Over the past decade, downtown Toronto has become a thriving center for technology with tech giants like Google, eBay and Shopify taking up shop alongside the up and coming startup scene. And just like most major global cities, Toronto too will soon face a shortage of qualified talent to fill the the open roles these rapidly growing companies are hiring for. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 1.5 million new tech jobs in North America and that conventional higher education is increasingly unlikely to produce enough qualified grad to fill even 1/3 of them.
With that opportunity in mind, BrainStation launched in 2012 with humble origins offering simple workshops in co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators. The winning model was simple; leverage real-world professionals to teach real-world content for people looking to access this challenging material. Just four years later BrainStation has trained over 25,000 students and teams within companies, offering full-time and part-time courses in web and mobile development, user experience design, product management, data analysis, and digital marketing.
Since their 2014 acquisition by Konrad Group, BrainStation has seen rapid expansion into new territories including Vancouver and New York, with more expansion on the horizon. Their global headquarters remains in Toronto and September 2015 saw BrainStation open the doors to a glistening 20,000 square-foot historic building at 460 King Street West in the heart of Toronto’s technology district.
Originally built as a hotel in 1873 the heritage building has seen several owners, most notably The Spadina Hotel and Global Backpackers Village hostel. The 2014 restoration, led by Reflect Architecture and MAAST brought the building back to the brick and rebuilt it as a polished hub, retaining the history and designed to foster big learning and even bigger ideas.
BrainStation’s east-facing entryway is a minimalist and impressive foyer, acting as the entry-point for its patrons of their various learning opportunities. More than 1,000 individuals come through their doors each week attending courses, speaker series, panels, workshops, lunch & learns, and micro-conferences. Every student enjoys access to an immersion in the tech community. Course instructors come from Wattpad, Hootsuite, Shopify and more depending on what is trending in the industry. Full time immersive students spend 400 hours over ten weeks in dedicated classrooms learning Web Development and UX/UI design. BrainStation boasts a 8-1 student-teacher ratio to maintain an intimate and valuable learning environment.
The building includes the ground-floor main space plus three large classrooms outfitted with multiple projectors, sound systems and the fastest fibre-optic internet in the country. Each classroom includes two smaller breakout rooms for group and silent work. East and West exposure welcomes natural light, filling the space seemingly every hour of the day.
We want to make learning fun again – it’s hard to get our students out of the classroom – which we love. – Jason Field, CEO & Co-Founder
The main floor is a flex community space which houses both the in-house Quantum Coffee by day, and plays host to over 50 learning events each month by BrainStation. Offerings attract forward-thinking professionals, aspiring freelancers and budding entrepreneurs to sharpen their tool-kits with the latest advancements in the digital space.
The freedom of the building at 460 permits staff to find a place that is comfortable for them to work. Lounge spaces available to students and staff are popular spot to find some quiet and enjoy the sunlight. In addition to their 100+ part-time and full-time educators, the BrainStation core team itself has grown rapidly. Staff work from both the new 460 King building and the Konrad Group Global HQ nearby. Employees enjoy an empowering work culture with all the fun of a tech startup. The team includes developers, designers, educators, marketers, product teams and administrators.
An introduction to BrainStation is often made through its sister company–Quantum Coffee. Designed to be the caffeinated heartbeat of the innovation hub, this next-generation coffee shop takes premium coffee service to a new level of style and technology wth the country’s first Poursteady pour-over machine. Quantum offers comfy banquettes, space to spread out and blistering fast WIFI befitting of a tech hub (for real), though good luck finding a spot.
BrainStation staff and students normally take their lunch in the third-floor lounge. Twin side-by-side kitchens are stocked with healthy snacks, drinks and craft beer for after hours. This space is outfitted with a Sonos sound system and frequently doubles as the after-class party spot.
If there is one thing that Co-Founder and CEO Jason Field is seeking to accomplish with BrainStation, it is to create a thriving community of creators, educators and anyone else who is passionate about the future of education.
BrainStation is a launchpad for our rapidly growing, passionate team. We are running an educational institution that is empowering individuals across North America. There is a huge benefit to being a part of that, and being a part of facilitating positive goals in people’s lives is also incredibly rewarding on a personal level – Jason Field, BrainStation CEO & Co-Founder
This community aspect of the company is reinforced at every turn. For staffers the craft beer, table games, video games and catered Friday lunches are perks of the job in addition to free BrainStation courses, fitness class subsidies, staff retreats, professional development opportunities, generous vacation and unlimited Quantum Coffee.
The entire BrainStation community also takes part in their popular Block Parties. The third floor lounge is adorned with rotating works by a local artist as the BrainStation staff, students and alumni pour in for networking and a live DJ, with all proceeds going to a local charity. The intention is to provide students with as many high-value networking opportunities as possible.
Through a unique combination of space, learning, passion, (and a bit of caffeine), BrainStation has created a thriving innovation hub in the heart of Toronto.
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