Public Safety

Inmates at Iowa women's prison will learn computer coding thanks to NewBoCo grant

NewBoCo receives $175,000 grant; public can vote for nonprofit to get another $125,000 grant

A person works at a computer. (Tribune News Service)
A person works at a computer. (Tribune News Service)

CEDAR RAPIDS — NewBoCo will receive a $175,000 grant — and possibly more — from Google Impact Challenge Iowa to provide computer coding classes at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville.

NewBoCo, the startup and business development nonprofit, has partnered with the Iowa Department of Corrections to bring DeltaV Code School classes to the women inmates to acquire skills they can use once released from prison, officials said in a news release.

The curriculum is provided by Code Fellows, based in Seattle.

NewBoCo aims to help lower recidivism rates with this vocational training program while also helping address Iowa’s technical workforce shortage, according to the news release.

The public also has a chance to select their own Google.org Impact Challenge winner by voting for the “People’s Choice Award.” The nonprofit with the most votes will receive an additional $125,000, which NewBoCo is hoping to receive to help more former offenders throughout the state have a chance to become software developers through DeltaV.

“I am always looking for new opportunities across the state that not only help individuals find employment upon release, but also introduce employers to skilled, trained workers that can fill open positions,” Dane Sulentic, statewide apprenticeship coordinator for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said in a statement.

Sulentic said these classes will provide an opportunity for incarcerated individuals to learn the necessary skills and be trained in “one of the fastest-growing industries in the state.”

NewBoCo launched DeltaV Code School in 2016 to help solve Iowa’s severe technical workforce crisis, according to the news release. On average, there are 4,000 open programming jobs a month in Iowa, but state universities only graduate about 450 computer science majors a year.

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In DeltaV, adults with little to no technical experience become Full Stack JavaScript Developers in 20 weeks, NewBoCo officials said. Since DeltaV began, 100 percent of graduates were employed within four months as software developers with an average starting salary of $58,400.

“We’ve proven that going through DeltaV gives people the skills to enter highly in-demand careers in Iowa,” Aaron Horn, NewBoCo chief operating officer, said in a statement. “But with such a low unemployment rate in Iowa, we need to think outside of the box and train people with backgrounds not traditionally represented in technology to help solve Iowa’s technical workforce shortage.”

There are about 8,500 individuals in Iowa’s nine prisons and an additional 40,000 individuals in community-based corrections, such as probation and parole programs, according to NewBoCo officials. Research shows that people who receive vocational and educational training while incarcerated are far less likely to return to prison because they are able to find meaningful employment upon their release.

The Google.org Impact Challenge Iowa offered $1 million to nonprofits to support innovative proposals to create economic opportunity in Iowa. Five nonprofits, including NewBoCo, were selected as winners.

NewBoCo’s programming supports entrepreneurship, innovation, and tech education to help Iowans become more resilient and thrive in a changing economy.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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