Mark Hurlburt

The Nerdery launches new tech school

Prime Digital Academy will produce the next generation of web developers

By Erica Rivera
Friday, December 12, 2014

Local tech company The Nerdery is now accepting applications for its new Prime Digital Academy, an accelerated learning program that will train students to become web developers and software engineers.

The spark for Prime came from The Nerdery’s own challenge in recruiting quality talent to support the growth of the company. “As we expanded our footprint and our client base in Minnesota, we found ourselves having a difficult time finding people that have the drive and the motivation to be successful to become the mid-level and senior level people that we need,” says Mark Hurlburt, who is leaving his role of CSO at The Nerdery to become the president of Prime. “We were excited when we found demand in the market [for tech education] outside of The Nerdery because it made something like Prime possible and viable as a business.”

The 18-week program (plus an optional 12-week apprenticeship) features a “job description based” curriculum that will teach entry-level technical skills like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as foundational level computer science skills. The goal is for students to become “stem cell developers” that can go on to become front-end developers and back-end developers.

Prime’s program will also include instruction on behavioral, negotiation, and people skills such as how to give and receive feedback and how to handle conflict. What’s more, graduates will acquire the mindset for continuous learning. “From the day that they become a developer, they are stepping on a treadmill where they need to keep learning and re-learning because the industry and the technology changes that quickly,” Hurlburt says.

Tuition for Prime is $12,500 with a $500 discount for prepayment. Scholarships, financial aid, and repayment options that span over three years will be available. The Nerdery and Modern Climate are also offering each female applicant accepted into Prime a $500 grant. Digital People will provide a $500 scholarship for the first five veterans accepted into the program in 2015.

To entice graduates to stay in Minnesota, The Nerdery is partnering with 25 local companies to find apprenticeships for students. “While that’s not a guaranteed spot, we are working hard with our partners to establish a large number of opportunities so most students will have the chance to apply to them and have their first working professional experience here in Minnesota, which might turn into something more permanent if they catch the eye of their employer during that time,” Hurlburt says.

Prime’s campus, which is still under construction, will be located in Bloomington near The Nerdery’s headquarters. The first cohort of 20 students starts pre-study in March and graduates in July. From that point on, new cohorts will be admitted every month.

Hurlburt is hopeful that Prime will provide “a real boost to the innovation economy” for the state. “The ‘60s to the ‘80s were really the golden age for computing in Minnesota. Minnesota was the center of the computing universe and Silicon Valley took our thunder and then some in recent years,” he says. “[Prime is] an opportunity for Minnesota to reclaim its storied history in the computing space.”