Memphis company launches tech program in Nashville, floats HQ move

Attracted by the city’s need for tech workers, a Memphis-based company has launched an IT training program in Nashville — and it could eventually move its headquarters here.

Tech staffing company Cook Systems’ FastTrack’D course has trained about 300 students in software development over the past five years, said Joe Hunter, the company’s vice president of the Nashville FastTrack'D launch. If the program is successful in Nashville, Hunter said, Cook could relocate its headquarters to Music City while keeping an office in Memphis.

Nashville's need for tech workers has never been greater, thanks to the recent announcement that tech giant Amazon is bringing 5,000 jobs to a new "Operations Center of Excellence" in the city. FastTrack’D will join several other area programs working to fill the tech talent gap, including the Nashville Software School and the Nashville Technology Council’s apprenticeship program Apprenti TN.

FastTrack’D’s inaugural Nashville class began about six weeks ago, with 11 students at Nashville-based Pilgrim Consulting, which is partnering with Cook on the program.

The course is tuition-free and targets people with an aptitude or existing skill set for software development, Hunter said. When a student graduates, Cook contracts them out to an outside company in need of a developer for a period of one to two years. When his or her contract is up, the student may be hired by the company or contracted to another business.

Hunter said FastTrack’D is different than a tech boot camp or software school because it teaches more than just tech skills, it only accepts students who show a propensity for the work and it doesn’t charge tuition so it doesn’t feel pressure to graduate unqualified students.

“A huge part of our program is working on soft skills to make sure they integrate well into teams,” Hunter said. “We test them to make sure they have the cognitive skills to adjust to new situations and…we only graduate the best of the best.”

FastTrack’D has been offered in Memphis, Phoenix, Dallas Columbus and Jacksonville. Cooks has contracted employees out to American Express (NYSE: AXP), FedEx (NYSE: FDX), TruGreen Inc., the State of Tennessee and VGT. Hunter said employers often prefer contract developers because it saves them the cost of searching for the right employee and because they often only need the worker for a specific project and period of time.

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FastTrack’D will offer four classes in Nashville next year, Hunter said, with the expectation to graduate around 80 developers. He said Nashville was an attractive market to launch the program because of its low tech worker unemployment rate and growing tech industry. The company opened an office in Franklin two years ago with 10 employees. CEO Brad Weeks also lives in the area. 

Hunter, who works out of Nashville, said that if the employer demand for tech workers continues to grow in the city, Cook could move a portion of its 200 Memphis contractors to Nashville as well as, eventually, the company’s headquarters.

“There is a chance the headquarters could move here. … Half the people in the Memphis market want to move here,” Hunter said. “I’d expect we will slowly be moving here over the next couple of years.”

Prospective students and businesses can learn more about FastTrack'D on the program's website.

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