Free SFU coding workshops help low-income Downtown Eastside residents build in-demand skills for B.C. tech industry

April 04, 2017

By Justin Wong (video by Hans Goksøyr)

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) has one of the lowest per capita incomes of any urban area in Canada, with 53 per cent of its population considered low income.

On March 6, SFU Continuing Studies introduced a free, five-week coding program to help address this community issue. The workshops were made available to low-income or unemployed residents living in or near Vancouver’s DTES to help prepare them for future jobs in B.C.’s burgeoning tech industry.

Today, B.C.’s tech sector accounts for $26 billion in revenue, 92,700 employees and $8 billion in wages. Coding is a skill in demand and by 2019 there will be approximately 3,000 new software engineering, web designer and developer jobs in B.C. that will need people in these roles who can code.

This course helps students like former oil industry worker Jose Guerra who says he was one of the many people laid off in his industry when it took a major hit.

“I have a wife and four daughters that I am trying to support,” says Guerra. “I am grateful for this opportunity because I don’t have the money for a course like this. I am hopeful that these new coding skills will help me find a job that is more stable.”

To deliver the program, SFU Continuing Studies has partnered with CodeCore, a Vancouver-based provider of web development services and training. The training focuses on programming fundamentals, including HTML and CSS, Ruby, Sinatra and databases, with computer lab instruction and one-on-one mentoring built into the schedule.

“This introductory intensive is designed to fill in the computer-skills gaps of our participants,” says Peter Walton, associate director of Career and Professional Programs at SFU Continuing Studies. “By the end of the camp, they should be able to build and deploy web applications from scratch. They should also have the skills they need to take admission tests for demanding, full-time coding programs.”

At the end of the five-week program, CodeCore will award the top-performing student with a scholarship, valued at $8,600, to enroll in CodeCore’s full-time 12-week program, which boasts a 95-per-cent job placement rate for graduates.

The program is funded by a grant from the Ministry of Advanced Education to provide short-term training that addresses the demand for coding-related skills in the B.C. technology sector.