Last week in New York City, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the Flatiron School, which teaches coding skills to students at all career and skill levels to prepare them for technology and data jobs. While learning about Flatiron’s innovative approach to skills training, Secretary Pritzker spoke with students, employers and business leaders involved with the school about the importance of job-driven workforce development.
Founded in 2012, the school has trained more than 350 students in its unique 12-week intensive coding program, and has seen 99% of its graduates get a job in their preferred discipline.
Co-founders Adam Enbar and Avi Flombaum led Secretary Pritkzer on a tour of the school, explaining why they created Flatiron: to provide an alternative way to train students for in-demand jobs in data and coding. During the tour, Flatiron alumni presented apps they have created using the skills they learned at the school and data from the government.
One student team used data straight from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
to create an interactive visualization of gross output by industry from 2005-2013. By connecting Commerce data with relevant news articles, this project allows users to better understand why economic trends happened at a certain point in time. Other students demonstrated the web app HeatSeek, which identifies landlords who illegally turn off the heat. To prove the heat has been turned off, the team integrates public New York City 311 heating complaint information with a system of temperature sensors that collect and transmit temperature data.
After meeting with students and learning about their hands-on experience, Secretary Pritzker led a roundtable discussion with technology and business leaders who work with the school about the specific skills and needs of the data-driven economy. The participants included representatives from Microsoft, DoSomething.Org, The New York Times, UniteUS, Wiser, New York Tech Meetup, Alphasights, and RMS.
During the conversation, Secretary Pritzker learned about Flatiron’s success and asked how it can be replicated and applied to other industries, such as manufacturing. Everyone at the table agreed that the public and private sectors must work together to train workers today for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow.
Flatiron alumni also joined the conversation, including Sharnie, who dropped out of college at 21. Within three weeks of graduating from Flatiron, he was hired as a software engineer. Another alum, Tiffany, graduated from college with a music degree. She entered a 6-month apprenticeship program that Flatiron built with Constant Contact, a publicly-traded online marketing company. She has since been promoted to Associate Software Developer and earns 50 percent more than she did in her previous job.
To achieve more successes like these, Secretary Pritzker has made skills and workforce development a top priority, a first for the Commerce Department. As an entrepreneur who spent 27 years in the private sector and built five businesses, she understands how essential skilled workers are to any successful venture. Prior to becoming Secretary of Commerce, she played a key role in launching Skills for America’s Future, which aligns community colleges with employers who are seeking trained workers in their service area, to ensure that students acquire the skills they need to compete for high wage, high skill jobs.