Editor’s note: The following is part of Startland News’ ongoing coverage of the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Kansas City’s entrepreneur community, as well as how innovation is helping to drive a new normal in the ecosystem. Click here to follow related stories as they develop.
A little over a year after its Kansas City launch, Prime Digital Academy has helped 31 students tap into their tech potential through four cohorts.
With a record number of jobs still shuttered or eliminated amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it stands to support even more — now offering prospective students a $1,500 scholarship and the opportunity to journey down a new, digital path, explained Scott Bromander.
“It allows people who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of COVID to start studying at Prime for no money down,” Bromander, head of campus development, said of student assistance now being offered by the coding academy which will cover the entire down payment required to begin classes.
Click here to apply for a Prime Digital Academy COVID-19 scholarship.
Since the onset of the pandemic, an uptick in inquiries about the academy’s services has flooded Bromander’s inbox, he said.
“We’ve seen a lot of people reach out to us saying, ‘Oh gosh, I’m working in the service industry and I’m working my tail off right. I don’t want to do this the rest of my life,’” Bromander said.
“People who are impacted professionally, people looking to upscale or restart their career [are reaching out.] It’s been kind of a little bit of a wake up call.”
With increased demand for its services, Prime Digital Academy quickly made the shift to virtual classes in the midst of its fourth cohort, he explained, noting an intentional effort to find and adopt technologies that offered students more than just video conferencing.
“Obviously we can’t be in the office together, but there are other ways where we kind of try to get that digital connectedness going,” Bromander said.
“There’s a technology we’re using that is basically a virtual office; you can move around from room to room. [With another program] I’m able to program on somebody else’s computer from my house and give people advice and work with people.”
A nice way to keep momentum going for the cohort, online learning doesn’t compare to the real thing, Bromander said, adding Prime Digital Academy was set to begin work in a new, larger space before the pandemic hit.
“We have this big, beautiful space right now that we’re not in,” he said, noting the company had signed its new lease two weeks before Stay at Home orders began.
“We started class and it was really nice. We’ve gotten a little bit of construction done during all of this that will be done by the time we get back. We’re really looking forward to being there.”
The new space, which is in the same Oak Street building Prime Digital Academy launched in, isn’t the tech school’s only marker of success over the last year, Bromander added.
More than 70 local companies have partnered with Prime Digital Academy in some way, he said.
“Whether that’d be through our mentorship program, guest speaking, career day events, or hiring, we have a lot of people in the mix supporting us.”
Such support has remained steady in the era of COVID-19, with Spencer Fane and Blue Cross Blue Shield joining the academy’s virtual speaker series and the program’s most recent cohort has seen 50 percent job placement in less than six months, Bromander said.
“We’ve got a lot of really cool relationships and people have been really ready to adapt with us and it’s been awesome,” he said.
With hustle overwhelmingly evident in Kansas City, Bromander said he’s hopeful the city will emerge even more connected when the pandemic passes and double down on its support for tech.
“My hope is when we get back to work that we are certainly working smarter and not necessarily harder. … I think we’re getting more strategic and we’re getting more precise in our executions and how we leverage relationships,” he said.
“Once business does go back to the normal or to a better version of normal, [I hope] we really continue some of the explosive growth we’ve seen.”
Prime Digital Academy is currently enrolling its fifth cohort. Click here to apply.