DURHAM – For the last 10 years, AJ Bryce has been working in the service industry. But now it’s time for a career change.

So the 36-year-old signed up for Momentum Learning’s immersive 3-month crash course in computer coding designed to train people for jobs in software development.

On Thursday night,  Bryce was among 21 students to participate in Demo Day — marking the program’s culmination and, hopefully, the start of a new vocation. With 31,000 open high-tech jobs across North Carolina and unemployment at record lows, there are plenty of opportunities.

“It’s a big career change,” said Bryce. “I’d been wanting [it] for a long time, but I didn’t have all the skills I needed to round it out. I’ve had friends who have gone through [the program] and had success, so I decided to make the leap.”

Momentum’s Demo Day at Smashing Boxes headquarters in Durham.

In front of a 100-strong crowd gathered at Durham’s Smashing Boxes headquarters, Bryce and his team presented their final project: a resource database called OC Connect, which is linked to the Community Empowerment Fund and seeks to help people facing homelessness.

WRAL TechWire photo

Presenting at Demo Day … Bailey Costin and Daniel Peterson.

In total, six teams showcased their final projects based on programming language like Python and Django. Applications included everything from a bra-fitting app to a multiplayer drawing game.

“They’re bringing their former passions to the table, and they’ve built things to make their former worlds easier,” said Momentum’s CEO and co-founder Jessica Mitsch. “This is them proving that they can build a web application from scratch, and make it happen with a deadline. ”

Momentum hits its stride

Founded in 2017 by Mitsch and Clinton Dreisbach, former Iron Yard executives, Momentum appears to be hitting its stride.

Based out of American Underground’s Durham campus, the latest class is its fourth cohort — with two other courses already set to begin on May 28 and September 9.

“We’ve been able to grow each program as far as the size of the student count, and we’re looking at expanding the offerings that we have,” ” Mitsch told WRAL TechWire.

Momentum Learning’s co-founder Jessica Mitsch.

Participants also have a good track record at finding jobs.

“We just graduated a class three months ago, and we got 14 out of that class placed,” she said. “We only had three remaining developers looking for jobs.”

Three people in the latest cohort have already secured employment, Mitsch added. “The rest of them are starting their employer conversations at tonight’s event.”

Making the switch

This is welcome news to Taylor Cooke, 37, a recent graduate.

“I’d been in the recruiting business for about 13 years, and I just kind of got burnt out on it. [This course] has been a lot of hard work, but I know I’ve learned a lot in the process.”

He remains positive about his chances at securing employment in his new line of work. “I’m pretty open to any software development job – front end or back end. I’m looking to just keep learning.”

High-tech job openings surge across NC to more than 31,000

Doug Kaufman, founder and CEO of TransLoc, was among those in the audience, sitting in the front row. He’s an investor in Momentum, and sees the program as vital part to Triangle’s ecosystem.

“We do not have enough tech talent, not just for today, but for the needs of the community going forward,” he said. “There are so many jobs that are available now are going to continue as we’re one of the up-and-coming tech hubs of the country. We need Momentum to help foster the education that these people need to fill all these jobs.”

Note: WRAL TechWire’s parent company, Capitol Broadcasting Company, is an investor in Momentum Learning.

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