Birmingham tech training program impacting local workforce

When Haley Blackburn graduated from the University of Alabama in 2013 she worked as a wedding planner and later at an IT staffing firm. But the work she had prepared for in college and had been educated for wasn’t fulfilling and she lacked passion.

That’s when she found Covalence, the software and web development training boot camp in Birmingham that was formed at incubator Innovation Depot to fulfill the skilled talent needs of companies housed there and beyond. Two years after it started, it has become a bridge between underemployed and unemployed individuals and some of the best and brightest companies in Birmingham.

Today, Blackburn is not only a graduate of the first class of Covalence, she also works as its program director. Many of the 65 graduates of Covalence that have gone through the program have either done so to enhance their current career or were looking for a different career path, like Blackburn.

Formerly known as Depot U, Covalence has held five 10-week boot camps for up-and-coming developers, who have gone on to work for local companies like Luckie & Co., Shipt, Zeekee, Fleetio, Cooking Light, BBVA Compass, Platypi and Bank of America.

Haley Blackburn, program director at Covalence

Haley Blackburn, program director at Covalence

Covalence has a proven success rate with a 90 percent job placement rate and companies are beginning to add graduates to their rosters.

“Covalence prepared one of our employees to dive head-first into a new software development role and provide immediate value,” said Lori Higdon, director of marketing for Fleetio, which hired a recent graduate of Covalence. “Avoiding a lengthy onboarding process, he quickly adapted to using our code language and web technologies in order to build online tools for our company.”

Covalence has become an instrumental component of the Innovate Birmingham Regional Workforce Partnership, the broad coalition of public, community, business and education leaders – including the Birmingham Business Alliance – that recently received a $6 million America’s Promise Grant to train 925 Birmingham citizens to obtain high-paying jobs.

Students engaged in the Covalence Program.

Students engaged in the Covalence Program.

Covalence is utilizing the Innovate Birmingham grant to oversee and hold up to four Generation IT courses and three Covalence extended courses per year for Birmingham’s underserved population. The Generation IT course is an influential curriculum developed by McKinsey & Company to help students get their CompTIA A+ certification.

Covalence will be expanding in May to provide training in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company hopes to eventually reach individuals across the nation by providing them with the opportunity to experience the growing software technology field.

“I believe the program will continue to strengthen and refine its focus on teaching aspiring developers how to code by offering accelerated, demand driven Full Stack and Front End coding programs in multiple states,” said Blackburn. “By establishing a best-practice program with Depot/U at Innovation Depot in Birmingham, Covalence can now bring that expertise to other communities across the country.”