For now, the program is working to raise capital to renovate the space and get staff ready for the pilot program to start in mid-June. Valley Technology Outreach's Bean said the goal is to raise $250,000 for the pilot program, of which close to $200,000 has already been raised from employers, private donations, foundations and angel investors. They will then set their sights on raising $2 million to $5 million for the full program.
The space's renovations will aim to mimic the hip, modern feel of a Google office, Bean said. He wants to keep it in an open concept, full of snacks and with areas for meetings and quiet spaces for those who work better in quiet settings. The idea is that it is a fun place for high school students to come, so they will want to spend their time there instead of feeling forced. Bean said he envisions students staying late into the night, simply because they are excited about coding and the topics they are learning.
Bean's vision is incredibly different than the college experience most high school graduates feel compelled to go through if they want more education, Bean said. The plan is to have them prepared upon high school graduation to step into an IT company and begin making money immediately, instead of taking on college debt to achieve the same goal, Bean said. However, for those who have their sights set on college, Bean said that he is forming bonds with local colleges, such as Holyoke Community College, to allow the students to continue their education while already employed.
"What we're trying to say is that some kids aren't ready to go to college when they graduate high school," Bean said. "What we want to try to do is create a program that lets both of those things [exist in harmony]."
Bean didn't go to college himself. He currently leads his main local IT company Paragus Strategic IT as well as two other technology startups in the area. He said he sees his lack of both college education and experience in the nonprofit world gives him a nontraditional view of the program, which lets him operate it more as a tech startup, which he expects to be much more successful.
"It's just being willing to not do things the traditional way," Bean said.
With the increase in the talent pool, Bean said he hopes to be able to draw companies to western Massachusetts such as EMC and Google. If it works, he plans to spread to other areas of the state, such as Worcester or the South Shore, to train the talent pool there as well.
"If this works -- there's no reason not to replicate it all over," Bean said.
PUBLISHED NOV. 6, 2013