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The Year of Opportunity: A Look Back at 2014

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Opportunity-Fund

It’s no mystery that the tech industry’s predominantly white and Asian male workforce is in danger of alienating an increasingly diverse nation — and world — that forms its customer base. Less than a quarter of people employed in computer science- and engineering-related fields are women, and only 1 in 10 are minority women. African Americans make up less than 3% of all scientists and engineers, and Hispanics only 4%.

At the same time, startups and tech companies are witnessing a never-before-seen shortage of employable talent. Current estimates show that by 2020, traditional universities will only be producing enough qualified graduates to fill 30% of available tech-related jobs.

That’s why we created Opportunity Fund, a new program at General Assembly that provides scholarships, hands-on-training, and career opportunities to underrepresented groups around the world.

Since launching in April, Opportunity Fund has evolved into a passionate group of Benefactors and mission-aligned nonprofits supporting a more diverse and inclusive tech industry:

With the continued support of our growing list of Benefactors, we’ve been able to award 21 fellowships in 2014, with that number significantly growing in the coming year.

The overwhelming success of our pilot program in NYC enabled us to expand Opportunity Fund to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and now includes scholarships for two of our flagship full-time programs, Web Development Immersive and User Experience Design Immersive. We’ve also increased our scope to include women and minorities anywhere in the world who want to learn design to have a positive social impact on the world.

Not surprisingly, 100% of our first batch of Fellows to graduate are already in new jobs and passing on their knowledge to the next generation of innovators in tech. 

2014 was just the beginning for Opportunity Fund, and we still have a long way to go. We are thrilled by the initial support we have received and the impact we have been able to make in just a few short months, and hope that you’ll continue to follow our journey in 2015!

How Mentoring Made Me a Better Programmer

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Alexandra with her buddy

I entered my first day as a programming mentor just as timidly as I had when I first started General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive back in June. After finishing the 12-week program, I was confident that I knew a lot about programming, but I was not-so-confident that I could pass on my knowledge to impressionable children.

However, as an Opportunity Fund Fellow with GA, I agreed to volunteer 100+ hours to mentor youth to impart the valuable skills that I learned during WDI, so mentoring was part of the deal, whether I was nervous or not. Luckily, the kids at CoderDojo weren’t nearly as scary as I’d thought, and I picked up mentoring right away.

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Designing for Exponential Impact on Diversity in Tech

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Mercedes Bent

Mercedes Bent is the Global Director of New Ventures at General Assembly

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on diversity in the tech world, primarily on the need to bridge the gender gap by making tech a more available and welcoming industry for women and men of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

As a Black woman working at a tech education startup, I’m thrilled that these conversations are happening. Reading through statements by companies promising to make diversity a top agenda item, I’ve seen the appalling statistics: Only 24% of engineers graduating from undergrad are female, only 1% of all startup founders are Black, and so on. Great organizations have sprung up to address the dearth of underrepresented groups in tech including: Girl Develop It, Code2040, AllStarsCode, Black Girls Code, and Railsbridge, to name a few.

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General Assembly and United Purpose Host The Hero’s Ball This Halloween

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heros ball

Join General Assembly and United Purpose and for a night of intelligent debauchery as we celebrate our heroes with purpose and panache. Come dressed as your greatest inspiration, real or fictional. Yes, Mr. Peabody counts.

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General Assembly Partners with Dave McClure to Bring Design Education to Women and Minorities

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ux opportunity fundA little over five months ago, General Assembly announced the creation of Opportunity Fund, an innovative scholarship program aimed at providing transformative education and career opportunities to underrepresented groups.

The positive response has been overwhelming, both from partners like Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Alexis Ohanian, and others (even NAS!) pitching in to support the initiative and get involved, and from the numerous student applications submitted from around the globe. This enthusiasm from our community led us to take our initial pilot program in New York and expand it to San Francisco and Los Angeles this past summer.

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Why We Need More Veterans in Technology

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US-PR-Tactics-London

Gary Sinise recently penned an article in the Huffington Post. Perhaps best known for playing wounded veteran Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, the actor and philanthropist is also an amazing stage actor and a founding member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. But it’s the Lt. Dan role that changed his life, inspired a band (yes, the Lt. Dan Band,) and made him a supporter of and an advocate for America’s veterans. In the article, Sinise makes the case for training veterans for high-end manufacturing jobs. His group, the Get Skills to Work coalition, is designed to help connect veterans to colleges and companies across the country, looking to train individuals in the manufacturing field.

Sinise is right. America needs skilled people to do these jobs and veterans with the right training would be excellent candidates. But why stop at manufacturing? The same case should be made for helping veterans learn digital skills and computer programming. Now is the time to put resources and support behind training veterans for the most in-demand jobs through adult learning programs.

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How the Government Will Support In-Demand Jobs Through the WIOA Act

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Obama and Biden not only embrace technology, they plan to invest in high-tech training. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

With nearly one-third of Americans now holding bachelor’s degrees, the level of college completion in this country is at an all-time high. Yet, according to the federal government, by 2022 the United States will fall short by 11 million the necessary number of workers with postsecondary education, whether bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, or vocational certificates. More importantly, we could face a gap between the skills learned in the classroom, and those needed to do in-demand jobs.

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General Assembly Announces Expansion of Opportunity Fund

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As General Assembly continues to grow, one of the initiatives that I’m most excited about is Opportunity Fund, which offers scholarships to underrepresented groups in the tech industry to participate in GA’s Web Development Immersive. GA is a global community of individuals empowered to pursue the work they love, and I am passionate about finding new ways to open our doors to diverse individuals around the world.

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Announcing: Opportunity Fund

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Today we are announcing the pilot of a very exciting new program, which we are calling the Opportunity Fund. Our initial partners, Microsoft, Google, Hirepurpose and Nas (yes, the rapper), have all offered up generous scholarship funds to help veterans, women, and minorities become less underrepresented in the tech industry.

Ever since we founded General Assembly, we have held our community as the central element of our identity and values. As we’ve grown, our definition of community has expanded from NYC to other cities, and even to other continents. We have relentlessly pursued our mission to “create a global community of individuals empowered to pursue work they love,” but we know there’s a ton of work to do along the way.

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GA Students Hack To Fight Childhood Obesity

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Earlier this month, a group of GA students in Washington, D.C. took part in a Hackathon hosted by Partnership for a Healthier America. Participants were asked to prototype and build a working solution focused on the theme of Childhood Obesity, exploring two opportunities within that challenge:

  1. To help teachers empower students to make healthy choices about the food they consume, whether at home or at school.
  2. To create an information avenue that shows families the healthy food options and physical activity opportunities available locally.

Team GA consisted of Kelly Parker (User Experience Design Student), Johnny Austin (Front-End Wed Development Instructor), Datrianna Meeks (User Experience Design Student), Matt Tyrrell (Front-End Web Development Student) and friend of GA, Robin Newman. Together, Team GA came up with: Get Real!

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