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Kenzie Academy offers education with no tuition until you land a career in tech

Classroom to Career
Posted: 6:00 AM, Aug 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-29 15:51:49-04

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INDIANAPOLIS — Software developer ranks as the sixth fastest growing occupation in Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Currently, there are more than 41,000 jobs in the software development field just in Indiana — with as many as 4,000 new jobs being potentially added in the next decade.

A new local program from Kenzie Academy is aimed at getting Hoosiers from the classroom to a career in tech in as little as nine months.

Mya Williams is a 25-year-old former special education math teacher with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences. Williams is now a software engineer.

"Oh absolutely I want to keep on this career path, right now I really enjoy what I do," Williams said. "I love the fact that I am a UX engineer because I can kind of work in any type of sector that I want to. I can do consulting, or if I wanted to go back into teaching I can do something in the educational field. It's really good to be able to make an impact with your skill on kind of anything that you are passionate about."

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Williams is a graduate of Kenzie Academy, a vocational school based in downtown Indianapolis that is creating a pipeline of tech talent with a focus on getting their students immediately employed.

"I actually started my job the same I day I finished at Kenzie," Williams, who graduated from Kenzie Academy in the spring of 2019, said. "We graduated at 11 a.m. and then I went to Crafted at 1 p.m. to start with everything. Everything that we have learned at Kenzie in my experience has been directly correlated to what my job entails."

Williams got a job at Crafted, a team of UI and UX experts and software engineers that work together to build digital products that create lasting business value for our clients. Job Wise, chief financial officer at Crafted, sad the company has a hard time finding talent to fill their positions because there are so many positions available across the country.

"Programs like Kenzie are beneficial to companies like ours," Wise said. "With being a little bit smaller of a company, it is difficult to find qualified talent, and so companies like Kenzie help us funnel that line and produce great candidates and people that we like to look at and look to hire such as Mya."

LEARN MORE | Kenzie Academy | Try a free online mini-tech course from Kenzie Academy

Kenzie Academy is non-traditional learning. They are ditching the textbooks for hands-on learning, teaching students coding so they can land a job.

"I think there is a big need for Kenzie because the biggest need right now is that there is a lot of high paying jobs that are just going unfilled," Matt Cummings, the campus director at Kenzie Academy, said. "Kenzie, we fast track the pace of education. We are really working hard to meet the opportunities gap that exists in Indiana with tech jobs. So right now there is a huge demand for tech talent but very little supply."

There are 20 to 25 students a quarter finishing their academic program at Kenzie in as little as nine to 12 months.

"We start with new cohort every quarter, and our goal is to have 20 to 25 students per cohort, for here in Indianapolis," Cummings said. "We also have a remote-based program so we are not just an Indianapolis-based company, we are also a national company. So students who are in Chicago and Boston are also participating in our courses as well."

Cummings says their curriculum is developed by industry experts from Zillow, LinkedIn, and Google, that is based on the hiring needs of these top employers.

"The way the curriculum works, every morning our students have a stand up where they are given a new task and assignment with new content and then students are breaking into groups, on their own pace, working on that assignment with the idea at the end of every day they have a tangible outcome that they produce," Cummings said. "We are training our students to produce on a daily basis. Not just individual folks, but in groups, so they are working on agile teams, where there is like product development, scrum masters, all these different tech lingo for team development, so we are not only teaching them these tech skills, but we are also teaching them the soft skills of team based work which is just as equally important."

Kenzie Academy is $24,000 for the two-year program, but Kenzie also offers an income share agreement where students pay $100 upfront and do not pay any tuition until they land a job.

"With an income share agreement, we only get paid once our students get a job that pays $40,000 or more," Cummings said. "So if you go through Kenzie and never make a salary over $40,000 then you will not owe us anything. If you do get job that does pay over $40,000, you will pay back a percentage of your income."

Cummings says that means they have an invested interest in helping their students find a job that pays well.

"The goal is that we want to create a quicker, a new pipeline of talent to connect folks to well paying jobs both here in Indiana and nationally," Cummings said. "Average starting salary of these students that have been employed is $57,000. And that is just the bare-boned entry-level salary."

It is a career path that has brought meaning to Williams for her to explore what she is passionate about while making a steady paycheck.

"After thinking about my background and what I have been good at working with youth through teaching and coaching and all of those things," Williams said. "In UX I really learned how it make it accessible for the people I want to consume the information. And that is what I really like about it."

Along with Kenzie Academy taking half the time of a traditional programming degree, students can partner with Butler's Executive Education Program for joint-certificates. Kenzie Academy is available for recent high school graduates as well as professionals wanting to change careers.

The time commitment is Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The digital marketing course is six months with a six-month optional apprenticeship. The user experience engineering and software engineering program are 12 months of academic study and a 12-month optional apprenticeship as well.