The Iron Yard closes with last demo day, Q&A with Mary Dunlap

by Todd Jones (tejones1971@gmail.com) 135 views 

When The Iron Yard’s Little Rock campus held its demo day for the third cohort on May 20th, word was out that it would be their last.

The company announced to community partners, students, alumni, advisory board members, and employer partners individually that they would not continue operating in Little Rock after the third class graduated.

Talk Business & Politics received a statement from The Iron Yard that stated:

Over the past year, The Iron Yard has graduated 33 students from our program in Little Rock and had the privilege of working with many of the city’s amazing companies and community leaders.

As The Iron Yard grows, we constantly take a close look at the health of each of our campuses, including job demand in the local market, to determine how our model is working and if it is still the best fit for each market’s needs. In Little Rock, it became clear to us that what is working in our other 22 markets is not working as well here. Unfortunately, that meant we had to make the tough decision to teach out our last cohort in Little Rock.

The Iron Yard will still have a presence in Little Rock through our hiring partners and alumni who we know will continue to have a positive impact on strengthening the local tech industry and encouraging tech education. At the end of the day, we have loved being a part of the Little Rock community and want to thank our partners for their support.”

In July 2015, shortly before the first cohort launched in Little Rock, The Iron Yard announced a partnership with a major investor, Apollo Education Group. It is unclear if the partnership caused major changes in the direction. By February of this year, Apollo Education Group, which also owns the University of Phoenix, became private.

The demo day was full of eager students looking to show their work to a room full of local business owners. Front end and back end developer students showcased their project along with the campus director, Mary Dunlap, and instructors Daniel Pollock and Jonathan Barket.

Following the final class of the Little Rock campus, Talk Business & Politics asked Campus Director Mary Dunlap to give her thoughts on her time with the Little Rock campus.

TB&P: What did you learn about the need for developers in your time at The Iron Yard?

Dunlap: As technology becomes integrated into all aspects of business, every company is becoming a tech company in a sense, regardless of industry. Because of this, there will be a consistent and growing demand for developers all over the country for years to come.

TB&P: What kind of projects do you have lined up for the future?

Dunlap: I’ve got some really cool stuff to come here in the next few weeks. I’m excited for the opportunity to stay in central Arkansas.

TB&P: What do you think is needed to help companies find developers in Arkansas?

Dunlap: In Arkansas, we’ve found that potential code school students would benefit from different models of education than we currently offer. Our program is full-time, immersive for 12-weeks, but in the Arkansas market, we’ve found that part-time or weekend courses may be more popular. Businesses may also consider creating internal programs that train current employees with coding skills. This investment helps retrain the current workforce with in-demand skills without requiring time off work and the ability for employers to customize skills learned.

So what next? Even though The Iron Yard is no longer operating in Little Rock, a new option will emerge this fall in the form of the Arkansas Coding Academy.

There is still a need for employees with coding skills, and the new academy is hoping to fill the gap.

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