01/23/2013 12:09 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

Coding for GOOD Update: Why We Stopped Recruiting and Started Teaching

A couple of months back, I wrote a piece about the need for businesses to get more involved in the education ecosystem. The gist of it was that from both a civic and financial perspective, businesses can't rely on our current education system to necessarily teach the skills that they need in their employees. Rather, they must take the lead on their own. Hoping that schools can move quickly enough to understand current needs and prepare relevant curricula is a formula for our current reality where businesses are challenged to fill over 3.7 million job openings while 12.2 million Americans are looking for work.

At GOOD HQ, where we manage the platforms for collaboration amongst the GOOD Community, this issue manifests most specifically around web coders. As we build out functionality to support the millions of folks who come to each month, and introduce new tools to support our members in their pursuit of doing good in the world, we have had a challenging time finding developers who can meet the standard our CTO holds for the team here. In turn, responding to this issue has been paramount to our growth, and we've approached it from all angles. We pay recruiters. We do roadshows on campuses. We even created an apprentice program for college students to get a paid internship to work here during the summer and get on the track to full time employment post college.

This has worked pretty well. But the recruiters can't always deliver. The roadshows require a lot of time that we don't always have. And the apprentices come out of the program not just with a love for GOOD, but also frequently with many offers from big firms like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and base salaries that we can't always match. So two months agos, with support from Apollo Group, one of the pioneers in the online education space, we tried a new approach: Coding for GOOD -- a program where we would teach the skills needed for potential employees to learn needed coding skills to be on our tech team, test those skills, and then elevate the folks who could come join the team. From a civic perspective, we felt this was introducing value into the world that was flat out needed. From a business perspective, we hoped we could more efficiently identify talent that could aid our pursuits. But it was a novel idea and we had humble expectations.

Those expectations have been blown out of the water. Within weeks after launch, more than 100,000 people came to check out the program. Half of those people came back to dig in deeper. Colleges, NGOs, teachers, headhunters, even young kids started reaching out to see how they could get more involved or bring this program to their environments. Most importantly though, people enrolled. And from folks all across the globe, three coders rose to the top with projects that reflected their ability to put the learning shared into effect. These are the Coding for GOOD finalists who are being flown out to our offices this coming week for a final code-a-thon, after which a winner will be announced, and an offer awarded. Below is a brief description of these finalists.

Ada Ng from Brooklyn who graduated recently from Cornell University with a degree in design and environmental analysis, with a desire to continue learning post-graduation. A professor suggested she pick up some coding and serendipitously soon after, Ng was introduced to Coding for GOOD.

Brian Bonus from Los Angeles who is currently a junior television editor and looking for a career change. His immediate interest in coding led him to an Udacity class and he taught himself Python without any prior experience. Bonus stumbled upon Coding for GOOD and spent his winter break coding.

Corey Speisman from Arlington, Virginia, who pursued a career in audio engineering after his undergrad but realized the music business was not for him. Looking for a career change, he applied to grad school for computer science, only to be turned away for his lack of math and programming coursework and instead graduated with a degree in IT. Having pursued his passion on the side during his education, he programmed on his own with Coding for GOOD.

Looking at these candidates, I couldn't be more excited. Each of them has the potential to be very valuable members of our tech team despite the fact that none of them majored in computer science in school. We knew that not everyone who enrolled was going to get offers to join the team here, and we also knew that some folks who enrolled might be doing it for the education without ever intending to pursue employment at GOOD. What's awesome is that Coding for GOOD seems to be tracking toward a win/win/win situation. A win for society as a more knowledgeable society is a better society. A win for participants, as this free program gave a simple path to attaining valuable and marketable skills. And a win for our business, as we now have 3 great candidates to bring much needed energy and ability to our growing web efforts.

Taking these wins into account, business leaders should consider how making an investment in curriculum and teaching resources may better suit their hiring needs than conventional recruiting methods -- especially as the nature of the 21st century workforce continues to evolve.

Visit on Wednesday, January 30, to find out who will join our team.