Training the Unemployed and the Underemployed

by Jun 30, 2020

Cross-posted from The Herald-Times, June 26, 2020

Currently, the United States has 1 million unfilled computer programming positions. Average annual salaries in this field pay two to three times the living wage in Bloomington. These two facts combine to offer a tremendous opportunity to lift ourselves out of this economic recession by retraining folks for a career in computer programming. The target audience for such a program is the unemployed or underemployed who are earning less than the Bloomington living wage, which is $27,000.

The Mill’s plan – in broad brushstrokes – is to find the right students, teach them how to program, ensure they are placed in good jobs, and make the program sustainable by using income share agreements.


We will screen and assess potential students for the profiles that predict success. 75% of the programmer/developer population is comprised of five Myers-Briggs personality types. We will add interview questions about work history; characteristics like grit, determination, and locus of control; and ability to think analytically and logically.


Using an online learning platform such as Treehouse, students will enroll in their “tech degree” program, which teaches entry-level skills in computer science principles, user interface and user experience design, and languages such as Python and JavaScript.

The platform is self-guided, so we’re partnering with Ivy Tech to provide weekly hands-on instruction in our classroom at The Mill. We will coordinate peer-to-peer instruction, which increases the effectiveness of learning for both students involved, as well as exercise programs like HackerRank and LeetCode. Finally, we will assign mentors who currently work as full-time programmers to provide additional instruction and to ensure students understand what a career in programming looks like.


We’ll hire a program manager who will market the training, find candidates, and screen them. During the 15-month program, students will need to hone their soft skills to land jobs so this person will also act as a guidance counselor and liaise with the Walter Center for Career Achievement at Indiana University for resume reviews, mock interviews, and career coaching.

Cook Group and Cornerstone Information Systems are supporters of The Mill and have agreed to interview candidates who graduate from the program. In addition, Objective Paradigm, tech recruiters at The Mill, have agreed to help place students at other companies using their network and existing contacts. With more companies working remotely, students can live here while working for a company in another city.


An income share agreement (ISA) is an agreement where the student, in exchange for the school deferring upfront tuition, pays the school back over time once they have a job.

Prospective students who meet the enrollment criteria will pay $800, which is 20% of tuition. They’ll pay the remainder through the ISA after graduation; each month they’ll pay 20% of the salary increase over their previous job, which means students will retain 80% of the salary increase. Payments will be capped at two years or $10,000, whichever occurs first.

The ISA is a crucial part of the program. It ensures the program becomes sustainable in three years and continues to give students upward mobility. Each student’s success essentially subsidizes the next student’s climb up the ladder.

We have many parts of the program figured out but need funding. Like many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Mill temporarily closed our doors. During that time, we lost a third of our membership. In order to seed this program, we need $250,000 in the first year. This supports 100 students and would be used for the online learning platform, hiring a program manager, and expenses related to marketing and recruitment. In years 2 and 3, we’ll evaluate the effectiveness of the program and corresponding funding needs.

This program has transformative potential for struggling individuals, families, and the entire Monroe County economy. If you are interested in partnering on this program or could offer funding assistance, please email me at