Apple targets community college students with new a Swift coding course

Apple’s found a fair bit of success with Swift Playgrounds since launching it last year at WWDC. According to the company, the educational program has enlisted some one million users into its ranks. And while the dead simple offering is primarily aimed at youngsters, there’s apparently been a fair bit of interest across demographics.

Today’s announcement extends Apple’s Swift-based educational offerings to an older age set, namely high schoolers and college-age students. The company has teamed with a half-dozen community colleges across the country to bring its App Development with Swift program to life, in order to help students enter the work world with app development knowledge.

The very real “app economy” employs around 1.53 in the U.S., according to numbers offered up the company, making up a majority of the two million jobs its says it’s created in the U.S. Certainly it’s important for graduates to possess coding skills. And while Swift isn’t exactly an all-purpose language — designated solely for Apple products –there’s plenty of opportunity in those offerings and something to be said for learning the fundamentals of code, whatever language.

Swift is also designed to be simple, in keeping with the whole Apple ethos. When the company says the programming language was built with education in mind, that’s mostly what it means.

“The first thing Apple wanted Swift to be was approachable, “ Apple VP Lisa Jackson tells TechCrunch. “You don’t have to be a computer science type to interact and learn this language, so it can be a first programming language. But it needs to be powerful enough to write complex apps.”

The program, which is an outgrowth of Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum for K-12, is designed to be taught over the course of two semesters – a full school year. Though precisely how it’s broken up will be at the discretion of the individual school. The colleges are apparently getting a fair amount of freedom here.

Apple says it opted for a broad range of education partners to help cover a large gamut of nascent coders. “These are six schools in very different areas of the country,” says Jackson. “Some of them have more women than men. We have a lot of folks who are lower income or underrepresented minorities. A lot are interested in being a part of workforce development because they want to reach mid-development students.”

The app is available starting today for free through iBooks. And while Apple isn’t making any money on app sales, it’s pretty easy to see why it made the effort to develop and pilot the program. Getting Swift into the hands of upstart developers is a pretty clear win for the company, much the same way that Macs and iPads in the classroom helped the company gain a foothold for decades as those students graduated and starting making their own purchasing decisions.

If Swift can be the first a first coding language for young developers, the company will build itself a solid foothold into the future.