Four months after The Iron Yard announced its decision to close, two of the company’s former executives, including founder and CEO Peter Barth, plan to open a new coding school in downtown Greenville.
The school, also known as Carolina Code School, will offer a 12-week full-time web development immersive course to prepare college students and working professionals for a career in software development – no coding experience required.
“Our goal is to prepare students with the skills they need for careers in software development,” said Barth. “We’re not only going to teach them the basics of coding. We’re going to make sure they can actually apply what they’ve learned outside of the classroom.”
Barth added that students who complete the course will have the opportunity to enter a career support program, which provides four additional weeks of curriculum along with support throughout the career search process. Financing will be available.
Carolina Code School plans to open its doors and start training students in early 2018, according to Barth. The course will be held at the NEXT Innovation Center at 411 University Ridge. An online application will be available at carolinacodeschool.org once the school receives licensing from the state.
The school is the first of several economic development programs organized by Build Carolina, a Greenville-based nonprofit “dedicated to building talent initiatives to support innovative companies across the Carolinas.”
Barth launched the nonprofit earlier this year and currently serves on the board of directors alongside Eric Dodd, former chief marketing officer at The Iron Yard, and John Moore, CEO of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s NEXT program. Leila King, former director of communications at The Iron Yard, has been hired to serve as executive director.
“We’re going to launch several things over the next year or so. But our current focus is the coding school,” Barth said. “When we announced the closing of The Iron Yard, there wasn’t a single coding school in the area that could provide the same caliber of education. I knew we had to do something to fill that gap.”
Barth launched The Iron Yard, a Greenville-based technology education company, as a startup accelerator out of the NEXT Innovation Center in 2012. But it quickly became one of the nation’s largest coding schools, once boasting between 20 and 25 campuses.
In July, the company announced it would cease operations and permanently close by the end of the year. The Iron Yard offered little explanation in a blog post but said the board decided to shut down after “considering the current environment.”
While Barth couldn’t speak about the board’s decision to close The Iron Yard, he suggested the company was strained by the cost of operating numerous campuses across the country while promoting a new model of education.
Apollo Education Group, the parent company behind the University of Phoenix, acquired a 62 percent interest of The Iron Yard in 2015 for $15.9 million.
In recent years, the company has faced financial issues due to declining enrollment and lawsuits. In the first quarter of 2017, for instance, Apollo reported a net revenue of $484.5 million, compared with $586 million in the first quarter of 2016.
Vistria Group, a Chicago-based private equity firm, purchased Apollo in February for more than $1.1 billion. It wasn’t long after the acquisition that The Iron Yard announced the closure of its operations in Columbia, S.C.; Salt Lake City; Cincinnati; Minneapolis; and San Antonio. The consolidation left the company with only 15 campuses across the country, including in Greenville and Charlotte, N.C.
But where The Iron Yard failed, Carolina Code School will excel, King said.
“The Iron Yard educated thousands of students over the years. But it also expanded into other markets,” she said. “We have no intention of using an outside investor for Carolina Code School. And we don’t plan to expand beyond the Upstate. Our sole focus is closing the local talent gap before anything else.”
King said operating under a nonprofit allows the school to partner with local colleges and universities to ensure that students who graduate from the 12-week course can earn academic credit toward degree or professional certification programs.
The Iron Yard, however, argued that software developers didn’t need a college degree to land a job. But when the company closed up shop earlier this year, Barth realized that colleges and universities across the country are teaming up with coding schools or launching their own accelerated coding workshops.
For instance, Bellevue College in Washington partnered with Coding Dojo earlier this year to offer a part-time coding course for students. And Lynn University in South Florida offers nine academic credits to graduate students who successfully complete and graduate from Wyncode Academy’s web development immersive course.
Carolina Code School is currently partnering with Greenville Technical College to offer academic credits to students who graduate from the 12-week coding course. It’s also currently working to partner with Furman University.
“It takes the commitment of the entire community and innovative opportunities like this partnership to build a talented workforce and to position the Upstate for success,” said Dr. Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College. “We are pleased to partner with Carolina Code School, which will offer a much-needed pathway to employment in software development and engineering and serve as a key part of the economic growth of our region.”
In addition to a coding program, Build Carolina has partnered with the Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s NEXT program to launch several other economic development initiatives, including an apprenticeship program and innovation fellowship.
“We have great momentum when it comes to strengthening our entrepreneurial ecosystem, but our work is far from over. We still have a huge gap when it comes to developing talent, particularly technical talent.” said John Moore, CEO of NEXT. “That’s why we’re thrilled to partner with Build Carolina. These talent initiatives will fill that critical gap and support our early stage ventures as well as existing entrepreneurs, industry partners and our major companies.”
For more information, visit buildcarolina.org.