Last winter, 30-year-old Jakob Grant was working for minimum wage as a dishwasher in a Slocan Valley restaurant when he decided the annual routine of picking fruit in the summer and simply trying to survive through the winter needed to change. That’s when heard about a new program in Nelson that focused on preparing students with the skills and knowledge required to start a career as a Full Stack Web Application Developer.
“I like the independence and the problem solving,” says Grant, who has friends already working in the field. “Even though I knew my way around a computer, I didn’t really know anything about coding… I would see a screen of code and say ‘no way.’ Now it’s really awesome, it’s addicting once you learn more and more. Connectivity is great, but now that I am in more control of my own data sovereignty and my own movement through the digital world, there is a cool feeling that comes with it.”
Selkirk College Web Development Program student Jakob Grant at work in the classrooms at Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus. The program is currently equipping its first cohort of students with the knowledge and skills needed to enter in-demand careers in the tech sector.
Originally from Regina, Grant’s first taste of post-secondary was in the trades when he took welding straight out of high school in his home province of Saskatchewan. For more than a decade, Grant moved around from working in construction to employment at a hardware store in Calgary to eventually moving to the West Kootenay where he came for the beauty of the mountains and managed to find enough work to hang on.
When he found out Selkirk College was training students to work on the front-end and back-end of web development, Grant was intrigued. He was hooked once he found out that the program teaches coding skills and agile web development business practices to solve real-world problems and support organizations to meet the demands of the ever-changing digital landscape.
Though nervous about plunging back into a regular routine of learning after so many years away from the classroom, Grant took a chance and enrolled in the new program.
“Right from day-one, it has been so much different than my high school experience where it didn’t seem relevant or interesting to me,” says the current straight-A student. “Even though the tests might be hard, they want you to succeed and you genuinely feel supported. It’s a whole other experience to be doing something you want to do, every new course and every new day in class is building on my interest.”
From Fashion to New Passions
Tenai Scott grew up in Nelson and after graduating from L.V. Rogers Secondary in 2012 moved west to the Lower Mainland to explore her passion for fashion at the post-secondary level. The fashion industry didn’t light the fire Scott was hoping for and after a couple of years in Vancouver moved to Ontario to upgrade, completely switching gears when she was accepted into the Engineering Program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“I always thought I was horrible in math and science, but that was because at the time I wasn’t interested in it,” says the 25-year-old. “I was into arts and fashion in high school, but once I started upgrading I realized that I excelled at math and science.”
Midway through her first year, Scott and her fiancée received the news that they were going to have a baby. Wanting to return to the comfort of her hometown, the couple and their young daughter moved back to Nelson after completing her first year at Carleton.
Tenai Scott (left) is part of the first Web Developer Program cohort that is based on the Tenth Street Campus in Nelson. Scott entered the program with few expectations and is now excited about her future in the sector.
Over the summer, Scott wanted to get back into the classroom and enrolled in Selkirk College’s Engineering Program based out of the Castlegar Campus. When she discovered the new eight-month Web Development Program was being offered closer to her home, Scott changed direction.
“I originally saw it as a stop along the way because I didn’t know a tonne about coding or programming,” she says. “I thought it might be something good to do at home while looking after my daughter until I felt ready to finish my engineering degree. Everything has clicked into place since I started this program. It’s the perfect balance because it is creative, but I can also utilize the science and math. I can now see myself doing this forever.”
Though the course work is intense, program instructor Matt Potter is an industry veteran who is able to provide the cohort with the confidence they need to succeed.
“The program is awesome and the instructor is great,” says Scott. “Coming from a traditional university setting where you are in a big lecture hall, you never get to know your professors. It’s a small class, so our instructor knows us individually and is always around to answer questions.”
In-Demand Skills After Graduation
The Web Development Program is specifically designed to be responsive to today’s tech industry needs. Once Grant, Scott and the rest of the first cohort graduate in the spring, they will enter an industry hungry for new recruits.
“I want to feel like the full package before I apply for work, but there has already been people asking me to contact them as soon as I graduate,” says Scott, who likes the idea of being able to work from home so she can also spend more time with her daughter. “There is so much happening in tech and skilled workers are so much in demand, once I complete the program there will be plenty of work opportunities.”
When he thinks about his future in the sector, it’s difficult to wipe the smile off Grant’s face.
“I have heard other people say that coding saved their life,” he says. “I feel in many ways that is true, it has given me a sense of direction and purpose. It’s one of the best decisions that I have made in my life.”