Sheridan Offers Exciting New Program That’s the First of its Kind in the GTA

Over the past decade or so, the world has witnessed an incredible—not to mention exciting—tech boom that has quite literally revolutionized the way people live and work.

Although some may criticize the attachment we have to our phones and electronic devices, few could argue that smartphones and tablets haven't had an enormous impact on the way we live, work and think. New technology hasn't only created a wealth of new job opportunities for people of all ages, it has made it easier for people to connect, seek out and apply for jobs and educational courses and organize their lives.

Because smartphone technology is top of mind for many, Sheridan College has partnered with Vancouver-based Lighthouse Labs and seized on the opportunity to offer prospective students a brand new continuing education course that will introduce them to iOS programming.

The program, which will launch on May 2, will teach students the life cycle of building applications for Apple's iOS devices using programming languages like Swift. Students will learn the fundamentals of iOS programming while building a simple mobile app. Over the the several weeks they're in class, students will learn about building each screen, working with APIs, using the camera and, eventually, putting everything together.

The program began to take shape after Sheridan College became acquainted with Lighthouse Labs' intensive coding bootcamps. As for how Lighthouse Labs works, the bootcamp program that caught Sheridan's eye offers eight weeks of in-person training, four weeks of remote prep work and mentorship that helps students master coding and ultimately become developers.

"The whole idea for this program started when we reached out Lighthouse Labs last year. We've seen a lot of bootcamp ideas around our own areas, but mostly in Toronto and we wanted to hear more about what they do and what we as a community college can offer," says Marcela Velez-Pulgarin, a program manager with Sheridan. "This program was interesting because it was a field we hadn't explored, iOS development, and we highly value coding skills."

The course is slated to launch at the Mississauga-based Hazel McCallion Campus and it's designed to give students an understanding of iOS development and how it works. While the subject matter might sound lofty or niche, the course is geared towards newcomers to the field and no prior knowledge of coding or app design are required.

"You don't need any prior knowledge or coding skills," says Velez-Pulgarin. "It's a six-week course that you take twice a week. The course offers 36 hours of learning time and it'll take students from zero to creating a basic iOS applications using API's from popular services such as Instagram and Flickr."

While Lighthouse Labs offers a full eight-week iOS Development Bootcamp, this course is more focused on teaching students the basics and making them comfortable with a specific type of development.

"We give students the opportunity to develop software development skills," says Velez-Pulgarin. "We'll take them through the lifecycle of iOS development, from starting to create the the app to putting it in the app store."

Program managers at Sheridan first became interested in collaborating with Lighthouse when they heard an interview with the company's CEO on the radio.

"We basically sent an email out and said 'we want to connect you, how can we collaborate?' We wanted to bring something from Toronto (Lighthouse Labs currently operates Bootcamps in Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and other major Canadian cities) to the west end," says Velez-Pulgarin. "We have Mac labs here at Sheridan and I think coding skills in general are so important and not just to learn how to do an app. They open the world to a different mindset. You can think 'how can you turn the real world into lines of code?'"

As part of the partnership, Sheridan participated in the HTML500 event hosted by Lighthouse Labs in February. For those who are unaware, the HTML500 is a free one-day crash course in HTML and CSS to "inspire more Canadians to shape their community through code."

"At the HTML500, the point is to spread digital literacy and the importance of coding and learning skills for this century. The problem solving skills you gain, for example, are amazing. You can see how to bring pieces together to make a whole," says Velez-Pulgarin.

While Lighthouse and it's programming isn't new, Sheridan is actually its first educational partner in Ontario.

"We partner with schools, building that community is important to us," says Rachel Greenspan, general manager at Lighthouse Labs. "We've done this with B.C. colleges and Sheridan is the first partner in Ontario."

Greenspan says that her company operates with the belief that coding is for everyone and everyone should have access to coding training. The organization helps new students excel by pairing them with experienced developers, ultimately providing excellent mentorship to people who are new to an exciting—and perhaps even lucrative—field.

As for why they agreed to partner with Sheridan, Greenspan said the school's record spoke for itself.

"Sheridan has a really great track record with bringing creative and new curriculum into their course roster. Our niche is we provide cutting edge curriculum to places that need. We're relatively new, we're scrappy, we're a start up. We started with philosophy that people can learn fast," Greenspan says.

In terms of students, Sheridan says it expects people from all walks of life to apply to—and most certainly benefit from—the program.

"I'm thinking we're going to get young adults, late 20s and early 30s. They're eager in terms of technologies, but I'm hoping it will attract everyone," says Velez-Pulgarin. "People are often talking about the app ideas that they have, maybe people will think 'this can help me build my own app.'

Sheridan's goal of attracting everyone isn't just admirable, it's perfectly in step with Lighthouse's inclusive philosophy.

"Coding should be accessible to everybody, it's for everyone," says Greenspan. "For our full-time Bootcamps, we pride ourselves on having a welcoming atmosphere where coding is very aptitude-based… a third of our students are from science fields, a third are from technological fields and we also get a lot of creative people who want to learn. People want to dive in and problem solve and coding is great for that."

While the course will no doubt be as fun as it will be informative, it'll also prepare students for careers in a rapidly-growing field.

As for where job opportunities lie, Greenspan says students can end up working for such well-known companies as Telus, Rogers and The CBC. The program works, she says, because it fosters mentor/mentee relationships and encourages students to keep learning and growing in the field.

"It's learning how to be a developer."

Although Sheridan and Lighthouse Lab's program hasn't launched yet, both organizations say there's been some interest.

"I'm optimistic, I think it's going to be great," says Greenspan. This is our pilot. I'm committed and want a high quality experience for students. Being first in GTA makes us most excited. We've had ties with communities around Toronto, but it's our first project outside of the downtown core.

The GTA and Canada are great spaces to live and work and [Toronto and the GTA is a] centre for innovation. We have banking, and healthcare and so many exciting things. It's a good place to be a developer."

For more information on Lighthouse Labs, click here.

For more information on the Sheridan iOS Development Program, click here.

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