DMACC Perry VanKirk Center Starts Computer Languages Academy

Posted 5/21/2020

​Students Who Complete the Program Are in Line for High-Tech Jobs

  • ​​​​The Perry VanKirk Center is starting a Computer Languages Academy that will help lead students to high-demand, high-paying jobs in the software development field.​

  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships are available for students in this 30-credit, one-year diploma program. ​

  • Ro Khanna, a U.S. Congressman from the Silicon Valley in California, is spearheading an effort to bring high-tech jobs from the coasts to rural Iowa.

Silicon Valley, watch out. Some of the high-technology, high-paying jobs found in California's Silicon Valley may be cropping up in the Silicon Prairie or specifically, the Lincoln Corridor, a stretch of Lincoln Highway between Ogden, Jefferson and Carroll, Iowa. The DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Academy in Perry is ready to help prepare rural Iowa students for these computer software technology jobs by starting a new Computer Languages Academy this fall term.       

The Perry Center is offering a 30-credit, one-year diploma program in the high-demand, high-paying software development field.

DMACC Perry VanKirk Center Director Eddie Diaz said the goal of the private-public initiative is to empower, energize and encourage young people to build high-tech skills that allows them to pursue high-paying careers and while staying in their communities. DMACC, Iowa Central Community College, the State of Iowa, Pillar Technology (now part of Accenture), Corteva Agriscience and others decided high tech jobs can be created in rural Iowa.

Last September, a grand opening was held for Accenture's Rural Forge, a global technology company, located a software development office in Jefferson. Des Moines, Columbus, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Michigan are also home to Forge locations.  

Diaz said the target audience for the new Perry program is high school students from Adel-Desoto-Minburn, Dallas Center-Grimes, Ogden, Panorama, Perry and Woodward-Granger High Schools. He said adult students from the surrounding area are also encouraged to apply.

“There has been a significant interest from students," Diaz said.  “Students are excited about having the opportunity for a career track that was not as open to them before, especially given the fact that it will be low or no cost to most of them,"

He said the program is eligible for the Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship, which covers any tuition gaps not covered by other federal and state grants for eligible Iowa residents enrolled in targeted, high-demand career and technical programs at DMACC. Additionally, in support of this initiative, the Rural Forge Scholarship was established in 2019 in support of the collaboration between Accenture and Corteva Agriscience to educate and train students in rural Iowa in high-demand, high-value software technology skills. 

Diaz said most students in Perry will be able to take advantage of these programs and complete the program with no cost to them. 

“It is an unbelievable opportunity to combine a promising career, zero or very low student loan debt, and staying close to home," Diaz said. "Most students believe it must be too good to be true,"

According to Diaz, here's how the high-tech jobs will be created in rural Iowa: Once students complete the Perry program, select graduates will participate in a four-month commercial software development training program at the new Rural Forge. At the Jefferson facility, the company will help prepare the future workforce further develop their programming skills. Diaz said at the conclusion of the four months, the young professionals may be invited to be interviewed for jobs that pay $50,000 to $60,000 to start and with salaries growing quickly to six figures in the high-demand, high-paying careers. 

DMACC Carroll Campus Provost Dr. Joel Lundstrom said a lot of the drive behind this project comes from Accenture Rural Revitalization and Inclusion Lead Linc Kroeger.

“Linc created the vision for the project, coordinated the Rural Forge Scholarship, and has continued to support students throughout this process," Dr. Lundstrom said. “This program, with Linc's involvement, may change the future for rural communities like Perry, Carroll and Jefferson. He sees the potential and has rallied other influential players to deliver on the project."

DMACC President Rob Denson acknowledges that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has been a strong advocate for supporting public-private partnerships like the Forge which will result in high-paying career opportunities for small town Iowa residents.

“DMACC thanks Accenture, Linc Kroeger, Congressman Khanna and the Governor for their unwavering support of the economic development of rural Iowa," Denson said. "Accenture made a large commitment to Iowa, starting in Jefferson, and we intend to deliver."

Another major role player who hopes to bring Silicon Valley type jobs to rural Iowa is U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) who represents Silicon Valley.

“Governor Reynolds has just been a delight to work with," said Khanna in a video conference call with DMACC administrators, students and community members to talk about the new Perry Center Computer Languages Academy and working with Iowa's Republican Governor to launch the Forge. “I'm committed to making this succeed, whether it's takes two years, five years or ten years. And I will make sure everyone knows about your success."

Khanna said he wants to keep American tech jobs from moving overseas. He also said the cost of living is so high in the Silicon Valley, that many high tech jobs could be created and blossom in rural Iowa for a fraction of the cost of those jobs in his home district.

That's good news for Perry native Justus Williams who graduated from Perry High School in 2018 and said he plans to take the Perry Computer Languages classes this fall. He said it's “definitely awesome" that scholarships will pay for nearly all of his tuition at the Perry VanKirk Center. 

“Just talking with the President of DMACC and Congressman Khanna on a zoom meeting was very cool," Williams said.  “To have a conversation with two influential people was awesome."

Another person interested in this new program is Zane Danger, a 2013 graduate of Perry High School. 

Danger said Eddie Diaz called him one evening out of the blue.

“He described the program and I was immediately hooked," Danger said. “I've had an interest in computer programming for some time now. I've been searching for an opportunity to gain more knowledge in that subject, and this is exactly what I've been hoping for."

Danger said he has had some experience coding, mostly using C# and C++.

“The job opportunities that are possible through this excite me very much," Danger said. “This would be like a dream come true to me if I were to get a chance at this amazing opportunity."

Edwin Martinez has been hired as the new full-time Computer Languages instructor at the Perry Center. He will be teaching many of the new classes, including C# Developer, C++ Developer, Java Application Developer, Python Application Developer and SQL Application Developer that have been approved for the fall semester at the VanKirk Center.

VanKirk Center Director Diaz said more than 15 students have expressed interest in the new Computer Languages Academy so far. 

“The seeds have been planted for a new crop of talent in rural Iowa, and we're excited to see how much it can grow," Diaz said.​


For more information, contact: Eddie Diaz, ediaz@dmacc.edu

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