The Arkansas Coding Academy provides the skills and mentorship needed to succeed in information technology and related industries. The academy seeks to impact growth in middle- and high-skilled employability in IT.
The Arkansas Coding Academy was founded in 2016 to provide IT training to individuals looking to learn new technical skills. Alison Wish has been director of the academy since 2020.
Before she worked at the Arkansas Coding Academy, she worked more than 20 years in IT. Here’s our Q&A with Wish on The Arkansas Coding Academy and what it provides the region.
What were your initial goals upon starting in December 2020?
Arkansas Coding Academy began in 2016 to address the skilled IT worker gap identified by Arkansas Governor Hutchinson’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Computer Science Education. The initial goal was to train Arkansans for careers in the tech industry.
For someone unfamiliar with the work of the ArCA, how do you explain what ArCA does?
We provide market-driven technical training, taught by industry experts, to help individuals find new careers.
What are some of the typical profiles of ArCA students?
Our only requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent and that the applicant is 18 years of age or older. We’ve had students with anything from a GED to a Master’s. Most of our students reside in Faulkner and Pulaski counties, but with our last cohort, we had graduates from every congressional district in the state of Arkansas. We’ve seen teachers, nurses, mechanics, factory workers, CPAs, small business owners, business analysts, stay-at-home moms, and more.
What career fields or occupations are ArCA students exiting into?
Full-stack developers, Business Analysts, Delivery Analysts, Testers — there are so many careers in the tech industry. Learning to code is beneficial even if you don’t leave our program for a software developer position. We expose our students to a variety of tech careers so that they see what’s out there.
How many people are enrolled at a time? How many over the course of a year?
We limit our classes to 15 students due to the amount of material our students are required to learn in such a short amount of time. We had 80 graduates last year and just over 250 since the program began.
What’s next for the ArCA?
We’re enrolling now for the spring semester with classes beginning in January – students can enroll now and be a full-stack developer by summer. We’ve been mostly virtual since 2020 but plan to offer more in-person offerings in the spring. Our full-stack program is six months long, and we’re working on some shorter length courses to allow our students to skill-up quicker — Python, iOS and Android development, and cybersecurity are some of the programs we’re developing now. And, we’ve just launched our second year of Women in Tech. This is a group within the Women’s Leadership Network to bring women in or aspiring to work in the tech industry together.