“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” is a quote attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, which reminds us that we make our own luck. Luck however, isn’t just about being at the right place at the right time, but also being open to and ready for new opportunities. This is what I largely think economic development is about, being open and recognizing when opportunity exists and create the pathways to having good luck.

Montana and Missoula are well positioned to further develop and foster high-tech industries. Recently, the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported Montana high-tech industry will grow eight to 10 times the projected statewide growth rate, with average wages at about twice the median earnings per Montana worker. Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be 1 million unfilled programming jobs by 2020 – only five years from now – or as would be stated in economic development terms – our opportunity.

So what is our preparation? I have written in past columns about the efforts the Missoula Economic Partnership has undertaken in the realm of big data analytics and cybersecurity – two growing areas that Missoula and Montana can lead the nation in. The new master’s level programs at the University of Montana will help fill this job gap, but is not enough alone to meet the growing demand.

Across the country, there has also been a growing movement to establish code schools or boot camps. Over 60 boot camps have risen up in the last few years to meet the needs of career changers and others looking to get on the fast track to a nearly six-figure job in software development. These programs — offer hands-on training, career guidance and community support, and the opportunity to work on personal projects to showcase to prospective employers. They’re like trade schools for the digital age.

We are proud to be a part, and sponsor, of the launch of the very first coding school in Montana, which is located here in Missoula. The Montana Code School, (montanacodeschool.com) is preparing to launch its inaugural cohort next month with its first 12-week course. The school is designed to train students without programming skills for a job as a junior programmer by providing a highly focused learning programs in an immersive programming environment

Learning code however, is not only good for technology businesses, it is good for all business. When a student learns to code, they begin thinking about processes in the world – whether it is understanding complicated issues like how economies function – or something much simpler – the basis for tackling problems in a stepwise fashion is undertaken. It requires analytical skills, problem solving and creativity – skills all businesses need in their workforce.

As our community continues to develop quality students at the Montana Code School, the Missoula College and University of Montana, and our industry, job creation and innovation increases, we will all be part in enjoying our good luck to be a part of a thriving community and economy.

James Grunke is the president/CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership.

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