Need for Albany Can Code classes ‘bigger than ever’ as people change careers during pandemic 

By Justin Dawes  – Reporter, Albany Business Review – 09/28/2020

Albany Can Code will have software training scholarships covered for about a year with recent funding from the state. Annmarie Lanesey, founder and CEO of the nonprofit, said she is grateful for the funding because the need for financial support is “bigger than ever.”

Albany Can Code will receive up to $125,400 through a $9 million New York State Workforce Development Initiative. She said the scholarship should cover about 75 scholarships for low-income students who are unemployed or underemployed.

The Business Review spoke with Lanesey about the need she is seeing right now.

How different is the need you’re seeing during this time? We’re seeing a real increase in students who need support to go through the program. Our program is targeting nontraditional talent, folks who normally wouldn’t find themselves in a computer science degree program. I believe the bulk of students in our current cohort are funded in some capacity through tuition scholarships.

In the past, we’ve had students who could self-pay or were paid for by employers, but we have seen that there are a lot fewer individuals out there who can afford to pay even the tuition for our class, which is fairly low compared to the cost of other bootcamps.

Are you seeing more students looking to change careers? We’re seeing students come out of retail, hospitality, a lot of the sectors that haven’t recovered to the same extent as other industries. And certainly, we’re seeing a larger number of those folks looking to come into technology training.

Just within the past week, we had an employer hire seven of our students. It’s the most we’ve ever had in one week. So we are definitely still seeing a need, and we’re still seeing employers hiring, and I think it’s because the tech sector is the backbone of the internet and is fueling what’s driving the entire economy right now. All the online meeting software and all the applications we’re using that enable our work-from-home — that’s all tech workers making that happen.

What kind of activity are you seeing with the new computer skills classes? We’re also seeing a huge surge in people who need basic computer skills. Those folks who didn’t have those skills pre-pandemic still don’t have those skills, so the opportunities for them are decreased because if you don’t know how to use a computer, you can’t work remotely, for the most part. So we’re seeing a huge need to train people in basic computer skills so they can enter jobs that are allowing them to work from home. That’s a new program that we started in response to the need because of the pandemic.

Interview has been edited and condensed.