Photo of Allentown by Zos Xavius

Ready to head back to school? Coworking and incubator space Work Hard Pittsburgh in Allentown is opening Academy, a technology education space that connects skills directly to job demand in the Pittsburgh area.

Academy aims to teach novice and experienced coders technical skills that the Pittsburgh area needs. “We’re talking to all the staffing agencies, making sure that the skills we’re going to be teaching align well with what’s employable in the region right now,” explains Josh Lucas, founder of Work Hard Pittsburgh. 

Founder of Work Hard PGH, Josh Lucas. Courtesy of Lucas.
Founder of Work Hard Pittsburgh Josh Lucas. Courtesy of Lucas.

Classes are crowdsourced. “Anyone who’s interested in instructing anything that’s technical in nature is welcome to pitch it to us,” Lucas says. “We will then present it to the community to see if we could fill that class. It’s a way for us to ensure we’re only teaching relevant things, and it’s based on demand.”

The first three courses offered by Academy in January 2016 are soft launch classes, intended more for experienced coders interested in certification in advanced programs.

Academy’s instructor for the first quarter is Andrew Merski, a programming professional for 12 years and CTO of Geospatial Corporation, an underground infrastructure location, mapping and management company.

In March of 2016, Academy by Work Hard Pittsburgh will offer a 12-week full front-end web development course, appropriate for anyone who wants to learn how to code, or those who want to add to their existing technical knowledge.

Academy by Work Hard PGH. Courtesy of Josh Lucas.

Someone with a technical background could come, take this twelve-week [web development] course and at the end of it be certified in a complete technology stack,” says Lucas. “It’s a holistic solution for getting somebody ready to take that entry-level junior development job.”

Academy classes will be held in Allentown in a storefront across the street from Work Hard Pittsburgh.

Work Hard Pittsburgh was motivated to launch Academy after seeing the retention numbers for software developers educated in Pittsburgh.

“The universities do a good job of teaching [computer engineers], and we do a really bad job of keeping them,” explains Lucas. “They’re quickly attracted to the high paying jobs on the west coast or in New York.”

Lucas and the team at Work Hard Pittsburgh found inspiration in General Assembly and Code Academy which are fast-paced coding courses available in other cities.

Academy follows the growing trend of education in Pittsburgh’s technology community.  Code and Supply, the brainchild of developer Justin Reese, was started in March of 2014, and offers meetups and workshops for programmers and developers, as well as code newbies.

“We’re interested in how this disrupts the model of education, in general,” Lucas says. “We think the idea of committing to long, academic study is very difficult in this volatile job market and changing economic system. We think that these hyper-specific, focused intensive courses give people the opportunity to get a skill, put it on their resume and get a job.”

Courses range from 25 to 60 hours for certification. Students at Academy have the opportunity to secure housing in the area through Work Hard Pittsburgh if they’re coming from out of town. Scholarships for classes are also available.

In the future, Academy hopes to expand the course offerings based on interest and availability, Lucas says. “We want to expand this into anything that will get people employable skills and employed in jobs. That could be something as soft as graphic design and media production through the technical software classes that we have posted right now on the website.”

The January 2016 classes are open for enrollment on Academy’s site now.

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl is a writer, blogger, and social media marketer working in tech and startups in Pittsburgh. She loves local craft beer and a well-crafted pun.