As more value is placed on programming skills in the workplace, young professionals are taking notice of the gap between those who can and can’t code—and the social factors preventing the gap from closing.

A Hamilton chapter of the Ladies Learning Code non-profit organization has partnered with The Staircase Cafe on Dundurn St. North to host workshops for women of all backgrounds and ages looking to upgrade their coding skills.

The Hamilton chapter is led by Erin O’Neil, who graduated in 2008 and works in the University’s Alumni Office. O’Neil was inspired to organize workshops in Hamilton after attending six in Toronto and envisioning that there would be demand for the sessions in her own city. Crucial to the program’s success, O’Neil said, is that it guarantees a four-to-one learner to mentor ratio.

“If you have no idea what’s going on there’s an instructor at the front of the room but there’s also an expert for every four people. So you can put up your hand and say, ‘I really don’t get this’,” she said.

Each workshop hones in on a particular area of programming, from HTML and CSS to WordPress, costs $50 and includes a catered lunch. The goal is to provide instruction to women in a variety of fields and backgrounds on beginner-level programming with a relatively low barrier to entry.

“We got a lot of teachers at the first two workshops, which I thought was interesting. And we get a lot of people who work in proximity to people who do a lot of the high-skill programming kind of work. So people who know this kind of work exists and have seen someone else do it. They see this workshop and say, let’s give it a try,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil has also been overwhelmed by the number of people who want to fill the mentor role—a testament to the close-knit community of self-employed, young creatives in Hamilton.

“A lot of the mentors are between 20 and 30 and they work for mostly small-sized companies in Hamilton. Often the developers and programmers are self-employed and do contract work.”

“With coding, you’re working on the code in the back-end of the website and when you refresh the browser, you can see the change immediately. It’s fun to teach people because they get the reward that they’re learning it properly, instantly.”

The next LLC Hamilton session will be Introduction to Web Design and will take place at The Staircase Cafe on April 12.