Sign ups underway for Girls Who Code in Chico

When Build.com offered a community class to teach teen girls to develop software, the organizers thought they might have five to 10 girls.

They wound up with 40, with nearly 80 on the waiting list.

“Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise,” says spokesman Ryan Sanders of Build.com, a Chico-based internet home improvement business.

That was January, and the surprises continued, with 100 signing up for spring 2016 session based at Chico High School.

Ready for the next session which starts this month, there are now three school locations and instructors from two local tech companies participating.

The first orientation for the free program is Wednesday. Registration and details are through www.gocodechico.com

The local effort started last year when Build.com realized its workforce was primarily male and vacancies were hard to fill. Women employees had heard about Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit encouraging teen girls to learn coding and find employment in the tech sector.

It wasn’t just Build.com with empty seats, Sanders notes. Every tech company in Chico was having problems, pushing some to steal staff from other companies or reach out to metro areas. All the companies preferred to hire locally.

Of the first session, Sanders said, “Never having done it before, we thought we might find some girls interested in spending more hours at school. The response was overwhelming.”

About half of the first session were sixth-graders.

Now meetings will be held at Chico and Pleasant Valley high schools, as well as Chico Country Day School. The program is still free and open to any girl in sixth through 12th grades.

“We have girls driving from Oroville to take part.”

Led by staff from Build.com and EXL Healthcare, also in Chico, the sessions are always 3:15-5:15 p.m. every Wednesday.

“If there’s no school that Wednesday, there’s no meeting either,” Sanders said, and there’s no homework.

Girls can work as quickly through the programming as they want. Once reaching the third skill level set out by the program, the girls graduate and have the opportunity to apply for an internship or job at a tech company.

Not only has Build.com made the pledge to intern or hire, but so have more than 40 other companies throughout California including tech giants like Facebook, Google and Pinterest, who have openings as designers, developers and more.

“One of the goals was to get girls into these good positions,” said Sanders, acknowledging that Build.com is hiring too.

Original Article: http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20160902/NEWS/160909953