Growth fueled by market need and graduate success of software engineer cohorts, bucking negative trend of for-profit schools
Recent failures of national for-profit schools are showing that some educational models aren’t able to meet the changing needs of modern employers, but Prime Digital Academy (Prime) is a Minnesota success story that’s showing there is room for disruptive innovation in education. Today, Prime announced a plan to relocate their campus from Bloomington, MN to a new downtown Minneapolis campus in January of 2017. They’ll use the additional space at the new location to launch a program focused on training User Experience Designers. This new course provides a second program option alongside the Software Engineering course that celebrated its 13th graduation ceremony last month. Prime now has 160 alumni working on the development teams of more than 110 companies in the Twin Cities metro – including Prime’s sister company, The Nerdery.
Prime’s focus on connections with the local community through pro-bono projects, mentorship programs and employer events make their new home at the Grain Exchange alongside the Minnesota High Tech Association and the community at CoCo a natural fit.
“The relationships we’ve built with employers hiring from our Software Engineering curriculum have given us a great sounding board for what the needs of growing companies in Minnesota are,” said Mark Hurlburt, President and Co-Founder of Prime. “Guided by that feedback, our new User Experience Design program will help local companies find the talent they need to drive innovation and better serve their users.”
The new UX Design program will share a lot in common with the existing Software Engineering program, including the focus on integration of technical and “soft” skills, the immersive approach and a heavy focus on project-based learning working with real-world clients. The program will develop a wide variety of foundational skills essential to user experience design including visual design, information architecture, interaction design, usability and user research. Prime expects many students to come with some level of design or research experience – the only hard prerequisites being a passion for solving problems, a willingness to learn from failure and a love of technology. Applications for the new UX Design program are open today and will close on November 4.
“I would like to warmly welcome coding school and TechHire partner Prime Digital Academy to Minneapolis,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges. “It has been a tremendous pleasure working together to grow the pool of tech talent in Minneapolis and the region. There is a great deal of work to be done, and having Prime Digital Academy growing in Minneapolis will help us realize even greater results.”
The Prime experience can be transformative for the lives of students. On average, Prime graduates have enjoyed a 60% salary bump when placed after their 18 weeks at the school. The average program grad earns over $55,700 in their first jobs after Prime, placing them well above the average Minnesotan paycheck. Prime’s cohorts who graduated six or more months ago have a 91% placement rate in the field, with graduates working at a wide variety of companies large and small including Target, Best Buy, United Health Group, Optum, 3M, Wells Fargo, Olson, C.H. Robinson, Digital River, LeadPages, Mayo Clinic, SPS Commerce, Stratays, The Walker, SportsNGIN, The Nerdery and Buzzfeed. Prime offers companies talent who differentiate themselves through maturity (most Prime students have five to 15 years of previous work experience before the program) and diversity (Prime alumni are over 33% women, and 16% identify as students of color).
“My experience at Prime Digital Academy was transformative. I've never experienced education in a more immersive, well-supported and holistic way,” said Hank Andre, now a Solutions Engineer at Irish Titan. “I left Prime as a more well-rounded person, not just as a programmer. My life has been forever changed for the better, and I owe much of that to them.”
Prime offers a number of financing and scholarship support options for students including grant funds made available through the MSP TechHire, an initiative to close the workforce skills gap in the high-tech economy by enabling diverse workers to access training, support and tech jobs across the Greater Minneapolis Region. In addition to the new UX Design program, Prime is also currently accepting applications for its next three Software Engineering courses beginning studies this fall and winter. Applicants can learn more about both programs and apply online at http://primeacademy.io. Businesses interested in connecting with talent from Prime can contact email@example.com.
Altamir Coelho grew up in Brazil and spent five years traveling internationally to 500+ cities assisting with social work at underdeveloped communities as part of a missionary ministry before eventually finding himself studying music in Minnesota. After seven years as a professional musician, he decided it was time for a career pivot. Outside of music and service work, his work history included some project management but Altamir was fearful about his prospects for a transition to work in another field. When he learned about Prime Digital Academy he took a leap of faith and fully devoted himself to development as his new career path. Over the next 18 weeks he went from not knowing a single line of code to leveraging his new skills to earn a fullstack development job at Inbox Dollars. Altamir’s dedication to continuous learning and his strong work ethic were essential to his success, but he credits Prime with giving him the exact skillset, environment, and real life network to succeed in the tech industry.
Chelsea Okey is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and is a U.S. Army veteran. Seeking a career change after her service, Chelsea debated going back to school for computer science but chose to attend PRIME Digital Academy, an 18-week computer programming course, because of the relevant skills she would learn in addition to its short length and affordability. Now a software engineer at the Minneapolis-based company SmartThings, she recognizes PRIME for preparing her for the fast pace of the tech industry and giving her a foot in the door to a career that fit her goals. While technology is an evolving industry, Chelsea states that more diversity is necessary to bring new ideas, and build stronger end-products. One of PRIME’s greatest benefits is the opportunity it gives those from non-technology backgrounds to be a part of the field.
Kyra Crowston graduated from high school in 2007 and spent the next six years of her life following a familiar modern story of bouncing in and out of community colleges, not knowing what to do with her life. While she struggled to find direction bouncing from working as a housekeeper, barista and a fish cannery worker. While working as a coach at a sober-living facility, she started looking for a new path that would allow her to pursue a “real career" that challenged her in a way that was pragmatic. A fascination with TED talks led her to discover software development and subsequently about software development bootcamps. With the help of MSP TechHire, she took the plunge in the fall of 2015. By the time of her graduation in March, she’d learned new skills and technologies, created a handful of small applications, and most importantly had developed a sense of direction for her career. Her 18 weeks at Prime have resulted in a 240% increase in salary and positioned her to start repaying her previous student debt. Kyra credits her time at Prime as the “hardest thing she’s ever done” but believes the experience has forever changed her life. She’s currently working at a software company in Minnesota and plans to pay it forward by serving as a mentor for future Prime students.
“The learning process is intense and the teachers know how to push you to the edge of your abilities and then watch as you make things happen that you wouldn't have thought possible. The amount of knowledge you absorb and utilize is incredible. It's also stressful. It's fast-paced and you move quickly. What you find is that your classmates and the Prime staff are there to support you throughout the entire experience.” - Matthew Keymer
“Before I went to Prime I was stuck in a job that I did not enjoy and gave nothing back to me as person, or a professional. After going through Prime I'm happy to say the exact opposite. I'm excited to go to work every day, I have a better paying job with unlimited potential that I have control over, not someone else. Not only did Prime help me perform a complete change professionally, but it also helped me personally become a more well-rounded individual.” - Eric Peterson
“Prime Digital Academy is so much more than a fast way to learn how to code. It is also a community of learners that push you to the best you can be and will cheer you on the whole way. It is tough, and you learn at an extreme rate which can be stressful, but the instructors and students alike form an incredible support team to help you succeed. The code that I learned is highly relevant and used in my day-to-day work as a Software Engineer. My proudest moment at my new job was when I got to teach a skill that I learned at Prime to my team comprised of more experienced devs. Prime also teaches you to continue learning which is a very necessary skill for developers in the field.” - Tracy Fuller
Prime Digital Academy (Prime) is an accelerated learning program designed to help people without traditional technology backgrounds get up to speed for jobs in software design and development. Launched in partnership with The Nerdery and backed by a network of over a hundred Minnesota employers, Prime has helped to launch the tech careers of scores of developers and designers since it opened its doors in 2016. Prime’s commitment to the community can be seen in the 54 pro-bono projects students have completed for nonprofits, social ventures and startups and its economic impact can be felt by the $3.3M it’s graduates have added to the economy in its first year of operations. Prime has been honored with the Progress Minnesota award from Finance and Commerce, the Eureka! Award from the Biz Journal and is a proud founding partner in the MSP TechHire initiative.