Bitmaker General Assembly: Developing Toronto’s Tech Scene

The rise of technology is increasingly amplifying the integration of technology into everyday business affairs and activities. Professionals are required to be up to date on the latest technologies applying to their industry in order to be at the top of their game. From within this context emerges Bitmaker General Assembly, located inside the cultural hub of Toronto Entertainment District alongside many thriving businesses. Located at 220 King St. West, Bitmaker General Assembly serves as a tech skills accelerator with a strong international network-base. Expert instructors offer both full-time and part-time courses within three key realms of business & marketing, design, and development.

Regional Director Shawn Buckle is at the helm of its Toronto campus, overseeing operations and student experience. With robust tech industry knowledge, he is offering insights on what it means to operate within such close proximity to leading tech industries in Toronto’s Entertainment District.

Shawn Buckle, Regional Director of Bitmaker General Assembly at Toronto campus.
  1. With Toronto’s tech space expanding, tell us a bit about what makes Bitmaker General Assembly unique and your role in the organization.

I think what makes Bitmaker General Assembly unique in the tech accelerator space is our history and evolution. Founded in 2012 as the first tech accelerator of its kind in Toronto, Bitmaker General Assembly’s mission is to bridge the enormous gap between employer demand for talent and the emerging community of creators and doers eager to break into tech or design. To date, we have graduated over 1,400 students from our courses and built a community of over 15,000 through workshops and events.

What really sets us apart from other bootcamps is that we are part of the General Assembly global community. With more than 40,000 alumni and a student community of over 350,000, General Assembly is the largest career accelerator in the world. Being part of the General assembly family means we are able to access and leverage content, resources, and a community that reaches around the world.

I’m the Regional Director here, which means I oversee everything that happens in our campus and provide a quality experience for students who are curious to learn more about the tech industry, level-up their skills through part-time evening programs, or make a big career change through one of our immersive programs.

  1. Tell us about working in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District! Why operate here?

The Toronto Entertainment District truly lives up to its name. Working here means having the best of Toronto at your doorstep.

What makes the Entertainment District the ideal place for us to operate is, by far, its proximity to Toronto’s bustling tech community. Many of Canada’s top tech leaders call the Entertainment District their home, including 500px, Uber, Hootsuite, and Innovation happens here, and we’re proud to be part of that community – training the leaders of tomorrow to solve the problems and build the technology that will shape our future for generations to come.

  1. What types of students usually come through the doors?

We get all walks of life. We get university students who recently graduated and want to learn a more hands-on approach. In other words, they’re looking to take the theory they’ve learned and apply it to solve real-world problems. We also get those who want a transformational career change. For example, a bartender who is eager to explore a new career path in tech or design. Then, we get folks who are a few years into a career that may not be what they’re looking for. They know the technology industry is booming and working in it is a way to future-proof their profession long-term.

  1. Where are some of your go-to restaurants in the area?

There’s no shortage of amazing eats in the Toronto Entertainment District. Elephant & Castle is our teams’ go-to for traditional pub fare, but there are tons of amazing restaurants in the area. We’re big fans of Momofuku Noodle Bar, David Chang’s New York City export. If you’re looking for something sweet, we love Sweet Jesus, which has incredible desserts.

  1. What is the tech space like in Toronto? How and where does Bitmaker fit in as an education hub and tech skills accelerator?

Toronto’s startup scene is booming, with around 3,000 ventures currently active and a number of Canada’s home-grown heavy hitters including Shopify, Hootsuite and Kik maintaining a presence in the city. We’re also home to the Canadian arm of many international tech giants including Uber, Amazon, and Google just to name a few.

The tech sector in Toronto, and in Canada more broadly, is our fastest growing industry. The Information, Communications, and Technology Council of Canada notes a direct hiring requirement of more than 182,000 ICT workers in Canada in 2019, with an additional 36,000 workers by 2020. This doesn’t even include the jobs that haven’t been created yet, driven by emerging technologies. This is why the work we do—training the next generation of innovators—is so important.

  1. It’s the new year! Any exciting projects, workshops or classes you’d like to let our readers know about?

New year, new you! That’s our mantra going into 2019, and we want to help Torontonians achieve their dreams this year. We’re focusing on increasing the number of courses we offer and leverage some of the amazing content offered by other General Assembly campuses around the globe. In late 2018, we introduced our Data Science Immersive program: a 12-week course where students take on real-world problems by analyzing data sets for insights and presenting findings using statistics, programming, data modeling, and business knowledge. For those looking for opportunities to add to their skillset without the commitment of a multi-week program, we offer one-day bootcamps designed to provide a high-impact, highly specific, educational experiences. These bootcamps offer a wide-variety of topics, from customer journey mapping and visual design, to soft skills like ‘how to land your dream job’. 

Above all, community is at the heart of what we do here at Bitmaker General Assembly, and we’re passionate about bringing people together through events that are engaging and topical. We provide opportunities for Torontonians to come together to learn, grow, and network. You can expect to see some exciting new initiatives happening on campus, including panels, meetups, and even a Virtual Reality event that we have in the works for the end of February. We want to further cement Bitmaker General Assembly as the place where the tech community in Toronto comes together, and we’re so excited to build on the incredible things we’re already doing.

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