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LaunchCode Flooded With Applications From Aspiring Tech Talent

Michael Calhoun (@michaelcalhoun, mrcalhoun@cbs.com)
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Square co-founder Jim McKelvey explains the success so-far of the LaunchCode tech talent placement initiative to a crowd at his Third Degree Glass Factory. (KMOX/Michael Calhoun/FILE)

Square co-founder Jim McKelvey explains the success so-far of the LaunchCode tech talent placement initiative to a crowd at his Third Degree Glass Factory. (KMOX/Michael Calhoun/FILE)

calhoun2 Michael Calhoun
A native St. Louisan, Michael Calhoun grew up listening to the Voice...
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Thousands of tech jobs to fill, too few qualified people — that’s the problem that prompted Jim McKelvey to come up with the LaunchCode initiative, which celebrated its lift-off, of sorts, at McKelvey’s Third Degree Glass Factory on Monday night.

LaunchCode aims to pair newbie, generally skilled programmers with experienced programmers at companies that would eventually want to hire the newbie full-time. It’s like a paid internship. The two sit at the same computer with separate keyboards and the newbie learns by working side-by-side with the more seasoned coder. “Pair programming” is the concept’s name.

The goal for the program was 100 programmers and 100 companies, and both were met with no problem.

Local companies involved include fledgling start-ups, marketing agencies, blue-chip corporations and consumer brands. In fact, every company that McKelvey, the co-founder of Square, approached agreed to take part.

McKelvey's cheat sheetVying for those 100 slots are 534 applications, which LaunchCode co-founder Dan Lohman tells KMOX News “goes to show a lot of the motivation: the fact that there is an inefficiency in pairing these talents with these openings.”

In the palm his hand, while addressing the crowd at his Glass Factory, McKelvey held a tiny clip of paper with several statistics on it, including the number of companies, applicants, interviews, placements-to-date and how many volunteers have been involved and how much time they’ve donated.

His last bullet point: the first round of placements was completed at 2:30 a.m. after a marathon day.

Approximately half of the applicants have been matched with companies looking for coders with their specific skills and interests. Others will be placed soon. The rest are being given advice about how to better refine their skills for the next round.

And Lohman expects many more rounds, with more employers.

He and McKelvey said there are thousands of tech openings that companies can’t fill and just as many aspiring programmers who can’t find a match.

That’s not an exclusively St. Louis problem and the hope is that the Gateway City can become a talent factory.

“We’re going to have to reach outside of St. Louis,” Lohman predicted, “and also reach deeper into St. Louis and develop the talent that we have here.”

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