After a quick ramp up in 15 cities across the United States, one of the nation’s leading code schools today announced plans to shut down in November.
The Iron Yard made quite a splash in the Triangle, leasing a large portion of the American Underground in the American Tobacco Campus in 2014 and then taking over the underground’s Raleigh campus in early 2016. It educated and graduated more than 300 people, most of whom have found local jobs.
Once local GM Jessica Mitsch, who moved into a larger role with The Iron Yard in May 2015, says you can find an Iron Yard grad in nearly every tech company in the region, from startups in the Underground to Fidelity Investments to Red Hat. The classes in Durham were full every semester, and Raleigh has its largest class to date in session now.
“We’ve done really well here,” she says, “All of the students have been incredibly impressive—they are a mature group that with this type of training are fantastic employees and help fill the need for tech talent here.”
In a statement on its blog, The Iron Yard wrote that the decision was a difficult one but a result of the still nascent market of accelerated code education and the typical challenges of higher ed. It didn’t elaborate.
The Iron Yard started off as an incubator and accelerator program in Greenville, S.C., and became a flagship brand for that city’s burgeoning startup community as it expanded into code education. Durham was one of its first campuses, recruited here for a joint venture with local mobile and digital agency Smashing Boxes.
About a year later, The Iron Yard received a strategic investment from Apollo Education Group, Inc., a Phoenix corporation that owns several educational institutions, including University of Phoenix. The funds helped the two-year-old entity grow even quicker, opening a campuses in American Underground’s Raleigh hub and in Charlotte as it expanded across the U.S. (and buying Smashing Boxes out of Durham).
According to American Underground Chief Strategist Adam Klein, the company has a long-term lease for about 13,000 square feet across Durham and Raleigh.
Code education has been popular in North Carolina—with 11 programs (as of last year), it ranked in the top five cities for number of programs. But as it’s taken off nationally, there’s been some criticism too. By accelerating training in certain programming languages, schools can overlook the fundamentals of computer science and leave students thousands of dollars in debt.
But The Iron Yard had a good track record locally with students and the companies who hired its graduates. It built a team of 20 employees here, recruited an active employer advisory board and regularly taught classes based on employer demand.
According to Mitsch, whose recent role involved traveling the country visiting The Iron Yard campuses, “This is a really special place. There are a lot of intelligent talented people in Raleigh and Durham and it’s a place companies want to be and should be.”
Though saddened by the decision, which she admits happened very quick, she considers The Iron Yard “a huge success.”
“We did such a good job with 2,000 students and here locally, with 300. Our grads are everywhere and that is a testament to our success,” she adds.