An Update From LaunchCode

An Update From LaunchCode

Focusing on the Need

At the end of March, LaunchCode celebrated our most successful quarter to date. With 94 placements of candidates into jobs or apprenticeships, we exceeded our previous record quarter by two placements. At the same time, we surpassed our budgeted expectations for revenue generated from those placements, leaving the organization in as strong a financial position as it has ever been.

It is not an exaggeration to say that because of LaunchCode’s amazing participants, dedicated staff and supportive community partners, the organization is enjoying the greatest level of success in its brief history.

Why then, just a few weeks later, have we decided to wind down LaunchCode projects in Seattle and Portland after 15 months of serving those markets?

Simply put, the Seattle and Portland markets do not have entry-level tech talent gaps and we do not feel good about taking more grant dollars to provide services those markets do not need. LaunchCode is committed to being a good steward of the money entrusted to us, and that stewardship is central in our decision.

We are incredibly proud of the work LaunchCode has done in the Pacific Northwest. Because of our presence there, more than 265 learners received free, job-focused coding skills. More than 60 people started careers in technology after getting assistance from LaunchCode in Seattle and Portland.

But when we take a deeper look, it is very clear that while there is a profound need in Seattle and Portland to fill mid-level and high-experience tech roles, there is already adequate talent to meet the market’s entry-level demand.

This reality has become apparent to us in our months working in the Pacific Northwest. For one, the number of employer contacts necessary to generate an open entry-level developer position in Seattle or Portland exponentially exceeds what we find in other markets. On average in St. Louis, it requires fewer than 6 employer-focused activities to yield one junior developer job to be filled. By comparison, it takes more than 170 activities in Seattle or Portland to yield that open entry-level job. Unlike the other markets in which LaunchCode works, the Seattle and Portland markets are finding ample talent from traditional sources to fill these needs.

The effect on even highly qualified developer candidates in these areas is drastic. LaunchCode saw examples of this in the people we served daily; like the self-taught programmer in Seattle who held a Bachelor of Arts from a respectable university but still is unable to land an entry-level developer job. Or the talented technical researcher who has extensive experience in the field but continues to experience barriers in her journey to a junior developer role in the Pacific Northwest.

LaunchCode’s model is designed to help employers build a pipeline of junior tech talent they cannot secure elsewhere. But in places where the market already generates lots of fresh tech talent on its own, we are not able to move the needle in the same way.

LaunchCode’s model is designed to help employers build a pipeline of junior tech talent they cannot secure elsewhere. But in places where the market already generates lots of fresh tech talent on its own, we are not able to move the needle in the same way.

And that’s okay. As a young organization, we are constantly learning more about how we best serve different ecosystems and under what conditions we can create the greatest impact. Our work in Seattle and Portland has not only taught us a lot about those markets, but also showed us some new things about ourselves.

The best part of change is that it frequently opens doors to new opportunities. Though LaunchCode will miss the many great partners and vibrant tech communities we found in the Pacific Northwest, we are excited to refocus and deploy new resources to areas where we’ve yet to work.

In the coming months, LaunchCode will start compelling new projects, one in the American Southwest and another that represents our first international engagement. We know that, as the demand for junior tech talent grows and becomes more widespread, LaunchCode will be serving employers with ever-expanding needs, both in geographic and technological terms. We look forward to continuing our evolution from a nonprofit focused on a handful of specific regions to one that is serving job-seekers and employers on a truly national basis.

The best organizations change as their missions dictate. LaunchCode is proud to use what we’ve learned in Seattle and Portland to shape our direction and expand on our growing success. Wherever LaunchCode works at any given moment, we’ll always be building a skilled workforce and giving driven people access to careers in tech.

Our push to close the tech talent gap continues.

Sincerely,

Jeff Mazur
Executive Director