etroit’s technology industry has seen major growth in recent years as more and more tech-related companies are creating jobs in the city. But with only 13 percent of Detroit residents having bachelor’s degrees, it makes it tough to fill those jobs with residents.
“The majority of companies require bachelor’s degrees to work, specifically in IT,” says Chioke Mose-Telesford, director of community programs at Grand Circus Detroit. It’s Mose-Telesford’s job to make sure that the people Grand Circus trains reflect Detroit’s people, which they address through organizing youth programs and diversity initiatives to attract residents who are underrepresented in the tech industry.
“(Grand Circus’) apprenticeship program is kind of this alternative way for people without bachelor’s degrees to get into these companies,” she says.
Through the apprenticeship program, each student completes two weeks of at-home training before beginning the six-week boot camp at Grand Circus. They are then placed at a local company as an apprentice, where they continue learning on the job.
“Within about a year to a year and a half, they get their journeyman’s card, which is similar to what an electrician, a plumber, a welder has through the department of labor, certifying that they are fully skilled in all the competencies that a software developer needs,” Mose-Telesford says.
While the apprenticeship program works to address an existing problem, the group’s youth programs aim to address the education gap for students in the city by bringing computer science courses into Detroit schools that might not otherwise offer such classes.
“Throughout those programs, we do tours of different companies like Ford and Quicken Loans, even Grand Circus, so they can see what it looks like to work in technology,” Mose-Telesford says. “We want to make sure they understand that full scope and understand the opportunities that exist.”
Exposing young students to computer science early is key to addressing issues of diversity in the future of the tech industry.
“If you look at the requirements of a computer science degree, a lot of the intro courses end up serving as weed-out classes. If you didn’t have any exposure to coding beforehand, it’s very hard to push through that class,” Mose-Telesford says. “There are definitely some high schools in the state of Michigan where kids can go through and graduate with an AP computer science course under their belts, but that’s not an opportunity that exists for students in the city of Detroit. So you have this unequal exposure.”
Originally from Seattle, Mose-Telesford says her hometown changed drastically because of the recent tech boom.
“What you see now is people with money are the only ones that can afford to live (in Seattle). While that’s great for the economy, and for the city of Seattle, I think that we as Detroit can do better than Seattle did,” says Mose-Telesford. “I think that we can set an example for other cities to make sure that as we’re growing our economy, we’re including everyone that wants to move here and everyone that has lived here for a very long time.”
LEARN TO CODE
Grand Circus offers coding instruction for every level of interest. Whether it’s a one-time crash course workshop or a multi-week in-depth course, Grand Circus aims to make tech education accessible to anyone in Detroit. For more information about upcoming classes, visit grandcircus.co.