Tech for All in Detroit: Grand Circus’ Work to Open up the Job Market

Tech for All in Detroit: Grand Circus’ Work to Open up the Job Market

According to the Department of Labor by 2020 there will be 1 million unfilled computer programming jobs in the United States. Striking in this sector is the ratio of racial representation: fewer than 10 percent of the software engineers are African-American.

The city of Detroit represents a critical example as 80 percent of its citizens are African-American. Indeed, different projects driven by the city of Detroit and companies alike are working in order to change that outcome. One of the main projects is Grand Circus.

Grand Circus is a training institute with the mission to elevate the tech community in the city of Detroit. It offers a multitude of part-time and full-time courses: Front-End Web Development, Full-Stack Web Development, etc.

Grand Circus launched in 2013 and now offers classes to public, rents co-working spaces and hosts events. Different Grand Circus boot camps prepare participants for a career in the tech industry, learning the most in-demand programming languages (such as JavaScript, jQuery, HTML, CSS, AngularJS and Node.js). After 10 weeks, participants are prepared for entry-level careers in software engineering and back-end development.

Although tuition fees are a little bit expensive – 8,500 dollars – Detroiters can apply for a limited number of scholarships provided by TechHire, a four-year local talent initiative that aims to provide workforce development training and apprenticeships in IT careers. Financing options are primarily offered to veterans, women (just 26% of computing jobs are filled by women) and those part of an ethnic group underrepresented in tech (e.g. African American, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander). Upon graduation, students are provided with job assistance training and the skillset required for entry-level business analyst, web developer, quality assurance tester or program manager positions.

According to Jeff Donofrio, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development: “It’s important that we create opportunities for all Detroiters to have access to training connected to jobs, particularly within high-growth industries like IT. The TechHire program does exactly that, and helps Detroiters take that next step toward a good paying job and stable career”[1].

In a city like Detroit where traditional jobs in manufacturing have disappeared, entry level jobs in technology offer a similar financial security for the middle-class: statistics show that between January 2015 and March 2016, 93 percent of participants in Grand Circus boot camps found full-time employment in entry-level developer positions. This is a great achievement if we consider that nowadays 8.4 percent of Detroiters are unemployed.

In order to help disadvantaged groups to get a job in IT, Grand Circus also partners with Code 2040, a nonprofit named for the year when minorities will make up the majority of the U.S. population. Code 2040 creates educational, professional and entrepreneurial pathways for black and Latinx entrepreneurs. Damien Rocchi, Grand Circus CEO said that “The tech sector is rapidly changing, and we need creative solutions for sourcing talent to fill these jobs. Grand Circus will not only train Detroiters in some of the latest technologies, but also introduce them to the city’s top employers”[2].


[1] The HUB Detroit. (2017). Detroit at Work Partners with Grand Circus to Launch ‘TechHire Bootcamp’ – The Hub Detroit. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017]

[2] (2017). Detroit at Work Partners with Grand Circus to Launch ‘TechHire Bootcamp’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].


A Detroit, l’attività di Grand Circus sta riscuotendo sempre più successo. Negli ultimi anni la quasi totalità dei partecipanti ai “bootcamp” organizzati per formare nuove professionalità nel mondo IT ha trovato un lavoro stabile. La peculiarità di Grand Circus è l’attenzione verso le categorie sociali che hanno più difficoltà nell’accedere a questo mercato del lavoro.