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Facebook teams up with Grand Circus to train more Michiganders in tech skills

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss speaking at announcement of partnership between Grand Circus and Facebook

Facebook and a Grand Rapids tech company are partnering to train 3,000 Michiganders in coding and digital marketing over the next two years.

Grand Circus has already been working to train people in these skills for the past five years, but now students can get free scholarships to the 10-week boot camp.

Grand Circus will also be connecting students to potential employers after the training is over.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley were at the announcement earlier today. Both are excited that Michigan was chosen to be the forefront for Facebook’s initiative.

Mayor Bliss says more businesses, regardless of the industry, are looking for tech-savvy employees.

“That is so critical as we look at the workforce of the future,” Bliss said.

Calley mirrors Mayor Bliss’ sentiment, saying these digital skills are growing in importance because more industries are relying on technology to function.

“There is a convergence between manufacturing, coding, programming and digital information collection. Every industry has become more reliant on data,” Calley said.

Facebook launched the program in Detroit last month.

The social media company chose Michigan for the initiative partly because Gov. Rick Snyder has stayed committed to preparing students for tech jobs, according to Reginald McKnight, head of U.S. Infrastructure Public Policy at Facebook.

“We chose Michigan for three reasons, number one is that [the state] has great leadership at the state and federal level,” McKnight said.

The other reasons listed are Grand Circus being a good tech partner for training people with these necessary skills and Grand Rapids and Detroit have a “spirit of innovation” that Facebook admires.

Nicole King is a student who is in week two of the boot camp now. King says the brevity of the boot camp enticed her to apply.

“I’m pursuing a [Computer Science] degree through Ferris University and I saw the announcement for the boot camp and I got extremely excited by the idea that I could be working in the field in as little as eight weeks,” King said.

The ability to go through this training for free was also a factor in her decision to apply.

“I’m a mother of four, so my finances are kind of tight right now. So the idea that there was this scholarship was probably the most exciting part about it to me,” she said.

According to Grand Circus, about 40% of its students are people of color and 40% are women.