The Army Futures Command (AFC) — which is in charge of modernizing the Army — has selected the Austin Community College District (ACC) in Texas as home for a unique software development training program for soldiers as well as ACC students.
The Software Factory at ACC is the Army’s first soldier-led software and web development hub of such a kind. The vision is to develop a pathway to two- and four-year degrees and to connect soldiers and students with industry partners.
ACC was selected based on the college’s reputation for being a feeder for talent, its innovative ACCelerator learning lab and the launch of its recent bachelor’s degree in software development, said Maj. Vito Errico, Software Factory co-director.
“This was a natural opportunity to partner with Austin Community College, which I’ve been a fan of since the day I got to Austin,” said Gen. John M. “Mike” Murray, AFC commanding general. “It’s going to force us to think differently in how we approach the future.”
The Army launched AFC in Austin about a year and a half ago to centralize and revamp its research and development as well as training and education efforts. It also was tasked to work closer with nontraditional companies, small businesses, and colleges and universities. The Army selected the city of Austin as the location for its headquarters because of its higher education institutions, tech focus and skilled workforce, according to Army officials.
Best of many worlds
Working with AFC will present opportunities for both organizations to leverage each other’s talents, said ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes, who serves on the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors. The project also will include national partners in the IT, software development and technological hardware industries, he said.
“This is not happening at any other community college or university around the country,” Rhodes said. “This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility and collaboration that doesn’t exist anywhere else. That’s the experience we want our students to have. They’ll work side-by-side with the AFC to share ideas and develop solutions.”
The Software Factory will build on the college’s computer science/information technology programs and offer specialized training for new technologies, such as data science and artificial intelligence, according to ACC. Both the college and the command will develop the curriculum, with support from selected software development companies.
“Modern software development is not something that an individual does in a corner with headphones on anymore,” Errico said. “Now it’s about teamwork. It’s about how you function as a team to scope problems and code solutions to those problems. You can’t do it without a collaborative space, and ACC is absolutely a collaborative space.”
The factory will be located in a 26,500-square-foot space at ACC’s Rio Grande Campus in downtown Austin. It is expected to open in January, with its first cohort of 30 soldiers and civilians. A second cohort will likely start next summer.
The Army has received inquiries from about 15,000 soldiers interested in the program since its announcement earlier this year, Murray said.