Nebraska Dev Lab Monthly Update – September

nebraska dev lab monthly update

Nebraska Dev Lab Monthly Update – September

Lessons Learned – Stage 1

On January 20, 2020, six participants sponsored by five organizations joined together as the first cohort and began their journey to become software developers. Their journey was broken into four 12-week stages. The participants are currently in the fourth and final stage where they are completing an apprenticeship at their sponsor organization, building on what they learned in the first three stages while being productive members of a development team.

The first cohort is a pilot cohort. Graciously funded in large part by the sponsors and a worker training grant from the Nebraska Department of Labor, the goals of the first cohort were to (1) successfully produce six software developers and (2) learn and modify the program to be even more effective for future cohorts.

We are confident that we are well on our way to achieving the first goal. However, the final proof will be in the feedback we get from the sponsor organizations following the participants’ apprenticeships.

We are also confident that we are achieving the second goal. We have learned a lot throughout the first three stages. In some cases, what we learned resulted in changes to the Pipeline Program on the fly, implementing those changes during the pilot cohort. In other cases, we will be incorporating new changes into future cohorts.

Highlighted below are some of the changes being made based on what we learned in the first stage and reasons for the changes.

  1. Add a Stage 0 prior to the start of the program. This recommendation came from the participants themselves. They felt it would be useful to get introduced to some of the terminology and tools used in the first stage prior to starting it. Stage 0 can be implemented as a short online tutorial to be completed after participants have been accepted into the program, but before Stage 1 begins.
  • Incorporate an individual professional development plan throughout the program and involve the mentor in developing that plan. Added to the program early in the first stage of the pilot cohort was the individual professional development plan. This plan, developed and regularly updated throughout the entire program with each participant’s mentor, fills the gaps between the technologies used in the Pipeline Program and those used at the sponsor organization. Time is made available throughout the first three stages for each participant to work on activities in their professional development plan, which ultimately prepares them to be productive at the sponsor organization, starting with the apprenticeship in the fourth stage.
  • Use VS Code and JavaScript early and Visual Studio and C# later in the first stage to introduce programming fundamentals. In the pilot cohort, Java and appropriate development tools were used in the first stage to introduce basic programming concepts, and JavaScript, C#, and Visual Studio were introduced later. While learning multiple languages and programming environments is beneficial, it is felt that even more beneficial would be the earlier introduction of JavaScript, C#, and Visual Studio variations.
  • Introduce source control tools in the first stage. Source control was introduced after the first stage to avoid overloading the participants early in the program. However, after learning and regularly using source control tools such as git and GitHub, feedback from the cohort indicated they would be able to handle learning and applying these tools early in the first stage.
  • Reduce the first stage from twelve weeks to ten weeks. At the end of the first stage, all pilot cohort participants successfully demonstrated the competencies for that stage. In fact, they were prepared to demonstrate those competencies a few weeks before the end of the stage. This, combined with creating a Stage 0 and introducing VS Code, JavaScript, and C# earlier, will reduce the first stage’s length. We will also be able to reduce the length of the other stages, reducing the program from twelve months to just over nine months. This will allow us to greatly reduce the program’s overall cost, including both program fees and sustenance support. In addition, sponsors will have the participant working full time as a productive apprentice after seven months in the program.

While there will be other tweaks to the first stage of the program, we were very pleased with the progress of all the participants. In large part, this was due to the high quality of participants sent to us by the sponsor organizations.

Currently Seeking Applicants and Sponsor Organizations for 2021 Cohort

Nebraska Dev Lab is now accepting applications from both sponsor organizations and prospective participants for our next cohort, currently set to begin January 2021.

Organizations interested in sponsoring participants should email devlab@dontpaniclabs.com to learn more about this opportunity.

Prospective participants should complete this form if they would like to be considered for this next cohort.

More information can be found at dontpaniclabs.com/devlab.

Nebraska Dev Lab in the News

News outlets are getting the word out about Nebraska Dev Lab and its mission.

Silicon Prairie News, 10/11 News, and NET Nebraska have recently covered how Nebraska Dev Lab is helping organizations address the tech talent shortage. Check out their stories and see the impact the program is making in Nebraska.

Nebraska Dev Lab was also recently featured in Doane’s alumni magazine.