Solving the skills gap is painfully simple: Give a diverse pool of talent cheaper access to education, says Adam Enbar, the co-founder and present of Flatiron School.

On Tuesday, the New York City-based education startup, which launched in 2012, released its second-annual jobs report, conducted by Moody, Famiglietti & Adronico. Nearly all (98 percent) of students--across four separate programs--secured jobs in tech after graduating, according to the report. The average starting salary was $74,447, which is well above the national average of $68,670 for a web developer.

Enbar attributes the success rate of Flatiron School graduates, at least in part, to a partnership with the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline and the Workforce Development Corporation. In 2013, the city of New York agreed to pay for low-income students to participate in a special coding course. The aim was to increase economic mobility by increasing the number of jobs in the technology sector.

Notably, all 28 of this year's low-income students graduated from the Flatiron School, with most (96 percent) getting jobs in tech afterwards. They're now earning more than the typical graduate-- over $76,000 annually, on average. 

This data suggests that a national talent shortage has little to do with innate ability, and more to do with the quality and accessibility of education. 

"We should be more open-minded about how we approach education in this country, rather than put everyone into the same mold," says Enbar. "We have to create different programs to serve people differently. There's no panacea in education."

The Flatiron School's vocational curriculum is designed to teach web and mobile development courses at a clip of what a traditional four-year college might charge. A standard three-month course costs $15,000, and a new, online-only program--which sources test material from vetted professionals, and includes interactive chat features--goes for $1,000 per month.

Would-be coders should know, however, that the school is highly selective. It accepts just 6 percent of applicants. Students must complete 150 hours of prerequisite coursework, and be prepared to show up to classes Monday through Friday, from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.

Many graduates have gone on to work at esteemed tech companies, including Microsoft, Google and Intel. Still others end up joining New York's startup pool, or take on technical roles at banks like Goldman Sachs, or major publications such asThe New York Times and BuzzFeed.

Enbar insists that many of those companies are now recruiting from Flatiron School, as executives recognize the importance of having a more diverse workforce.

"Some of these bigger tech companies, that release their diversity reports and really get slammed in the press, they know they need to do more," Enbar said. "Some of the challenges are external. If you look at the diversity among computer science graduates in our country, it's kind of abysmal. They don't have a choice but to look at non-traditional education if they actually want to solve this problem." 

To date, Flatiron School as taken on $14.5 million in venture capital funding, with little intention of speeding things up. "We're really lucky to have patient investors," Enbar says.

Published on: Dec 8, 2015