Grantee Spotlight

LaunchCode is a national nonprofit headquartered in St. Louis that has been serving the Kansas City region since 2016. Founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Jim McKelvey, LaunchCode is on a mission to build a skilled workforce by creating pathways for driven people seeking careers in technology. McKelvey started on this mission to address two problems he had encountered after he co-founded Square. Square was unable to find enough tech talent to grow locally in the Midwest, while self-taught coders and driven jobseekers without a technical degree or prior work experience did not have a pathway to break into the tech field. LaunchCode was founded to address both of these issues.

At LaunchCode, we envision a world where everyone, regardless of background or experience, has the opportunity to pursue a career in tech offering economic opportunity and upward mobility.LaunchCode provides free tech education, career-readiness training and support, and paid job placement opportunities with leading-edge employers to hundreds of jobseekers nationwide each year. Rather than requiring students to take on massive loan debt, apply for financial assistance, or pay back earnings after career placement, LaunchCode partners with philanthropic organizations and earns revenue through our apprenticeship program in order to present all programs at no cost to participants.

Our approach is rooted in the belief that anyone can learn the skills needed to begin a well-paid career in technology if they have the passion, drive and aptitude. And that if you make quality tech education free and provide the necessary career support, hard-working people from all walks of life have higher chances for success. We work hard to dismantle notions of self-doubt and help increase LaunchCoders’ confidence by offering consistent support. From mentorship and coaching to connecting students with financial resources, LaunchCode staff helps participants work through many obstacles and challenges. Whether it’s an unexpected life barrier or a complex coding project, the LaunchCode community is ready and willing to lend a hand.

LaunchCode’s workforce development programs have three stages. First, students enroll in one of our no-cost tech training programs: LC101 , LaunchCode Women+ , or Immersive CodeCamp. These courses equip students with web development skills and other technical skills in-demand in the tech workforce. Second, graduates of these training programs can enroll in our no-cost professional skill development course, Liftoff. Here, students develop the soft skills needed for tech careers by developing their resume, participating in mock interviews and completing a group coding project to present in interviews. All of our course curriculum is developed and refined in-house and informed by industry standards, regional tech skills gap, and from folks within the LaunchCode community.

Finally, graduates from these programs move into our Apprenticeship Program for entry-level job placement with one of our 90+ company partners in Kansas City. LaunchCode apprentices work to hone skills most in-demand by local employers in a professional work environment. These paid apprenticeships provide graduates with valuable on-the-job training and mentorship that better prepares them to enter the tech workforce. Lasting anywhere from 3 to 12 months apprenticeships provide $20/hr pay and an option to enroll in medical benefits through LaunchCode. More than 80% of LaunchCode apprentices convert to permanent employment at the company at which they were placed.

We were thrilled to present our LaunchCode Women+ program in Kansas City for the first time in 2021. This program is a free, part-time training program that teaches tech skills in high demand among employers, such as SQL/Data Analysis, Agile/Product Ownership, and Web Development. This community engages women and is also intentionally inclusive of those who are trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming in a a supportive learning community made up of individuals passionate about empowering and uplifting women+ in technology.

Knowing that traditional pathways to tech careers structurally and inherently disadvantage many communities, LaunchCode Women+ aims to specifically serve women+ from groups traditionally underrepresented in tech – people of color, people from low-income households, and people without 4-year degrees in computer science. LaunchCode Women+ participants represent a diverse cross section of the region. Traditionally, enrollment in Kansas City reflects nearly 60% people of color, 6% people with disabilities, 21% LGBTQ+, 41% people without 4-year degrees, 55% earning less than $30,000 a year and 60% from low-to-moderate income households.

LaunchCode Women+ not only removes economic barriers for women with passion, drive and aptitude to enter the tech workforce, but it also helps them access high-wage careers with benefits such as healthcare, retirement, continued professional development and opportunities for advancement. LaunchCode empowers women to take charge of their lives in ways many never thought possible. Recognizing there are a variety of factors that discourage women from feeling confident in their innate abilities – and that those are amplified when trying to break into the male-dominated tech sector – we are intentional in recruiting, training, and supporting women.

We are also helping address poverty in the region by offering a FREE on-ramp to tech careers that offer upward economic mobility and unemployment/underemployment by adding driven, diverse talent to the tech workforce. Once employed, our KC candidates’ average starting salary is more than $61,000 – with significant opportunity for growth. Since 2016, LaunchCode has rocketed over 235 KC individuals into tech careers and has provided free tech education to over 800 KC community members – helping them find employment through our innovative Apprenticeship program, switch careers, or move into a new role at the same company.

Visit LaunchCode’s website to learn more.