St. John’s Company Training Persons for High-Demand Jobs

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Last May, things were not looking good for Clarke Oake.

Oake was laid dismissed from his rotational work in Grand Prairie, Alta. As an electrical engineering technologist is working on heavy machinery in the oil and gas sector.

He was one of about 24,000 jobs lost in Canada’s energy industry in Q2, 2020 due to a pandemic-related drop in energy demand, as per Statistics Canada.

However, six months after getting a termination notice, 30-year-old Oake has moved on to a new career in the Newfoundland and Labrador tech arena. This comes after retraining with getting Coding, a St. John’s-based firm that seeks to feed the increasing appetite for jobs in the scene.

Oake was Get Coding’s first full-time student and the first to get a job after completing its program.

“It’s been absolutely crazy to go from not knowing anything about software development originally, and then they’ve taken me through the whole process of transferring my skill set and experience that I had previously into a new career,” Oake said.

At the end of January, after retraining with Get Coding, Oake landed a job as a software developer with PolyUnity, a medical manufacturing business in St. John’s.

“I didn’t even apply to the job at PolyUnity, they contacted me because of how tightly connected the network is here in the tech community,” said Oake.

The Department of Industry, Energy and Technology expects the estimated $1.6B tech sector to grow and add over 2,000 new jobs over the next 3 years in N.L.

The growth arrives as N.L’s oil sector suffers: according to the department, 5,300 persons were directly employed by oil and gas at the end of last year, compared to around 9,000 the previous year.

Tailored training

The Chief Executive of Get Coding identifies a need for his program’s services as N.L’s tech sector expands.

“Coding is a process of writing commands on your computer and making the computer show or do things in the way you want [it] to,” said Jan Mertlík, who has a degree in computer science from Memorial University, and runs Get Coding with his co-founder Sahand Seifi.

“It’s needed in every industry,”

he said, adding there’s huge demand for a lot of jobs, such as front-end and back-end developers, full stack developers, and software developers, in the region.

Get Coding tailors its offering to each student, Mertlik said, by providing one-on-one training to help persons learn the skills they need to get a job in technology.

In 2019, Mertlik and his business partner started holding in-person coding classes, with the first course an introduction to web development.

“We had a group of 10 students and we got them in a room and then we walked them through the process of building a website,” he said.

The classes exposed students to JavaScript, CSS and HTML, “the sort of foundational languages of the web,” he said, lessons that were migrated online following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Back in January, Mertlik said Get Coding had 13 students, though his class has now grown to 20. Before anyone starts the program, they assess students to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

“We get to understand what they know, what experiences they’ve had in the past, what skills they bring, what education they’ve had, what they like and what they don’t like. And then we work with them on establishing a goal,” he said.

The program takes 6 to 12 months to complete, depending on how much time individuals have to commit to their studies, and demand is high, said Mertlik.

“We have students messaging us every day, trying to see if this is a fit for them or not.”

Whereas Get Coding is not a formal college or university program, he said diplomas and certificates are not as crucial in the tech sector as elsewhere. What matters, according to Merlik, is a practical hands-on experience, especially given that the languages used to write code evolve quickly.

“We stay in touch with the local industry, making sure we know what technologies they’re using today, and we’re hoping to work with them in the future to make sure we know what technologies they’re going to be using in the future,” said Mertlík.

Meanwhile, Oake, who interviewed some firms before landing his job, agrees with Merlik’s approach, He said it is an exciting time to start in the industry.

“There’s so many really cool companies here doing so many really cool things. And they desperately need people,” said Oake.

Mertlik went on to say that his vision is to build Get Coding into the centerpiece of Atlantic Canada’s tech sector.

“We have knowledge of the industry, know where the industry is going, and are able to take that knowledge and help the local workforce to learn those skills and help the tech industry grow,” he said.

“The only way how Atlantic Canada can ultimately succeed as a tech hub is if there is a very strong support when it comes to training and training the relevant skills.”

As for his first student securing a job, Mertlik said

“it was just so exciting to see him learn so quickly. and keep his eye on the prize.”

Get Coding’s second student is almost completing the program and will be looking for jobs in the near future, he added.

According to The Department of Industry, Energy and Technology, there are around 165 firms and 4,000 workers in the province’s tech industry.

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