RED Academy reinvents digital education in Vancouver

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      There are boot camps that teach coding skills in up to 12 weeks. And there are technical schools that students enroll in from one to four years.

      Then there’s , which offers three- to six-month programs in web and app development, user-interface and user-experience design, and digital marketing.

      Ciara Hamagishi, admissions and events manager at RED Academy, told the Straight by phone that one of the “unique things” about her school is the length of its digital-education programs.

      “The other unique thing is that we really give back to the community,” she added. “Our students are working on projects for nonprofits and startups while they’re in the program.”

      The school on West Broadway uses capital letters for RED, which is short for “redefining education”. That’s because cofounders Colin Mansell and Mandy Gilbert felt there was a need to change the way digital education is delivered in order to provide greater opportunities for young creators, designers, developers, and entrepreneurs.

      Mansell is also a cofounder of Drive Digital. According to Hamagishi, he found that graduates of other schools still required a lot of training after they were hired to work at his digital agency.

      “There was this student who said he learned more in his first three months working at Drive Digital than he did in his four-year undergrad and his two-year technical program,” Hamagishi said. “The fact that there wasn’t that level of learning in the education system is what inspired Colin and also Mandy, who owns a technical recruiting agency in Toronto, to found RED to fill that gap.”

      The school opened in Vancouver in 2015 and there are now campuses in Toronto and London, England. Instructors are from industry, and—according to Hamagishi—academic director David Kohler provides them with “in-depth training” to enhance their teaching skills.

      The school mimics a work environment, even in its appearance, which means there are whiteboard walls, communal working spaces, and even beer on tap.

      Hamagishi said that instructors act like managers and students are taught to be strong employee leaders and how to work collaboratively. When a client’s project comes in, design students will work with a developer.

      She added that instructors rarely speak for more than 15 or 20 minutes in the morning before students are practically applying the skills that they’ve learned. Afternoons are spent meeting with clients and working on projects.

      The web- and app-development program can be taken over three or six months. The first three months covers HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Hamagishi said graduates will be able to work for a digital agency creating websites for clients.

      Digital-marketing students learn about analytics and Google AdWords. They’re taught how to create a strategic campaign covering social to inbound marketing and generating paid and unpaid messages. They also master search-engine optimization (SEO) and search-engine marketing.

      In addition, Hamagishi said, professional development is integrated into the educational programs, which entails everything from learning how to perform better in job interviews to enhancing the SEO of a LinkedIn profile.

      “We have a team of career coaches who assist the students throughout,” Hamagishi said “They’re like advocates for the students.”

      RED Academy hosts a career fair where students can show their creativity to recruiters. She even recalled one student making an entire keyboard out of cookies.

      “Our guarantee is that we will work with every student until they’re placed in a job, as long as they go to class and put in their effort,” Hamagishi said.

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