Graham Weston, the chairman and co-founder of Rackspace, has made it a personal goal to make San Antonio the cloud computing capital of the world.
To make that happen, he needs to develop a large pool of tech-savvy workers. The company recently launched a unique program to begin creating that new workforce.
"We're really hoping that we're able to increase the IT intellect or the IT intelligence level in San Antonio," said Duane LaBom, director of learning development for Rackspace. "We've taken the technology training, the development that we provide to our employees, we've packaged that in a way that will allow us to deliver it to non-Rackspace employees."
LaBom is overseeing the Open Cloud Academy.
Located on the sixth floor of the Weston Center in downtown San Antonio, in the same space where Rackspace's original offices and data center were once housed, the academy is a computer boot camp for people looking to break into the Information Technology (IT) field.
"It's high-tech, it's cutting-edge IT training," LaBom said. "I'll put our program up against any other IT training program."
The academy started with a pilot program in April.
After passing a self-paced introduction course, 20 students were moved into Phase 2, an eight-week crash course in computer programming languages.
When the program is completed, the students will be qualified as Linux L1 system administrators.
The program has attracted a diverse group of students, some with computer backgrounds and others who are starting from scratch.
Originally pursuing a career making video games, Nick Hamilton said he applied for the Open Cloud Academy when he realized his chosen career would be tough to find a job in.
"I decided that a career in technology was interesting and being job ready in less than six months was even more interesting," Hamilton said. "I've never in my life absorbed as much information as I have in the past couple weeks."
Jeff Elliott has spent most of his adult life working as a laborer. He signed up for the academy hoping to learn the skills required to start a new career.
"I wanted to put my mind to work and I always had an interest in IT," Elliott said. "I'm glad it's here in San Antonio and able for me to get in. It's great, I love it."
One of the key selling points for the academy is the value it offers students. They're getting an education that is worth about $30,000 for just a fraction of the cost.
"We're delivering $30,000 worth of training for $3,500 and we're preparing those individuals to go to work for Rackspace," LaBom said.
All of the academy graduates are guaranteed an interview with Rackspace and about a third of them will get hired. Rackspace hopes the rest will get jobs with other local companies or start their own. The ultimate goal is to build a new workforce that could attract new business.
"We want to deliver a high-value, high-quality IT program for our students so they can either come to work for Rackspace, go to work for other companies that have technology needs or potentially start their own businesses," LaBom said. "San Antonio would benefit because other IT companies would consider coming here because we would have a strong IT labor pool."
The pilot class is on track to graduate in mid-June. The Academy is currently accepting applications for future classes.