ERC’s new tech training academy hosts open house

Article in The Union, Grass Valley, CA – August 22, 2016

The Nevada County Economic Resource Council is launching a new training academy aimed at building a local workforce skilled in computer science and technology.

Connected Communities Academy is set to open in late September or early October, and will offer a range of classes in the tech field, including virtual reality filmmaking, introduction to software development, coding fundamentals and user experience design fundamentals.

The courses, which will be taught by local professionals in the tech field, are expected to cost between $400-$600 per class. Most classes will be six-week sessions, which will be a combination of in-person and online work.

The academy will be located at the Green Screen Institute, a technology hub focused on the virtual and augmented reality markets and located at 104 New Mohawk Road in Nevada City.

The academy is hosting an open house from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Green Screen Institute. The community is invited to attend the event to get more information on the academy’s range of classes and speak to some of the professionals who will be teaching the courses.

For more information, visit https://connected.academy or facebook.com/connected.academy; call 530-362-7171; or email info@connected.academy.

“Our goal is to introduce [the academy] to the community, and let people know what’s available,” said Shavati Karki-Pearl, the founding director of Connected Communities Academy.

The academy is an initiative of the ERC’s talent connection task force, which focuses on recruiting, developing and retaining tech talent for local companies. The academy is partially funded by the ERC, CalWorks and Placer School for Adults.

It grew out of a comprehensive workforce needs assessment conducted by the ERC earlier this year in collaboration with the Northern Rural Training and Employment Consortium. Fifty companies from Nevada County and the greater Sacramento region participated in the survey, which was designed to understand which technology and digital media skills are in demand among employers.

After analyzing the survey results, the next step for the ERC was “to fill those gaps and find solutions,” Karki-Pearl said.

She said the organization used that workforce assessment to determine which types of classes the academy would offer. Those classes are designed largely for novices in the field, whether it’s a high school student interested in technology, someone interested in switching careers or someone who studied a related field in college but wants practical experience.

Part of what the academy will do in its early stages is “create a lot of awareness of alternate opportunities in the industry and offer [students] really fundamental introductory classes so they can get a feel of it, so they’re not thrown into the deep end,” Karki-Pearl said.

One thing that was clear from the workforce assessment survey is that there is a high demand for tech skills locally, nationally and globally, Karki-Pearl said. It’s crucial that Nevada County develop a skilled tech workforce that will not only lead to more job opportunities locally, but allow residents to step into careers where they can work remotely from Nevada County, she said.

Careers in the tech industry “are high-growth, and the wages are high,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you start, if you work at it and get good at it, you can make a decent living.”

The academy is designed to create pathways to those careers, Karki-Pearl said. Those teaching courses at the academy will act more like mentors to students than teachers, offering insight about the industry and creating opportunities for networking.

That gives students the opportunity to get started in technology “with the help of somebody’s who’s actually in the industry to give you that experience and that knowledge which you just wouldn’t get otherwise,” Karki-Pearl said.

As time passes, Karki-Pearl said the academy will likely offer more advanced classes to suit the needs of its students. The academy will also partner with the Northern Rural Training and Employment Consortium to create opportunities to place students in internships or connect them with contract or project-based work that will enable them to put their newly-acquired skills to practice, she said.

For now, she encouraged anyone interested in learning more to come to Wednesday’s open house.

“If you’ve ever been even slightly inclined [toward a career in technology], it’s worth trying out,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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