Hughes said Tech Elevator’s signature enterprise business — which re-skills employees around high-resiliency software jobs — comprised a significant portion of the company’s pre-sale revenue. With the backing of Stride — and with Tech Elevator as a sister company to Galvanize — he envisions employee training as an area for future growth working in concert with the consumer side of the house.
“We’re in this perfect intersection between demand for software developers and greater demand because of COVID,” Hughes said. “There’s a need for us as a society to transition away from jobs that got hurt so badly by the virus and into jobs in the digital workforce.”
Tech Elevator will continue to teach online this year via a remote learning plan it implemented in March. At the company’s half-dozen campuses — all of them east of the Mississippi River — students learn Java and C# (pronounced C Sharp) coding languages, which Hughes said will complement Galvanize’s existing curriculum. Even during the pandemic, Tech Elevator’s graduation and job placement rate hovered about 90%, with students placed into Fortune 500 companies including Accenture, PNC Bank and Progressive Insurance.
Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Michael Goldberg, who currently serves as an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, said the “butts in seats” training approach provided by Tech Elevator, We Can Code IT and other boot camps has proven a valuable regional asset.
“At Case, we have a computer science department, but we’re not churning out the number of students needed in the marketplace,” Goldberg said. “These training programs play an important role in bridging our formal high school and higher education systems.”
A year of remote working highlighted the need for “digital nomads” able to code from their kitchen tables. While Goldberg would like to hear more stories of boot camp grads moving up the corporate ladder from entry-level positions, Tech Elevator’s accomplishments in the space are undeniable.
“They’re a cool story of a startup beginning here and establishing a methodology,” Goldberg said.
Since its launch, Tech Elevator has trained nearly 1,700 students, with graduates earning an average salary of $61,000. Dollar figures are validated by the nonprofit Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR), Hughes said. The boot camp’s earnings for the 12 months ending in September 2020 was about $11 million, a 47% increase year-over-year.
“Companies like mine don’t exist without Tech Elevator growing the ecosystem in Cleveland,” said Matt Buder Shapiro, co-founder of MedPilot, a 40-employee Cleveland health technology startup. “How we grow is based purely on our talent.”
Although MedPilot hasn’t directly hired any Tech Elevator grads, a robust regional hub built around innovation requires data scientists, machine-learning experts and others able to code and manage technology products. Regional tech companies can aid this effort by scaling to attract talent and better communicating the benefits of the boot camp model.
“Outreach to schools is critical — a lot of it has do with messaging and letting people know these programs are out there,” Buder Shapiro said. “The product will sell itself, but people need to know about it.”
Hughes said the goal of Tech Elevator has always been to impact more communities, whether through physical campuses or expansion of remote learning. What he knows for certain is that demand for coding skills and talent will never wane.
“The key point is that it’s business as usual for us,” Hughes said. “We’re a best-in-class company and we’ve done it in Cleveland, and we’re incredibly proud of that.”