Florida's first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

Jason L. Perry, 37, from St. Petersburg, the CEO of Suncoast Developers Guild, Inc, disassembles old cubicles to make room for student work space. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]
Jason L. Perry, 37, from St. Petersburg, the CEO of Suncoast Developers Guild, Inc, disassembles old cubicles to make room for student work space. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]
Published June 15, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Filling in a hole that was left by The Iron Yard's exodus last year, a new computer coding school will open its doors to its first class in downtown St. Petersburg on July 23.

The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate through the software development community, Suncoast Developers Guild, Inc , at 2220 Central Ave. It was recently licensed by the state, said Suncoast president Toni Warren.

Warren is no stranger to the coding school industry, as the former local campus director of The Iron Yard. The for-profit, national coding school that closed all 15 of its locations, including St. Petersburg, which graduated its last class in the fall.

"When the Iron Yard shut down, it only made sense for us to open the academy," she said. "Our team saw the benefits of this type of education model and also the need for developers in the community with the programming skill set that we teach."

RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: Closing Iron Yard coding school hits area tech hard but leaders talk of options

The school will welcome 15 to 30 students in the initial class; each of them will go through an online application, interview process and be charged $14,900 in tuition. Warren called it Florida's first 501(c)(3) not-for-profit computer coding school.

"(St. Petersburg) is really where the creatives live," Warren said. "People come to our school because they want to express their creativity and they want to be in an industry with continuous learning."

The national median annual wage for computer and IT occupations was $84,580, almost $50,000 higher than the national median annual wage for all jobs in May 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor .

In May 2018, there were 106,800 tech jobs filled in Tampa, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Warren said it's still a struggle to find qualified applicants to fill available IT jobs, here and in the rest of the country. The five-day-a-week class, which lasts three months, is designed to prepare adults for entry-level jobs. Enrolled students will learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as other back-end technology like Ruby on Rails or .NET.

"These are the tools that employers are looking for when they're hiring developers," she said.

Across the bay, St. Louis-based nonprofit LaunchCode established a coding school in Tampa in October 2017, and 80 students, ranging from high school graduates to retirees, recently completed their six-month class for free. Now LaunchCode is helping match them with local jobs.

RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: As Iron Yard coding school exits, LaunchCode arrives to spur tech opportunity

LaunchCode is planning a new class in the next few months for service members transitioning out of MacDill Air Force Base, said its director of growth, Daniel Fogarty.

The Tampa location was initially backed by a state grant. But Fogarty said the company's goal is to generate enough revenue from fees paid by the companies that hire its graduates to be self-supporting.

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Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Hannah Denham at Follow @hannah_denham1.