For many Americans, finding a good job can be quite the struggle, not to mention acquiring the skills needed to even land an interview. On the flip side, businesses often struggle to find and employ good tech talent.

One organization right here in the Show-Me State has set out to eliminate the effects of both these problems.

LaunchCode, a non-profit organization launched in St. Louis in 2013, aims to connect employers with non-traditional tech talent through job placement and training in technology. Square cofounder Jim McKelvey dreamed up LaunchCode to help both unemployed Americans and low-wage workers find jobs and to help companies match the growing demand for skilled tech talent.

There are hundreds of thousands of individuals out there that are job ready but are overlooked by the classic applicant tracking system because they lack a college degree, don’t have a strong resume, or whatever other reason.

That’s where LaunchCode comes in. The organization’s overall mission is to grow new talent to the marketplace by identifying individuals with the capacity to work in tech and getting them on the right path to do so.

Once candidates are selected by LaunchCode’s evaluation team, they are vetted through technical interviewing, live interviewing, project performance, and assessment of soft skills such as professionalism and communication.

Anna Welchman, company relations manager of LaunchCode Kansas City, said they are pretty indifferent to how candidates gained their technical knowledge.

“Whether or not you have a four-year degree, let alone a four-year CS degree, isn’t necessarily important to us,” she said. “What we look for are people that have the technical skills, the drive, and the aptitude to be successful in tech.”

Those who make it through the vetting process are then placed into paid apprenticeships with LaunchCode’s employer partners based first on skill type then on factors such as workplace culture, core values, background, and interests.

For those who don’t fit the bill just yet, LaunchCode offers several training and educational programs to further develop their skills and prepare them for job placement.

LaunchCode has done exceptionally well in terms of job placement, with a near 90 percent conversion rate from apprenticeship to full-time job. On average, LaunchCode placements experience a 100 percent increase in salary compared to their previous jobs.

“On a very micro-level, LaunchCode is changing people’s lives without a doubt,” Welchman said.

Since 2013, LaunchCode has launched 567 careers and educated 3,443 students. The organization has also expanded into several hubs outside of its headquarters in St. Louis, including Rhode Island and South Florida.

Thanks to an award of MOBEC program funds from the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), LaunchCode was able to expand to another Show-Me State location in January of 2016. LaunchCode KC is located in downtown Kansas City in the Sprint Accelerator, an entrepreneurial community center offering co-working space, event space, and other programs to assist technology startups.

A note from MTC Director Bill Anderson

“There is really no other organization out there like LaunchCode, and the organization is a huge asset to our state’s growing technology sector. LaunchCode is not just creating jobs and boosting the economy but truly transforming the lives of people, and we are eager to see what else it will accomplish in the future.”

MTC Executive Director Bill Anderson

Welchman noted that because of MTC, they were able to identify the business habitat in Kansas City, open a whole new hub there, establish partnerships with employers, and start working with candidates.

MTC funds have also allowed LaunchCode KC to host events and offer education programs and other resources to help candidates be successful.

“MTC has absolutely been an incredible resource to us,” she said.

LaunchCode KC recruitment manager Katherine Golden agreed, adding that MTC gives them more credence with other organizations and investors.

“Being able to say we’re backed by MTC automatically elevates our placement,” Golden said.

Moving forward, LaunchCode will remain focused on its mission – improving the tech talent gap.

“There’s an expectation that in 2020 there’s going to be 1 million unfilled tech jobs,” Welchman said, “so we want to start trekking towards that and making sure that in 2020 we’ve made some good steps towards closing that gap.”