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With a Growing Tech Economy, West Virginians Can Find a Way Forward

It’s no secret that West Virginia can be a hard place for young people to find a career path. Like so many West Virginians, my journey is full of twists and turns in attempts to stay and succeed in the place I love the most. When COVID-19 struck, the future I’d worked so hard to build for myself in the travel industry was suddenly cast into serious doubt, leading me to conclude— reluctantly—that a career pivot was necessary.

I was uncertain, however, about what to do or where to go next. My local job searches yielded few options of interest, and even fewer that I was actually qualified for. Having withdrawn early from college for various personal reasons, I didn’t possess the credentials needed for the handful of jobs that actually excited me. 

Just as I was starting to feel frantic, a friend told me about NewForce, a six-month, fully-remote, tuition-free coding school for West Virginia residents (no previous coding experience required) spearheaded by Generation West Virginia—a statewide organization dedicated to supporting young people in the Mountain State—and made possible in partnership with West Virginia Community & Technology College and Mountwest Community & Technical College. Despite some trepidation about returning to “square one,” I decided it was worth a shot. I was willing to put in the work and had been surprised by a job before—why couldn’t it happen again? 

I entered the program with a bad case of imposter syndrome, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that everyone else was just like me. We were all lifelong learners and natural problem-solvers, and hardly any of us had considered software development. Be it the pandemic or another unexpected life circumstance, however, something had compelled us to change course and forge a new future through the unique opportunity of NewForce: training for a career in cutting-edge technology that would open doors to remote work and remaining in our home state. 

With 86% of job-seeking graduates of the program gainfully employed within six months of graduating, NewForce has a proven record of success. Thanks to a high-quality curriculum and instructors, as well as extensive job placement support, students are equipped with concrete coding skills and a knowledge of the vast variety of software development opportunities available. 

Through NewForce, I got connected with the company where I now work and have begun to build a stable career—with excellent upward mobility—as a data engineer. The program empowered me with tools to actualize a dream I didn’t even know I could have, and it’s led me to reflect on how many people across the Mountain State, particularly in rural areas like my own home, must be living with undiscovered dreams. 

How much stronger would the future of our entire state be if more of us had access to impactful educational and professional opportunities as I have? 

NewForce is the reason I’ve been able to stay and support myself in West Virginia, and beyond that, it’s given me a sense of purpose as I strive to solve important problems and help move the Mountain State (and myself) forward. 

West Virginia may not have a reputation as a technology powerhouse yet, but it does have a growing tech economy. NewForce, like the many other programs and opportunities developed by Generation West Virginia, shows that meaningful career paths in the Mountain State are out there, you just have to know where to look.    

Heavenly Burdette graduated from NewForce in 2022 and currently works as a data engineer for Run in partnership by Generation West Virginia, West Virginia Community & Technology College, and Mountwest Community & Technical College, NewForce is a six-month, fully-remote, tuition-free coding school for West Virginia residents. Applications for the program’s seventh cohort are open now until November 26th. Those interested may learn more and apply here.

Read the original coverage here.

The total cost of the NewForce program is $840,863 annually. $488,734 (58%) is funded through a U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration grant. $296,444 (35%) is funded by the Economic Development Administration. $58,685 (7%) is funded through non-federal resources.