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6-month software engineering training open to area residents

NEW ORLEANS — Average salaries for top engineering roles continued to grow in 2020 despite the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hired’s 2021 State of Software Engineers Report.

John Fraboni founded New Orleans-based Operation Spark in 2013 to provide a more effective educational pathway circumventing the time and cost associated with traditional workforce training. For the past seven years, the nonprofit has helped participants across Louisiana achieve upward mobility to better provide for themselves and their families.

“The software industry has a lot demand and a lot of opportunity,” Fraboni said. “These are high wage positions, and you can stay in this field for your entire career.”

The Operation Spark program involves a six-month track, and the first two months are part-time. Sessions are initially held during the afternoons and evenings so individuals can keep a job during the first two months of the program.

“The first program is called prep, and it’s free. It’s a two-week program where we introduce people to code and they get to try their hand at it,” Fraboni said. “We get to assess where they are at and whether they have the aptitude and grit to make it through the program and move onto the next phase, which is a six-week course called boot camp.”

Boot camp sessions run three hours a day Monday through Thursday, with afternoon and evening cohorts available. Students learn the fundamentals of HTML, CSS and Javascript, the three main components of web and mobile development. Fundamental concepts revolve around code, programming and algorithmic thinking. At the end of Boot Camp, there will be an entrance exam to the full-time program called Immersions.

True to its name, Immersions is a structured, fully immersive program that engages students for 11 hours per day, six days a week over the course of four months. At the end of the program, Operation Spark graduates are freshly minted junior level software developers. Graduates then enter the job hunt phase with assistance from Operation Spark team members.

More than 60 companies have hired Operation Spark graduates since 2014, and Fraboni said the nearly 100 percent of graduates land careers with an average starting salary of $60,000 three to six months after graduation.

Miguel Peter, a 2019 Operation Spark graduate, landed a job with Ubisoft, one of the top video game companies in world.

“Operation Spark gave me so much more than just learning how to code… it gave me confidence and independence,” Peter said. “I have learned how to figure problems out, trouble shoot and be part of a team. I have the mindset of a how to research and work hard to solve problems… that’s what coders do. I now have my dream job, thanks to connections at Operation Spark.”

2020 graduate Scott Anderson is a solutions engineer for a billing platform called Recurly. Operation Spark guided him to a fulfilling career after COVID-19 threw a curveball at his financial future.

“Operation Spark was absolutely worth the investment! Before OS, I had lost my job due to COVID. I was very impressed by the Operation Spark developers I knew and decided to take the plunge,” Anderson said. “I had so much support throughout Immersion and after graduation with getting a job. Operation Spark is a wonderful opportunity to make a career change and investment in yourself. Job offers were waiting for me right after graduation, and now I have the career security I’ve always wanted.”

There are many scholarships available for low-income students, according to Fraboni. The program was designed to combat generational poverty in and around the New Orleans area.

Sessions are currently 100 percent virtual. Free information sessions are held periodically. The next one begins Monday, March 29.

Operation Spark also has a program for high school juniors and seniors and has partnered with St. Charles Parish schools. After school virtual classes help students seamlessly move from high school to a high wage. According to Fraboni, Operation Spark also offers half-day advanced studies for high school seniors in New Orleans, functioning similar to a NOCCA program for code.

For more information about the adult and high school programs, visit operationspark.org.