Higher Education, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Free academy introduces users to web development

August 12, 2014
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Bizstream
BizStream graduated 18 students from its summer BizStream Academy in 2014. Courtesy BizStream

There is a new batch of website builders and programmers ready to contribute to West Michigan’s tech industry.

BizStream, a web and software development company based in Allendale, this week graduated 18 students from its summer program for individuals interested in learning about programming and web development.

The free summer program at BizStream Academy is an eight-week training class that meets three times a week for a couple of hours. Beginning with an introduction to HTML and CSS coding, students are quickly exposed to CSS3, responsive web design, JavaScript, jQuery, and content management systems in the program’s website development crash course.

Mark Schmidt, founder and developer of BizStream, said the training course is intended to spark people’s interest in programming and also is a way to give back to the community.

“The goal is to show people it is possible, and those of them who are passionate about it can take off,” said Schmidt. “We know in reality not everyone is going to be as excited as we were, but if there are a couple that just start loving it, that’s a success.”

Originally launched in the fall of 2012, the BizStream Academy is offered each summer and incorporates video tutorials, instructor-led discussions, demonstrations, and individual and group projects.

“Our class is not just all lecturing. It’s utilizing all the free resources out there and saying these are some good resources, go through this, watch this video, go through this online course. There is obviously some of us putting our spin on it,” said Schmidt. “Currently, we do one semester of it, but we are definitely looking to expand and maybe not have (only) BizStream be a part of it.”

A new addition to the 2014 semester training program was incorporating Kentico’s web content management system, which is an integrated development solution allowing users to update websites easily.

“I think one of the cool things this year is we pushed the envelope a little more. We normally just focus on some basic skills: HTML, JavaScript, CSS. This year we actually included a large worldwide content management system called Kentico,” said Schmidt. “They actually started building a website with an enterprise level content management system. That was pretty huge.”

Adam Reece, developer and academy instructor at BizStream, said students in the recent training course were enthusiastic and hardworking.

“About half the class came in with no coding experience; they went from knowing zero HTML to being able to launch their first website,” said Reece in a written statement. “It’s a great experience for them and for us at BizStream.”

With a limited class size of 16 to 20 individuals due to physical space, Schmidt said the company is focused on engaging high school students in the training course, but will not turn people away if they are interested. With basic knowledge on back-end development and learning skills pertinent for the web industry, Schmidt said there are a number of benefits for students to enroll in the free program, including learning new skills and kick-starting careers.

“Even if they don’t end up becoming a developer or a front-end graphic designer, just having the knowledge to build a website or being conscious of the way things work and the way applications are made, it is going to benefit them in almost any career … whether they go into engineering, medical, law or anything, it is rare when you are not touching a computer,” said Schmidt. “If they are interested in the web industry, they could technically start taking on jobs in high school or college.”

Several students who have completed training courses in the past have been hired at BizStream for permanent or contract positions. Individuals interested in enrolling in the summer training program are required to have their own laptop, transportation to Allendale, and motivation to learn.

“The cool thing about our industry is everything is online. The computer you have is good enough to start building websites and figuring out how to do what we do every day,” said Schmidt. “It’s the way a lot of our employees — myself included — started, just the one opportunity to realize how easy and how accessible it is to just start developing, building websites, and web apps.”

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