The Nerdery Launches Prime Digital Academy, A School For Software Engineers



Via News Release

“Minneapolis – (December 15, 2015) – Twin Cities-based custom software company The Nerdery today announced its launch of Prime Digital Academy (Prime), a school for software engineers. Prime is accepting applications from prospective students today at for its beta cohort starting March 3.”

“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.”

Local companies onboard with Prime include: 3M; Ackmann & Dickenson; AIC; AVL Growth Partners; BIR Networks; BustOut Solutions; Carlson School Center for Entrepreneurship; Digital People; Genesis 10; GovDelivery; ICS Consulting; Livefront; MN Cup; MN.IT; Modern Climate; Morsekode; Myriad Mobile; Olson; Periscope; PH Digital Labs; Robert Half Technology; Smart Factory; Software For Good; Sport NGIN; Thomson Reuters; and When I Work.

Prime will feature an intense, immersive accelerated learning program dedicated to helping smart, driven learners get up to speed for entry-level jobs in software engineering. The academy focuses on industry-led experiential learning and apprenticeship with some of the metro’s leading IT employers. After its first cohort this spring, Prime will start admitting regular monthly cohorts in July of 2015. Tuition for the academy is set at $12,500. Applications for the first cohort will close on January 22.

To encourage more women to pursue tech careers, The Nerdery and Modern Climate will each grant a $500 scholarship to each female applicant accepted into the program, providing a $1,000 total scholarship to women training as software engineers. Digital People will grant a $500 scholarship for the first five veterans accepted into the program in 2015.

Prime is partnering with City of Minneapolis Employment Training, the Minnesota High Tech Association, the Creating IT Futures Foundation and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis to increase the accessibility of the program to all Minnesotans by making public and private funding available for qualifying students who would be otherwise unable to attend. This partnership is part of a program by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to foster development of the accelerated-learning model in communities nationwide.

“The Minneapolis-Saint Paul region has traditionally been a hub for innovation. Ingenious startups have found that our cities provide the environment and the labor force to make companies like 3M, Medtronic, and others successful,” said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. “In this fast, technology-driven environment, we need to work together to make it easy for every individual to acquire the skills that meet the demands of our growing high-tech industry. I am very excited for this partnership and for the results that Prime Digital Academy will bring.”

Minnesota businesses already feel the competition for too few talented, job-ready software developers – 65% of IT leaders say the tech talent gap is negatively affecting their business. Industry analysts see jobs in application development increasing by 28% through 2020.

“Thomson Reuters has a vested interest in helping to engage today’s students with a life-long passion for technology so that we can help foster a skilled workforce for tomorrow,” said Lisa Schlosser, Chief Technology Officer of FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business. “That’s why it is a priority for us to support training programs – such as our own Python and Java coding classes for middle school students, and Prime’s technology education for adult learners – that help ensure a vibrant, dynamic community that can benefit and sustain Minnesota’s economy.”

Prime’s 18-week program’s objective (with optional 12-week or more apprenticeship) is to arm 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 President Mark Hurlburt sums up the business’ objective: “Prime is about changing our students lives for the better while at the same time serving the tech community in Minnesota.” Hurlburt was The Nerdery’s CSO before “leaving” to lead Prime Digital Academy.

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 Hurlburt. “The students get up-to-the-minute current context from working professionals, the mentors get 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.”

“Software engineers are at the heart of GovDelivery’s business, and Prime’s program is an innovative solution to developing more of them the Minnesota way – by tapping the amazing talent pool we already have,” said Scott Burns, CEO & Co-Founder, GovDelivery. “We believe Prime can connect hundreds of new people with rewarding careers in technology and that it will be a competitive asset to our business and the State of Minnesota.”

“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.”

The school’s proximity to The Nerdery – and the involvement of industry professionals in mentoring and job assistance – will afford students an education opportunity unlike anything currently available to students in Minnesota. But students’ industry experience will extend outside the walls of The Nerdery and Prime. Many students will get the chance apply these skills immediately through a network of paid apprenticeships Prime will coordinate with local tech employers. These apprenticeships offer students a chance to gain critical on-the-job experience for their resumes, while employers get a chance to evaluate their talent and assess if they’d be a good fit for their team.

“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. “The disciplines and expectations that Prime instills with graduates is what’s been missing from traditional academic tech programs.”

Prime expects to continue to grow its partner network. “We’d love to someday have every Minnesota employer who depends on software engineers involved in our program in some way,” said Hurlburt. “We see the talent gap in software as a problem the whole industry needs to pull together in order to solve.”


  • Jeff Pesek

    For those wondering: $100,000 commitment from the Creating IT Futures Foundation,
    $200,000 state funding and $100,000 in Federal Workforce Investment Act
    dollars through the City of Minneapolis for a total of $400,000.