By offering both high school students and adults education in software development, Operation Spark helps them achieve greater employment opportunities. In addition, this nonprofit also places students into their first software job.
A few years ago, John Fraboni wanted to help the young people of New Orleans, especially those still trying to find a career. For the most part, there did not appear to be many career paths that met the sense of urgency they felt to find stable work.
A friend helped Fraboni get set up at a community center, where he taught programming to young people. These first students learned to create video games for both iOS and Android systems. The program grew from there and Operation Spark was underway.
Operation Spark now offers the High School to High Wage program, where high school juniors and seniors receive an introduction to coding and more software skills. The two-year track allows students to participate in a half-day program in their senior year. In many cases, these students graduate high school and enter a job earning $65,000 at the age of 18.
Fraboni is understandably proud to offer these opportunities. “If they stick it out with the two-year track, they will get a job and never look back,” said Fraboni.
Although the pandemic was tough, the high school program is now rebounding well. Prior to the pandemic, they were graduating cohorts of 10 to 15 students every eight weeks, and they are still working to regain those numbers.
Teacher training helps bring the Operation Spark curriculum into schools. Introducing more computer science education into schools across the state is another goal for the team.
In addition, the Operation Spark team is working to obtain the certification to issue their high school students an associate’s degree upon completion of the program. Another goal is to help these students earn a degree in computer science at local universities such as Tulane without the need to take out a loan.
As the high school program grew in popularity, Operation Spark soon developed a similar educational program for adults. The goal of the six-month immersive program is to help students get to a junior developer level and quickly enter the workforce with little to no debt.
Since its start, the program has helped 300 people graduate from the adult program into jobs. With jobs in the software industry projected to remain in high demand over the next decade, it’s a wise choice for those looking to make a career change.
Now the team is planning to clone their program and expand to similar cities with groups of young people who can benefit from this pathway into the workforce. Operation Spark just did a soft launch in Georgia, with plans to expand their programs into cities like Atlanta, which has a large market for software jobs.
In the years since its launch, Operation Spark has opened a lot of doors for its students. With around 60% of its graduates from low-income households, as well as a large number of female and minority students, its statistics are particularly inclusive when compared to many university computer science programs. In addition, the program’s fast timeline and relatively low cost make it an accessible choice for many potential students.
Fraboni is also quick to praise his colleagues for the program’s continuing success. “I would tip my hat to the staff,” said Fraboni. “Think about getting 300 people through the program since 2016. They work really hard, and you’ll be with great people at Operation Spark.”
Feel free to visit the Operation Spark website to learn more about their programs and attend a free information session. In addition, software engineers are welcome to present on industry topics as a volunteer. Lastly, organizations are invited to get in touch with Operation Spark to hire their graduates.
Contact: 504-534-8277, operationspark.org