Phil Lan is founding Bay Valley Tech with the help of private investors. Lan grew up in the Modesto area and believes the academy can help others get established in the tech industry and have a positive effect on the Central Valley.
“Lots of folks make $150,000 a year in tech working in the Bay Area, and out here people don’t make nearly that much,” said Lan. “Lots of folks are trying to create more $30,000 a year jobs out here and to try to train for that, but we thought if we can create that same number of jobs where people can make $100,000, that’s going to have a much greater impact on our economy and all the related benefits that come along.”
David White, CEO of the economic development organization Opportunity Stanislaus, says a coding academy makes a lot of sense for the Modesto area, which is well-positioned to draw interest from Silicon Valley.
“When you look at the tech companies in Silicon Valley, they’re choosing to go to areas where they can find talent,” White said. “How do you acquire talent? Either you get people to move here, you develop it out of the university system or you do it through coding academies.”
It’s not just web-based technology that needs coders. Other industries depend on tech skills as well.
“It’s needed in ag. It’s needed in manufacturing,” White said. “(Lan will) look at programs that will be beneficial to what the local market dictates.”
Bay Valley Tech is a post-high school academy, but it’s not a traditional college. Instead of working in quarters or semesters, classes will be organized into six-week modules that will require about six to seven hours per week. It’s designed to take students between nine and 10 months to complete the program of six six-week modules and learn enough skills to enter the workforce as a junior programmer.
Professionals who work in the tech industry will teach the classes. The curriculum is designed to be flexible so it can adapt to ever-involving technology.
“The problem with software is it moves so fast,” said Lan, explaining why coding academies have an advantage over universities. “The problem is after two, three, four years of teaching (a university) course, students are getting information that’s really outdated. When they hit the marketplace and search for jobs, employers are having to deal with these students who have outdated skills.”
Bay Valley Tech will hold its classes at Modspace in downtown Modesto, starting in late February.
Students don’t need to have a background in software coding to enroll, although Lan recommends those who are interested take the time to look at free online tools or videos to get familiar with the terminology and the basic concepts.
Lan wanted to make the school more affordable to students than traditional universities. Instead of costing thousands of dollars per semester, Bay Valley Tech will cost $450 per six-week class, which comes out to roughly $300 per month over nine or 10 months.
“We priced it that way to make it affordable for people that want an opportunity to change their lives, to make a career change, to have access to a much higher income,” said Lan. “We figure for $300 a month, a person can work part time or work a job and be able to save enough money to pay tuition.”
The first set of classes are scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., so working professionals can also participate.
Bay Valley Tech is starting with two classes of 20-25 students in its first six-week sessions. Within the next couple of years, Lan hopes to have 1,000 students going through the academy.
White said there’s opportunity for people with coding skills to find work here in the Valley.
“There are jobs here already locally,” he said. “There are companies that need coders. We’ve been able to determine that when we go out and talk with local companies.”
Lan’s goal is to get the Central Valley’s tech community more organized and to develop it. As the number of qualified people in the area increases, Lan also expects Silicon Valley to turn to the Central Valley to fill positions, which will help Bay Valley Tech graduates.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be jobs that drive all of this,” Lan said. “I think being located so close to a tech job center like the Bay Area is going to be very helpful to our students as they graduate.”
For more information visit Bay Valley Tech’s website.