make the point which you are so very precisely missing.

Re:The truth is (1)

non0score (890022) | about 7 months ago | (#46465727)

Your point being that it's an "art", implying not everyone can be good at it, implying people good at the art is few and far between, implying there's a shortage? If so, yes, I get that, and my point is that it isn't as much of an art as people want to say it is. If not, perhaps you can clarify your point and be less of an ass about it.

Re:The truth is (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 7 months ago | (#46466367)

Sire, The fact that you accept it's an art vindicates most of what I had to say . And shortage is after all a matter of perspective . There aint any shortage of artists is there?

Re:The truth is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464959)

Nope, actually they can't... it takes at least 5-10 years of serious work _after_ that "learning/training" in order to get "good" at programming, and still a majority never even get there. The excellent programmers on the other hand go through the same, and more, in addition to having the innate talent and upbringing.

Re:The truth is (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46466119)

Most people couldn't be a programmer, good or bad, with infinite effort.

Because they have no interest or talent for it.

I can spot the future programmers in a group of 10 year olds by watching them play. The potential future programmers are the ones working the puzzles/rubik's cubes/chinese block puzzles etc.

Positive MOOC experience (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464255)

I took Jennifer Widom's SQL course out of Stanford a couple years ago, just as a refresher (and to see if I could "hang" in a world class instutition). I found the class rewarding.

At its peak we had 120k students. Now consider 1% of 120,000 is still 1200 students; far more than she could teach in a year at a school like Stanford.

Yeah with MOOCs, like everything else accedemic, you get out of it what you put in. At least in these cases, they let us, the prospective student decide if we should be there, instead of weeding out students through the admissions process or with heavy prerequisites and other selective measures.

Just like real college, many will fail and few will succeed. At least this way, my outcome is all up to me.

Re:Positive MOOC experience (2)

gIobaljustin (3526197) | about 7 months ago | (#46464517)

Just like real college, many will fail and few will succeed.

Except in real college, even the ones who have no clue what they're doing often succeed.

Re:Positive MOOC experience (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46465411)

Also, with real college:

- You're out the cost of the classes whether you succeed or fail.

- Success in school does not automagically lead to a successful career. Same goes for failure. [wikipedia.org]

Let's call a spade a spade (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464277)

These efforts aren't solving the programmer shortage, they are simply mills churning out unqualified candidates (only ~1% of which will get a job and %1 of those becoming a solid developer) in order to deflate wages for everyone else.

There is another program that is ramping up called CodeRed [coderededucation.com] , which helps high-schools introduce a series of courses that will supposedly get high-school graduates entry level jobs from $45-60K.

I'm not too worried as ITT / Pheonix / have tried to do this for years with little success (and several lawsuits for promising things they cannot deliver). You'll get the same result [slashdot.org] out of these programs.

As an aside, I just wish the developer community had the political awareness to see these things for what they really are. Maybe it's industry maturity or the aggregate political / sociological leanings, but you don't see this kind of crap from Doctors, Lawyers, etc.

I also wish we didn't devalue education by stating this is all it takes, but, hey call that the Holiday Inn effect [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Let's call a spade a spade (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464433)

Racist.

Re:Let's call a spade a spade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464531)

Racist.

Funny, I thought explicitly targeting certain communities for exploitation, promising them a way out that they will never get, sending them into debt is more racist than anything. Educate yourself on the lawsuits and practices of Sanford Brown [riverfronttimes.com] .

Re:Let's call a spade a spade (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46466147)

Aristotle coined the phrase, 'we must call a spade a spade' long before 'spade' was a racial slur.

IT / tech needs apprenticeships and CS is not = IT (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 7 months ago | (#46465313)

IT / tech needs apprenticeships and CS is not = IT.

Both IT tech work and programming some kind of trades / apprenticeship system.

The older college system is to much of a one size fits all and at times can be theory loaded / has lot's of skill gaps.

Some of the theory is nice to have but others is only really useful for very low level OS stuff that most programmers witting code should have to deal with much less wire there own systems bypassing the build in os ones.

Also with IT / desktop / sever / networking is more hands on and the over load of theory is bad as well doing stuff out a book without being in real settings that can be quite a bit off of what the book says.

They need to raise salaries (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464331)

Something around $200k/yr for entry level programmers sounds about right

Correllation is not causation, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464353)

if there's a shortage of programmers in St. Louis, does that mean there is a surplus of businesses ready to hire programmers in St. Louis?
(I'm happy where I'm at now, but this would have been good to know two months ago.)

Programming isn't for everyone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46464781)

Coding is hard for people that are able to understand it. It's impossible for most perple to learn enough to be proficient with it. No class teaches it, it is learned by doing. If you're fortunate, you might have a mentor to guide you through the diffuicult to referance parts. The only education that is helpfull is a degree in -or- self-taught knowledge of Electronic Engineering, period! Coding is a language art, not a science or engineering skill. Some exceptions apply of course (read this sentence)! Basic math and logic understanding is plenty for 99% of jobs. The diffucult part is the complexity in keeping the scope of projects in check... Lack of documentation and the complexity of the tools; a mostly nessassary complexity! And the fact that there is NO "RIGHT" WAY TO DO IT! Basicly, if you want to be a programmer and can't teach youself, then it isn't for you. ; (

The shortage of good coders scales directly with the intelligence bell-curve, sadly. Nuff said!

It's STL (3, Informative)

SecuritySimian (1150141) | about 7 months ago | (#46464851)

Most of the tech companies in the area treat programmers/developers (and IT as a whole) as a fossil fuel, to be immediately burned for their energy and quickly forgotten. Attitudes are slowly changing and quality of life is improving at a glacial pace. Still, it's a hard market to thrive in-- long hours, pay that is commonly bottom 25% of national medians, and special types of business people that can only be the result of inbreeding. Expect to be worked like a rented mule, especially in the health care sector.

STL does have its gems (Enterprise RAC, Savvis, Panera, MasterCard etc.), but they're pretty difficult to get in to with all of the competition.

5% who passed first MIT MOOC course (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 7 months ago | (#46465019)

Essentially doubled the number of people who had ever passed that course- versus 50 years of the slow way.

edX is a joke (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465335)

I took an edX course as part of a mandatory computer engineering course at SJSU and it was terrible. The entire thing was like a marketing ploy designed to boost the reputation of the instructor that spearheaded it. In the end, we had to have many extra sessions of traditional lecture to get the kind of real learning you can only get in a classroom, because the videos and online components were worthless.

I love technology, but the intersection of education and technology has always been forced with a very heavy hand, and it seldom, if ever, works. There's a reason the traditional form of classroom learning has persisted since ancient times -- it just works. Virtually all failures in modern education are more about misappropriation of funds or corruption of policy by administration rather than teaching or the teaching methods. And guess what, a lot of these poorly utilized funds get diverted into needless technology for the classroom. Video conferencing anyone?

edX doesn't work. Maybe the intentions behind it were legitimate, but all it is now is a platform to prop up the standing of professors who are more interested in seeing their name in the newspaper (literally, he spent an entire lecture talking about the newspapers he was featured in) than teaching anyone anything.

Not a bad idea (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 months ago | (#46465389)

You could go further with this idea. Maybe have an expert in the topic present to help people. You could even gather a bunch of meetups for different courses under one organization. Provide equipment, develop new courses, etc. You could call it I don't know a college maybe?

There is no shortage.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465393)

I'm a contactor here in St. Louis.

There is no shortage....
especially when you consider the big companies that
take college business grads, give them 2 weeks of Java
and pawn them off as "programmers" paying them about 40k/yr
while billing 120+ / hr...

They're not good but the stoooopid (intentionally mispelled) companies don't want to know that.
It might interfere with kickbacks.

1 percenter expectations (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 7 months ago | (#46465501)

Manage your expectations. If the MOOC is truly massive, one percent is good.
If you have one class of 30 students and 2/3rds actually graduate, you get 20 graduates.
If you have 3000 students in a MOOC and "only" 1% completes, you get 30 graduates.

If you can't understand that difference in percentages, it's not worth talking about cost-effectiveness.
But having an experienced mentor is definitely an improvement for any kind of training.

Defeats the purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46465693)

I thought the point of it being an online class was so no one would be prohibited due to location or time. If I have to meet at a set location doesn't this defeat the purpose of holding it online?

Why bother - they will just get outsourced! (1)

gabrieltss (64078) | about 7 months ago | (#46466127)

Why are these folks bothering. They will get hired by some company and that company will outsource the development work to India or some other country that they can pay the folks a dime on the dollar to do the same work. Why is there a shortage? So many companies sucking up the H1-B visas and outsourcing. Get a grip....

1% *success* rate is high (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | about 7 months ago | (#46466971)

Given the low entry barrier as compared to traditional higher education systems, the surprise isn't the failure rate, but the success rate. Given the low cost per student of providing the course, even at a 1% success rate I expect that the cost per successful student is much better than the traditional systems, though I don't actually have numbers to back that up.
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