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Utah firm launching 'coding bootcamp' in Middle East

SALT LAKE CITY — Trying to make the change to a new career can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but doing so under the duress of expulsion from your home country is especially daunting.

Jameel Aledlbi, 29, arrived in Beirut from Syria with his family four years ago to escape the war and was determined to make a life for himself.

“We left all things in our country except our knowledge and our college certificates,” he said via email from Beirut. “I couldn't find a job in my (field of study) — computer science.”

Unable to find suitable work, the former website manager heard about a computer coding program developed by Provo-based V School that was being offered at a local university. He then realized the importance of expanding his educational knowledge to bolster what he had learned during his initial university studies in his native Syria, he said.

Upon completion of the three-month program, he hopes “to find a proper job” and continue in the computer development realm.

“I really got a lot of information in this program and I feel that I am ready to apply to any company and achieve my ambition of being a successful man in life,” Aledlbi said. “After I get this certificate from V School, I will be able to get a new job and a new life with enough salary to help my family.”

Aledlbi was one of about 20 Syrian refugees that enrolled in the 40-student inaugural Lebanon class of V School — a technology curriculum that partners with hiring managers and industry managers to develop educational courses and programs that serve as a direct pipeline for employment, said V School co-founder and chief executive officer Michael Zaro.

The company has devised 12-week courses in web development, iOS development — specifically for the operating system used for mobile devices manufactured by Apple, cyber security and/or UX (User eXperience) design, he said.

Headquartered in Utah County and launched in fall 2013, the company also has a Salt Lake City location in Old Greektown and is opening a new location in Beirut, Lebanon. Additionally, V School (an homage to VeraSage, the original code development firm) also offers online courses as well, said Maurice “Mo” Reeder, co-founder and chief marketing officer. The program instructs students in "Full Stack JavaScript,” he said.

Zaro said that the company conducted its first training in Kuwait after making a winning bid among 20 U.S. firms.

“That class went really well,” he said. “When (Al-Makassed University) reached out, we told them about (Kuwait) and they said, ‘You’re the guys (we want).’”

The company went to work setting up the Middle East program and received nearly 200 applications, Zaro said.

“They were electrical engineers, they were cardiologists, mathematicians, high school teachers and some really advanced degrees,” he said. “Because when they left their country, they would (now) have to recertify or pass board (exams). They need to be productive as possible and fast as possible, so this gives them a skill really, really quickly.”

To be accepted into the program, applicants must take a rigorous exam to gauge their aptitude for the course work, Reeder explained. If accepted, the program offers two options, including full-time for $14,300.00 and part-time for $5,100.

In Utah, local partners include Software giant Adobe, outdoor products retailer Cotopaxi, investment bank Goldman Sachs, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Meanwhile, the company is also working to cultivate collaborative relationships abroad as well to provide resources for assisting applicants that need help, Zaro said.

“We are honored to partner with V School to help transform the educational landscape in Lebanon and in the Middle East,” said Amine Daouk, president of Al-Makassed University of Beirut. “Not only has computer programming become a new form of literacy, but those learners willing to take the journey into the technology world can truly transform their lives, the lives of their families and communities, as well as their countries.”

Working in Lebanon will also help the company meet its core value of providing educational opportunity to varied populations, Reeder said.

“We want to serve people and bring technology to the masses,” he said. “We also want to diversify technology, whether that is gender, ethnicity or age. (Also), technology shouldn’t be just for the elite or any one social class.”

He said the company wants to “do this work wherever it’s needed.”

Myassar Al Itani, 31, is a Lebanese national who was among the 40 people accepted into the first student class in Beirut. She said he wants to make a difference in her homeland and help people displaced from other worn-torn places like Syria.

Currently, Itani teaches English as a second language to students in both a public school and a private school. She also has been training educators in public schools how to teach English to Syrian refugees.

She said that listening to the teachers' problems and their attempts to solve their problems got her thinking of new, creative ways to help.

“This was what motivated me to enroll in V-School's boot camp,” she said. “This opportunity gave me a golden idea that can help out in my career and aiding the students and the school community in an innovative way.”

While she has no prior coding experience, she enjoys learning new things that “can help me, my students and others.”

Following the completion of the 12-week course, she hopes to launch an as yet undetermined educational project “that can leave an long-term impact on students and teachers.”

“For me, this kind of learning opportunity presents a great (potential) impact on many levels,” Itani said. “On the personal level, it gives me the opportunity to solve problems following a route I have never taken or thought about before. On the career level, I am quite sure that it will open a new (door), help students in their English, and innovatively connect teachers and classrooms all around the world.”

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1