Ladue News Feature Stories

The Future, By Design

As technology advances, so does the demand for skilled employees to keep up with how it’s changing. Enter Michael Palmer, founder of Code World Order and Code Red Education. Palmer, an educator who has taught kids of all ages from kindergarten through college, came up with the two programs to help bright young minds develop coding and computer programming skills and eventually land jobs in programming or information technology.

Palmer got his start in education teaching at a school in Cahokia, Illinois, where many students were falling behind and weren’t prepared for a college environment – but Palmer saw their promise and took action. “They were hard workers,” he says. “They wanted to get done with high school and start working to make life better for their families.”

When Palmer was laid off from his teaching job due to budget cuts, he found himself with a considerable amount of spare time – and he still he wanted to teach. In partnership with his wife, Ann, Palmer developed a curriculum for students across four levels of schooling – early elementary, late elementary, middle school and high school – that would give students skill sets in four areas, which Palmer refers to as S.T.E.M. (an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“We took over a computer lab and started teaching kids HTML and web design,” Palmer explains. “Many of them had never used a computer, but we had great success. These kids went from computer-illiterate to developers in three months.”

This was the beginning of Code Red Education, the Palmers’ computer language education program that introduces and trains students in computer science and digital literacy skills such as game design, web development and how to build mobile applications as well as the basic principles of engineering. The curriculum was sent to St. Louis area teachers, too, so they could teach it in their classrooms. “There’s stability in the S.T.E.M. market right now,” Palmer says. “Coupled with professional development and support, this prepares [students] for a high-demand, high-paying S.T.E.M. career.”

That’s the essence of Code Red Education. Code World Order, however, is a side project of Palmer’s, and is considered a sister project to Code Red. In a world where making connections is so important, Code World Order does just that. “These aren’t just high-school students we’ve trained – they’re adults with true technology skills.” Palmer says.

Code World Order joins highly skilled professionals with fast-moving start-ups. It’s a database of the region’s S.T.E.M. talent, providing a one-stop shop of sorts for both candidates and employers.

“As St. Louis tries to make a name for itself as a technology city, we need human capital to do that,” Palmer says. “It’s hard to draw people in. Our solution has been to grow and retain our own talent, which will eventually allow us to grow and sustain St. Louis.”

Palmer one day hopes to expand his programs to the Midwest and beyond, to cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, that have been trying to rejuvenate their image through technology. Palmer’s programs have been largely well-received and have made positive impacts in the lives of many students and career professionals. “We get overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers,” he says. “They see the value in it.”

Teachers who would’ve had to go back to school to learn how to teach these topics don’t need to with Palmer’s curriculum, he says. Code Red Education helps teachers expose students to a wide variety of computer science skills including software development, web design, and mobile app development. It’s something the teachers appreciate and embrace. “It’s a big time-saver for them.”

Palmer continues to work with all ages of students, from elementary kids at Reed Elementary, to St. Louis Public Schools to the patrons of St. Louis County Library. “We just try to get more and more kids interested in this,” he says. “Our high-school students have both the hard and soft skills they need for a work environment.”

Going forward, Palmer wants to take Code Red Education far and wide. “We’re mission-focused and want to go into cities that need us. We want to train great teachers and expand.” He wants Code World Order to be the go-to for start-ups and institutions, eventually expanding to serve big companies like Monsanto. “That way, we can all grow and prosper right here in St. Louis.”

All in all, it’s about giving students of all ages and backgrounds the skills they need to be successful in the real world, a world that is which is more demanding and fast-paced than ever before. “We show students the door, but they’re the ones who walk through it,” Palmer says.

This story was originally published at laduenews.com. Read it on LN’s website here.

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