Nebraska Dev Lab Accepting 2021 Applications, First Cohort Tackles Capstone Project

September 15, 2020

Don’t Panic Labs and Doane University are proud to announce that their software education initiative – called the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program – is accepting applications for sponsor companies and participants to take part in its next cohort set to begin January 2021.

The Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program is an immersive nine-month software development training experience created through a partnership between Don’t Panic Labs and Doane University. This novel approach to education is designed to address the ongoing tech talent shortage in Nebraska. It is geared toward individuals with no programming experience, and for whom mainstream educational pathways are not an option.

The program comes at an urgent time for employers. According to the website code.org, Nebraska has 3,792 open computing jobs but only produces 539 computer science graduates. And with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 31.4% increase in the need for developers through 2026, providing a pool of quality candidates from which to draw is essential as companies struggle to grow their software development teams.

Through a combination of traditional coursework, real-world software development, and a capstone project serving local nonprofits, the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program ensures each participant will be a high-quality, entry-level software developer. Participants also earn 15 undergraduate credits from Doane and three credits of graduate work.

Sponsor companies cover the program cost for their participants, in addition to assisting with living expenses over the nine months and committing to placing them in a developer position upon successful completion of the program.

“Addressing the tech talent shortage in Nebraska is something we’ve been working on for over five years,” said Doug Durham, CEO and co-founder of Don’t Panic Labs and co-founder of Nebraska Dev Lab. “The challenge our region is facing is not unique. But our state is positioned — with the help of programs like Nebraska Dev Lab — to simultaneously grow the number of qualified developers while also increasing diversity in our industry.”

The program’s first cohort began in January with six participants sponsored by ALLO Communications, Nelnet, NRC Health, Doane University, and Don’t Panic Labs. Instruction during the first two stages was led primarily by Doane University. Software architects from Don’t Panic Labs led its third stage and covered additional advanced topics. Additional funding for this cohort was provided by the Nebraska Department of Labor’s Worker Training Grant Program.

“It’s no secret that businesses everywhere — not just in Nebraska — are struggling to hire qualified software developers. Addressing this problem will require us to think differently, and that’s what we see in Nebraska Dev Lab’s approach,” said Jeff Noordhoek, CEO of Nelnet. “We’re proud to be sending three of our current employees through the program, and we look forward to watching them grow through this opportunity.”

“Educational initiatives like the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program are more important than ever as technology continues to permeate every industry,” said Paul Cooper, Chief Information Officer at NRC Health, one of the program’s sponsor organizations. “We’re pleased to see that interest in the program has grown significantly since it launched in January, and we look forward to sponsoring a new developer cohort in 2021.”

2020 Capstone Project

During the third stage of the 2020 cohort, participants are applying what they have learned during the first two stages to their capstone project.

This year’s project involves creating a mobile application for the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition. This app is designed to help improve mental health for teenagers and young adults. Software architects, engineers, and designers from Don’t Panic Labs are on hand to assist participants in creating this application from the ground up.

When completed, the app will give its users a way to “diary” their thoughts in the context of daily interactions with schools and other activities, in addition to providing a list of mental health resources.

The Omaha-based Kim Foundation provides additional support for the app.

Next Cohort Scheduled for January 2021

With interest growing fast, the Nebraska Dev Lab is planning two cohorts for 2021, with the first beginning in January. Organizations interested in sponsoring participants should visit https://dontpaniclabs.com/devlab/ for more information.

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