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Calgary-based InceptionU aims to teach next generation of tech workers

Six-month program available to train people who have no previous tech experience, with options for government funding available

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A Calgary non-profit education organization has been awarded a provincial contract to upskill more people to jobs in the tech sector.

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InceptionU has offered a six-month rapid training program for people interested in becoming a full-stack developer or designer for the past three years, helping learners develop both tech and essential skills.

Securing the contract under Alberta’s Integrated Training Program means some of the program’s participants could have the $14,000 course funded by the government if they meet certain requirements.

Margo Purcell, CEO and co-founder of InceptionU, said the program is built on a project-based learning method in which students learn by working on three projects through the term. This teaches people how to not only fix their mistakes, but how to communicate, pitch ideas and overcome challenges.

“Our aim is that it’s meaningful, rather than mechanical. If the learning is meaningful, they’re in. They start exploring, and their curiosity drives that as well,” Purcell said.

The seventh cohort of students will start the program this month, with a full-stack designer program set for later this fall. Each cohort comprises about 50 people, and Purcell said there is growing interest in the program.

Part of the reason is because tech-related skills are transferable across multiple sectors, she said.

“Every company will be a tech company, to some degree — technology is going to be woven into absolutely everything. So whatever level of tech understanding you can gather is going to be helpful to you, and helpful to whatever company you either build or join.”

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InceptionU in Calgary is starting another cohort of around 50 students this month. SUPPLIED
InceptionU in Calgary is starting another cohort of around 50 students this month. SUPPLIED jpg

Calgary’s tech sector is getting more recognition lately. A CBRE report released this summer ranked Calgary the second-fastest mover in this year’s study, jumping six spots to 28th place in North America.

In July, RBC announced a plan for 300 tech hires over the next three years at the company’s new Calgary Innovation Centre in Bankers Hall. In the same month, global software company Test Driven Solutions chose Calgary for its first North American headquarters.

With the potential for growing jobs and investment, Calgary’s tech workforce will have to rise to meet it. CBRE’s report noted the total number of computer engineering degrees being completed in Calgary sat at 298, up 63 per cent between 2015 and 2019, but “other tech engineering” degrees fell by 10 per cent during the same time.

Nikita George, 24, graduated post-secondary last year as a music major. But with live shows cancelled and job opportunities in the music industry difficult to find during the pandemic, George said she had to pivot to something else in the meantime.

“I started Googling, ‘What is the top demand job now in Calgary’, and the first thing that popped up was tech,” she said.

While some schools were strict on previous experience, George said she found InceptionU is an option for people who don’t come from a tech background. With help from government funds, she enrolled and hit the ground running.

“I felt pretty welcome, I don’t have to feel left out that I’m a music major doing software development. It was very hands-on training, which I really liked, because I actually learned a lot better.”

With three projects to show for in the span of six months, George said she’s now interested in becoming a user interface (UI) developer, a user experience (UX) developer or a front-end developer.

Eventually, she said she wants to find a job where she can combine her tech skills with her love of music.

“I feel like I’ve progressed a lot, especially coming from zero knowledge of coding to now.”

bgervais@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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