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Innovate SOMO prepares Missourians for careers in high-tech field

by Dr John Stapelton,

UniteNews Contributing Writer

Across Missouri, the fastest-growing job categories and companies are in the technology field. Also throughout the state, there’s a major deficit in the supply of individuals educated and prepared to tackle those positions. This is even more true in smaller metros and rural communities.

Innovate SOMO is working to change that.

My organization, codefi (based out of Cape Girardeau, Missouri), has partnered with efactory on several programs and projects in the last several years to better serve entrepreneurs and provide technology-focused education, training, and services. Innovate SOMO is another one of those partnerships that breaks down barriers for the individuals they serve.

Our mission is to unlock the full potential of entrepreneurship and innovation to transform entire communities in the southernmost 47 counties in Missouri. We do it because the health and wealth of the region depend on people having the skills and resources to enter high-quality occupations. We also know that many of these people will one day pay it forward by starting companies that create more jobs.

I believe in this program so vehemently that I have moved to Springfield and launched a satellite codefi office here at Coworking @ Brick, 315 W. Mill St. Along with the efactory team, I am pushing to see Innovate SOMO succeed.

What does Innovate SOMO include?

Innovate SOMO is a comprehensive series of programs to increase capacity for attracting and supporting a larger number of tech-based companies from startup to growth. It is an umbrella program including training and education, access to resources, coaching, and mentorship as Missourians take a leap into entrepreneurship in the tech space.

One of the first programs we’re launching is the 120-Day Tech Startup, which helps entrepreneurs take an idea from concept to market. Essentially, it’s a product launch fast track. Participants work hand-in-hand with experienced coaches on: validating ideas and business models; software design and development; marketing and customer acquisition; and raising venture capital.

Throughout the program, participants will test viability and establish a demand for the product before actually building it, which is the way it should be done. However, it is often done in the reverse order.

Applications are now open for the 120-Day Tech Startup program at innovatesomo.org.

Digital skills education

You may have also heard about some of the digital skills training Codefi has been offering in Springfield in partnership with efactory for the last couple of years, including the Youth Coding League and Code Labs. These are incredible opportunities to open pathways for learning tech skills across the lifespan.

Youth Coding League is offered as an after-school program for 5th-8th grade students. Students learn analytical concepts and coding skills and then compete in bracket-style competitions. It builds character in these young students and hopefully creates a love for learning digital skills that can persist.

Code Labs just kicked off its 2023-24 cohort, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the group that will be growing with us this year. It’s a rigorous education in the world of coding, somewhere on the spectrum between a coding boot camp and a full degree in computer science. Code Labs teaches participants skills beyond the theoretical or practical. It combines both through a no-cost, academic-year-long experience and possible paid apprenticeships.

Both Code Labs and Youth Coding League neatly fit under the umbrella of Innovate SOMO, since they prepare individuals for the tech economy.

I hope you’ll check out more about how you can advance your opportunities through Innovate SOMO.

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