Texas Tech-Highland Lakes offering Coding Academy

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Texas Tech Coding Academy

Officials from Texas Tech University and the Austin Coding Academy gathered September 18 to announce the launch of the new Texas Tech Coding Academy at Texas Tech University-Highland Lakes. Officials included admissions counselor Lance Pickle (standing, left); Zech Mengis, digital marketing strategist at Austin Coding Academy; academic advisor Anne Arnecke; Dr. Kelly Fox, director of Texas Tech University-Highland Lakes and Fredericksburg; Dr. Clay Taylor, senior director of Texas Tech University Academic Partnerships; Otto Ratheal, executive director of the Texas Tech University regional sites; David Hankins, senior director of Texas Tech University eLearning and Academic Partnerships Marketing; Chris Lofton, CEO of Austin Coding Academy (seated, left); and Dr. Justin Louder, associate vice provost of Texas Tech University eLearning and Academic Partnerships and interim superintendent of Texas Tech University’s K-12 program. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Texas Tech University-Highland Lakes and Austin Coding Academy announced a partnership September 18 to create the Texas Tech Coding Academy.

The academy welcomes its first cohort at TTU-Highland Lakes in October. Coding is creating a set of instructions or rules that are used to write software for computers, apps, and websites. The 32-week program includes instruction on full-stack web development with a focus on JavaScript; a practical project-based curriculum that prepares students to be professional web developers; and unlimited tutoring. 

“We’re very excited to announce this partnership,” said Dr. Justin Louder, associate vice provost of Texas Tech University’s eLearning and Academic Partnerships and interim superintendent of the university’s K-12 program. “Texas Tech believes in working with local communities for education and finding new populations to support and educate. It’s very important for us to be here in this community. We’re very excited to do this partnership.”

Austin Coding Academy CEO Chris Lofton called the launch a “very special opportunity for the people of Marble Falls.”

The nine-month program will be broken into four parts. Classes will be offered twice a week from 6-9 p.m. to make it more convenient for students who have jobs. Tuition for each portion is $2,500 for a total of $10,000. Students will also learn job search skills such as resume writing and interview preparation.

“The goal is a year from today that ten students from Marble Falls have jobs making more money,” Lofton said. “They are excited about the future. People in Marble Falls deserve access to technological education. Everyone does.”

Lofton should know. His first job was as a middle school teacher for six years. Then, he discovered coding, and it changed the course of his life.

“Best investment of my life,” Lofton said.

He noted more and more jobs are being offered in this field, and it’s up to the tech industry to train workers to meet the demand.

The program’s instructors work in the industry and have the necessary knowledge and skills to prepare students, the CEO said.

Lofton said Austin Coding Academy will give those interested in the field an opportunity to learn more and allow them to experience parts of the curriculum firsthand during free learning code events. Officials hope to offer the first learning code event in mid-October.

Those events will allow people to build their own websites and then leave with one that’s live on the internet.

“You’re a producer of the net,” Lofton said. “They know they’re ‘just not here to consume it.’ People really enjoy that. The road to six figures (salary) is there.”

Ideally, students will get an associate’s degree from Central Texas College then transfer to Texas Tech University to obtain a bachelor’s degree, all of which can be accomplished at the Frank Fickett Education Center, 806 Steve Hawkins Parkway in Marble Falls, said Dr. Kelly Fox, director of Texas Tech University-Highland Lakes and Fredericksburg.

Lofton said there’s a huge need for students in grades kindergarten through 12 to know how to code.

Lofton expressed a desire to partner with local school districts. Dr. Chris Allen, superintendent of Marble Falls Independent School District, exchanged contact information with Lofton after the official announcement. 

He noted that 89 percent of graduates of Austin Coding Academy are working in the industry within six months. One is at Amazon, another is at Facebook, and others are working for startup companies.

“This education is relevant, it’s needed,” Lofton said. “If we want to continue competing in global technology, we need to think of ways to get our kids and others access to high-level technology … to be strong in the future.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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