As the tech talent gap continues to grow, The Nerdery, a Twin Cities-based software company, decided to do something about it by launching a new school for software engineers and web developers called Prime Digital Academy. 

“While The Nerdery’s inspiration for creating Prime stems from our own neverending business need for software engineers, we’re further encouraged by the growing number of supporting organizations who share our interests in priming next generations of tech talent,” said Mike Derheim, CEO and co-founder of The Nerdery. “Nearly 30 companies and organizations have committed to hire graduates, host apprenticeships, or serve on Prime’s curriculum board. From the start of our conversations with partners throughout our community it was clear that this school’s impact can help companies industry-wide – this is bigger than us.” 

Prime will feature an intense, immersive accelerated learning program dedicated to helping learners get up to speed for entry-level jobs in software engineering. The academy focuses on industry-led experiential learning and apprenticeship with some leading IT employers. 

The Drive For Digital 

Many businesses say the talent competition is intense for too few talented, job-ready software developers. In fact, some 65% of IT leaders say the tech talent gap is negatively impacting their business. Industry analysts see jobs in application development increasing by 28% through 2020. 

"Our world is increasingly becoming a place where people collaborate with each other regardless of location or physical distance, and use collective intelligence to solve complex problems," says Hassan Syed, founder of Bir Ventures, a crowd-sourced technology business incubator, and one of the Prime partners. "Everything we do, from ideation through product delivery, involves software engineers and developers, and we support this new program that better prepares and puts more of those people on the market."

“What excites us about Prime is their passion for truly preparing new developers for the realities of the tech industry,” said Chad Halvorson, CEO/founder of When I Work, and another one of the Prime partners. “The disciplines and expectations that Prime instills with graduates is what's been missing from traditional academic tech programs.”

Some of the other companies that have chosen to partner with Prime include: 3M; the University of Minnesota's Carlson School Center for Entrepreneurship; Digital People; Genesis 10; GovDelivery; Morsekode; Olson; Periscope;  Robert Half Technology; and Thomson Reuters.

The academy is also taking steps to specifically encourage more women to pursue tech careers, with some scholarship money awarded to each female applicant accepted into the program, and more money for women training as software engineers. 

The Prime Model

The Prime curriculum is an 18-week program (with optional 12-week apprenticeship) designed to equip graduates with three things: 1) entry-level technical skills relevant in the current market, 2) behavioral skills to succeed as part of a software development team, 3) a mindset of continuous learning and toolbox of techniques to support a long, successful career. 

Prime’s staffing model reflects its commitment to community partnership. Students are grouped into cohorts of 18-20 individuals, with each cohort staffed by a team of one instructor (a full-time employee of the school) and one full-time mentor (a working software developer on a sabbatical from a local company, their salary covered by Prime during their stay). 

“It’s unconventional, but we see it as a win for everyone,” said Prime’s President Mark Hurlburt, who was previously The Nerdery’s CSO. “The students get up-to-the-minute current context from working professionals, the mentors get to build their coaching and leadership skills, and mentor’s employers get professional development for their employee and an inside track on two cohorts of entry-level candidates that will have learned to think a lot like one of their star performers.”

“Everything about Prime is aimed at helping our students make a smooth transition into their new lives as professional software engineers,” said Derheim. “Being able to study software engineering from within a working software development company is a great way to help students acclimate and really learn the industry from the inside.”

Tags: Tech hiring, Software engineers, The Nerdery, Web developers, Tech talent gap, Prime Digital Academy, Bir Ventures, When I Work