The Tech Academy is partnering with the US Air Force to train personnel in modern, in-demand technologies, so they are able to identify and solve problems using tech. We asked The Tech Academy Austin Dean, Trisha Saldanha, how this partnership came about, what the Air Force students are learning, and what the goals are for the students when they graduate. Find out about the Air-Force-specific projects the students are working on at coding bootcamp!
What’s your background and your role at The Tech Academy?
I am a graduate of the Tech Academy Software Development Boot Camp and I’ve been working with The Tech Academy since my graduation. I am currently acting as the Dean at our campus in Austin, TX, delivering training to US Air Force personnel.
How did The Tech Academy form this partnership with the Air Force? What does the partnership look like?
We were contacted about potentially being a training provider for the military and after several interviews and meetings, we were chosen as one of three companies to be involved in Project NEXUS. Project NEXUS is an initiative by the Air Force to upskill their talent by training people in modern, in-demand technologies – such as Data Science and mobile development. We were the only coding bootcamp chosen!
We are proud of the men and women of our armed forces. In the main, these people have a strong purpose to help our nation, and protect and defend the public. One of our Co-Founders, Erik Gross, is a Navy veteran.
Why does the Air Force want people to learn tech and coding skills? How will they be useful on the job?
The Air Force identified a lack of technical training in their personnel, which leaves them relying on third parties to develop software and tech to solve issues within the Air Force. Project NEXUS aims to create a way to quickly generate competent software developers within the Air Force that can identify problems and solutions utilizing tech.
There are a multitude of ways these skills will be utilized on the job, but basically each student will return to their unit and use their newfound abilities to upgrade the technological capabilities of the Air Force.
Who is the program aimed at? What department of the Air Force are the students from?
As this is the first iteration of the project, the program is aimed at a mix of Air Force personnel; some have tech backgrounds and some do not. The Air Force chose the current students based on their ideas of how they can utilize this training in their departments once the project is completed.
Also, they wanted a wide range of backgrounds to see how the training goes for a variety of students. The outcome of this “pilot” will determine how future iterations will be delivered.
What sort of eligibility requirements or admissions process is there for students from the Air Force? How is it similar or different to the regular Tech Academy admissions process?
Due to the fact that the Air Force is inherently technical, we left that to them. We accepted all students they sent our way with no entry testing. Our programs are accessible to everyone – as long as you can read, write and perform basic math, you can learn to code at The Tech Academy!
What does the curriculum look like for this program? Which technologies have you decided to teach and why? Did you develop it in consultation with the Air Force?
The curriculum for this program includes most of the courses offered in our Software Development bootcamp, as well as specialty courses that were created for the Air Force, specifically for this project. Those courses include a course in UI/UX design, a course in mobile iOS development, and a course in Data Science.
I would say about 80% of the content we are using are from our existing bootcamps, with the remainder being customized curriculum for the Air Force.
How does The Tech Academy deliver the training? What sort of instruction is there, what is the learning style, time commitment, and schedule for the students?
The training is being delivered on-site at our Austin, TX campus. It follows the structure of our regular bootcamps in that all content is accessible to the students online within our LMS and we have instructors at the campus to help with questions or bugs. Throughout the training there are various events and coding projects as well.
The students study 40 hours a week – Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.
Can you tell me about the sort of Air Force-themed capstone projects students will work on during the course? Can you give any specific examples?
The Air Force provided us with projects they want students to work on. These projects challenge students and put their skills to the test. They are basically the equivalent to the Live Projects we usually run students through in our bootcamps.
An example of one of the Air Force projects is comparing student performance data to outcome results, or developing an iOS app.
How many instructors teach this program, and what is the instructor:student ratio?
Since this first class is a pilot, there are six students. The hope is to have much larger classes in the future. We have two Instructors at the campus to assist the students.
How do you track how students are progressing through the course and communicate that to the Air Force?
We survey the students each week to collect feedback. The Air Force conducts a similar survey on a weekly basis and we share the data received from those. The Air Force, in conjunction with the three companies chosen to participate in this partnership, are currently trying to devise a skills assessment for future iterations of this project to better track concept understanding and skills gains.
So far, the student feedback has been stellar and two of the students have even referred friends and family to our coding bootcamps!
What sort of outcomes do you expect for graduates? Will they switch roles within the Air Force? Could the skills help them transition out of the military if they choose to in future?
We are expecting that the students will be able to take the skills gained from this project back to their respective departments, and have a positive impact within the Air Force by identifying problems and solutions through the use of the tech skills they have gained. Additionally, the Air Force is developing a system to track tech skills and identify airmen that have the necessary skills to solve problems within other departments. This would give the students the chance to take on different jobs within the Air Force, as well have skills that they can use to secure well-paying jobs should they choose to leave the Air Force.
This training will not only greatly assist the military but will set the students up for good careers in the private sector after their service.
How long do you expect this partnership with the Air Force to last?
We hope forever. The Air Force has been a dream to work with. The staff we’ve interacted with are professional, fast, and polite. Since the students are loving it, and we are loving it, we would be honored to continue this long into the future.
We feel that this partnership fulfills a purpose we have as a school – by making America a better country, we are in turn making the world a better place. It is an honor to be involved and we look forward to continued success!
What is your advice for students embarking on this program? Any tips for getting the most out of it?
As with our other bootcamps, students can get the most out of it by having the drive and willingness to learn. Our advice to students going through the NEXUS Project training is to continually try to apply what they are learning to problems that they are aware of within the Air Force, whether that’s within their own department or in other fields.
The students in this class are driven and a blast to work with!
Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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