Opportunities: How to get computer coding skills for cheap (or free) right here in Newark

Featured image courtesy Black Girls Code. Used with permission. Visit blackgirlscode.com to learn more about the organization’s coding programs for girls.

Our “Opportunities” series highlights free and inexpensive ways for Newarkers to increase their skills in and around town. Tell us what you want to see more of from BrickCityLive.com by taking our annual reader survey through January 15th.

opportunities cardCities, schools, organizations and corporations across the country are more focused than ever before on giving the masses of people exposure to programming and coding skills.

There are several reasons for this. Corporations are realizing that they need to develop a workforce that either has these technology skills, or can work well with colleagues who do. Cities, schools, and organizations are seeing coding as a way to offer youth and adults alike the skills that can expose them to more job opportunities and even offer a ladder out of poverty.

And because technology offers unique ways to solve problems, putting these skills in the hands of more people makes it more likely that some of them will create civic technologies – apps and other pieces of technology that benefit cities, towns, and communities. Who better to invent these solutions than the people who understand their local communities best?

We’ve felt the coding push in Newark, as well. From the mayor’s office to grassroots groups, we’re seeing more opportunities than ever before for Newarkers to pick up these valuable skills. Below, we answer some basic questions about why people of all ages should consider acquiring these skills and how they can go about it.

What is coding?


Simply put, code is a set of instructions that can be understood by a computer, similar to a recipe. Coding entails learning commands that tell computers, phones, and other devices what to do. Learning how to code lets people build websites, create mobile apps, and perform tasks that would be difficult for humans to do by hand.

What can be accomplished with coding?

mobile app screens

Learning how to code can give people the tools to:

  • Create either a side or primary business as a developer for other people’s projects
  • Begin a new career as a coder or developer for a company
  • Create their websites or apps for their own businesses (this is how BrickCityLive.com got made)
  • Give them an advantage with their current employer or venture by enabling them to work better with developers, programmers, and other coworkers in tech positions
  • Better understand the world around them, which is now overwhelmingly driven by technology
  • Change their communities by applying technologies to their communities’ problems

And because creating websites and online stores is so much easier for the average person now than it was years ago, even a little coding knowledge can go a long way. By understanding the basics of coding and online technology, entrepreneurs have turned their kitchens into bakeries, their closets into consignment stores, their knack for creative thinking into small digital advertising agencies, and their crafting skills into boutiques — and reached customers far beyond where they live in the process.

What is the employment outlook for people with coding skills?

2024 projections

One of the reasons organizations and cities are investing in technology education is because of the strong employment outlook for people with these skills. For coding and related disciplines – like website, app, and software development – the jobs will be plentiful and the salaries will be strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in these fields will see the largest growth opportunities outside of the healthcare industry over the next ten years, and will be the fastest growing high-paying jobs through 2024 (home health aides, personal care aides, and medical assistants will see even faster job growth, but current average salaries for all three are below the 2014 median annual salary of $35,540).

Who’s good at coding?


The short answer: almost anyone can learn the basics of coding, and even the basics can open up great opportunities.

In 2014, I co-taught an introduction to HTML to a class of middle school students at Ann Street School here in Newark as part of Hour of Code. It was incredible to see how far the students got with the concepts my teaching partner and I taught them during such a short time. It was also great to see how excited they were to grasp a topic that had seemed so foreign only an hour before .

I’ve personally experienced this in other settings where I’ve learned new coding languages alongside people who had never written a line code before. People from all walks of life are able to pick up the skill with  good instruction, practice, consistency, confidence, and a willingness to learn.

As with any discipline, there will be those who, through a combination of natural aptitude and dedication, will go a bit further than the rest of us. They might go on to code the next Facebook or Twitter. There are others who, because they understand the technology, might be the business mind that comes up with the idea for the next great piece of technology.

And there are many others who can create smaller, but still meaningful, opportunities for themselves and their communities by learning how to code.

How can I (or my child) learn coding in Newark?

learn to code

There are  several initiatives here in Newark to give residents a shot at either learning the basics of code or building on previous skills. There are also free online resources that Newarkers can access through their home computers, or at a local library branch.

1. Intramural Coding Club: Full Stack JavaScript

Start date: Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cost: Suggested $5 donation per class, $40 donation total

Description: This eight-week course will teach participants the JavaScript language, jQuery, the popular JavaScript framework and the ins-and-outs of adding interactivity in the browser. Once you’re up to speed with JavaScript in the browser, you’ll learn Node.js, a popular JavaScript platform for writing and using JavaScript applications outside of the browser.

Required sessions: 4-hour Saturday lab (10:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) starting Saturday, January 9th at Weequahic Park Fieldhouse (WPA Office 2nd Floor), 92 Thomas Carmichael Dr., Newark, NJ

Recommended sessions:  2 hour recitation Mondays at 6:40PM (Google Hangout); 2.5 hour HackNight (bi-weekly, Wednesdays)

Read the course overview online

2. Girls Who Code

3. Newark Coding Meetups

4. Online tools