We just applied for a $150k grant through Mission Main Street Grants program. We are competing with companies across the country for 20 grants provided by Chase bank in a partnership with Google. In order to qualify we need to get 250 votes by October 17th.
Why would a for-profit company need a grant? As a company that subscribes to Triple Bottom Line methodologies, community is a big part of our corporate social mission, and with good reason.
In 2008 when I moved the company out of my home and into Santa Cruz, I had a really hard time growing beyond a one person company. Although we are just 30 miles away from Silicon Valley, absent were available workers with the skill set we needed for the services we provide.
The turning point came when we did a side project, a social experiment, in which we created a workforce training program. The idea was pretty simple; we offer a free comprehensive course in advanced software development, and exchange we simply ask that the rights to any code written be assigned back to us. We approached the local colleges, and somewhat surprisingly the program was well received by student interns from 18 to 58 who wanted training beyond what was available in our little beach community. We ran two semester long training sessions in 2010, and turned out 10 alumni.
Ultimately we had to terminate the program as we simply could not afford to fund it ourselves, and in a down economy there was no funding available despite interest and support from the City of Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. The happy accident in this experiment was a good relationship with the Cabrillo College CS/CIS departments, and access to students who wanted to start a tech career in Santa Cruz. It was at that point internships became part of our company culture, in fact eight of our nine employees started as interns.
Now you might be asking yourself a lot of questions, such as, “Maybe the quality of their work is lower or junior grade…” Well, you’d be wrong.
In fact I would argue that we are more detail-oriented and quality conscious than many of our competitors, and I consider it a differentiator and just one way we stand out. I can thank my father and the other people who mentored me in my youth for teaching me the ethics and ideals that we teach our interns and employees.
You see, when you engage someone who is interested in learning and striving for their own personal excellence, it shines through in the work they do. When you get a group of likeminded people together in a team in an environment that supports cross pollination through sharing of knowledge, everyone is able to prosper on many levels.
OK, but what does all of this have to do with this grant? After growing the company responsibly over the last 9 years, 28 weeks, and 2 days, we are ready to take the company to the next level, with plans to double the size of the company in the next 1-2 years. As we experienced in the past, we are struggling to find the talent we need to grow the company. We’ve found plenty of great people, but the bridge between their current skill set and our job requirements is too large. Although we’ve continued to mentor locals through internships (over 30 in the last 4 years), we need to put people on the fast track to becoming employable.
Grant funding will enable us to create a comprehensive workforce training program with two technology tracks;
- Linux Systems Administration
- Responsive Website Development
The funds will be used to create curriculum, lease space for a lab, pay instructors, and execute a 12-16 week class in each track for 6-10 students in the spring of 2015. If possible we will also run the session in the fall of 2015. We have been actively looking for other sources of funding for this program, and seek to sustain the program long after these funds will run out.
It is unlikely that we will be able to hire all of the alumni from the program, and that’s OK. Everyone who takes our courses will gain valuable experience which will enable them to gain employment from other area companies, much like the alumni from our original program from 2010, some of who work for us today. If this sounds like something you are willing to support, please vote for us so that we have a chance at obtaining grant funding to make this a reality.
Thank you in advance for your support!
By Chris Miller