7 episodes

In the Appalachia region of the U.S., a region once dominated by the coal industry, mines have continued to close one after another. In answer, two tech consultants have established a free coding bootcamp called Mined Minds to retrain out of work coal miners and others for work in tech. What they promise seems like it could improve the socioeconomic status of communities around the world.

But some believe they aren’t as beneficial as they come off. Several ex-learners have criticized the bootcamp, saying they were promised employment upon completion of the program and were fired days later. Others have filed a class action lawsuit against them on charges of fraud. Code Burst investigates Mined Minds, their efficacy, and whether their model can work for others.

Code Burst is produced as a collaboration between CKUT 90.3 FM and eLearning Inside News.

Code Burst Produced in collaboration with eLearning Inside News and CKUT 90.3 FM

    • Technology
    • 4.7 • 3 Ratings

In the Appalachia region of the U.S., a region once dominated by the coal industry, mines have continued to close one after another. In answer, two tech consultants have established a free coding bootcamp called Mined Minds to retrain out of work coal miners and others for work in tech. What they promise seems like it could improve the socioeconomic status of communities around the world.

But some believe they aren’t as beneficial as they come off. Several ex-learners have criticized the bootcamp, saying they were promised employment upon completion of the program and were fired days later. Others have filed a class action lawsuit against them on charges of fraud. Code Burst investigates Mined Minds, their efficacy, and whether their model can work for others.

Code Burst is produced as a collaboration between CKUT 90.3 FM and eLearning Inside News.

    Michael Moore Walked Away from an IT Job to Learn to Code with Mined Minds. It Didn't Go Well.

    Michael Moore Walked Away from an IT Job to Learn to Code with Mined Minds. It Didn't Go Well.

    This podcast investigates Mined Minds, a coding bootcamps that received a huge amount of community support and federal and state tax dollars to re-educate out-of-work coal miners and others in Appalachia for jobs in the tech industry.

    Last week, we heard about the experiences of Susan Graves, whose experience as a CPA lent her a unique perspective as she learned and then worked with the organization. The week before, we heard from Billyjack Buzzard. Due to his background as a seventh generation coal miner, he served as an effective and charismatic spokesperson for Mined Minds. Like almost everyone else who went through the program, both were fired without warning and for dubious reasons.

    This week, we hear that narrative repeated again, but with its own twists and details from Michael Moore. Mike, as you will hear, is a busy professional, and he was not able to get in touch for an interview. Instead, he sat down and recorded his experiences with Mined Minds on his own. I have done little more than edit his clips together.

    I would like to thank all the former Mined Minds learners and apprentices who have been in touch with me lately, especially Mike Moore, Susan Graves, and Billyjack Buzzard. Katrina Gibbs designed our logo, and the music you heard was written and recorded by Dan Monkman. He currently plays as Zoon, and you can find his music on SoundCloud and elsewhere on the internet.

    If you would like to get in touch with me, please follow me @henry_kronk on twitter. you can also email me at henry@elearninginside.com. Thanks for listening.

    • 34 min
    Susan Graves Puts on Her CPA Hat

    Susan Graves Puts on Her CPA Hat

    Just a brief recap: the ongoing class action lawsuit filed against Mined Minds has been dismissed. I went over how things have gone forward in the last episode, and i also interviewed Billyjack Buzzard about his experience with the organization.

    Since posting, someone has made me aware of the fact that, in the tweet in which Jonathan Graham announced that the lawsuit has been dismissed, Stephen New, a lawyer who represented Ty, Tori, and others, has responded with a few choice tweets. If anyone is looking for a more nuanced legal explanation of what has gone down, I suggest you start there.

    (Here: https://twitter.com/graham_jp/status/1161700954783342594)

    For this episode, I got in touch with Susan Graves. She went through the Mine Minds program in West Virginia.

    When Amanda and Jonathan started out, they said they could teach anyone to code, even out of work coal miners. In the last episode, we heard how Billyjack, an out of work coal miner, went above and beyond as a student in the program. Even after spending five days a week learning from Mined Minds, maneuvering his work schedule around the program, and going to work for them as an instructor and developer, he was abruptly fired for highly questionable reasons. He was left unable to demonstrate his work to tech companies, and, despite his best efforts has not found a job in the tech industry.

    Susan Graves also seemed like she was set up to succeed in Mined Minds. She had a background in computer science, and had her own accounting practice which she could work flexibly while learning to code. Like Billyjack, things didn’t pan out for her. I’m going to let Susan tell the rest.

    Read a text transcript at eLearningInside.com
    Follow me on Twitter: @henry_Kronk
    Email: henry@elearninginside.com

    • 43 min
    "I Wish I Got a Degree" Billyjack Buzzard Reflects on His Time at Mined Minds

    "I Wish I Got a Degree" Billyjack Buzzard Reflects on His Time at Mined Minds

    This is the fifth episode in a series covering the story of Mined Minds, a coding bootcamp that set out to retrain out-of-work coal miners for work in the tech industry.

    First episode: https://soundcloud.com/user-630857765/episode-1-conflicting-coverage

    Over a year ago, in the early weeks of 2018, a colleague shared with me a story about a coding bootcamp that was looking to train out-of-work coal miners for jobs in the tech industry. Mined Minds was launched in southwestern Pennsylvania by Amanda Laucher, who comes from a family of coal miners, along with her husband, Jonathan Graham. Their organization had received a lot of positive media coverage from outlets like NPR, CNN, and CBS. They, along with other workforce development organizations, had a received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission of $1.5 million, and they had begun training dozens of future coders.

    Their model seemed really promising. They would train people for free, and then employ them as apprentices for a time with an affiliated for-profit software consultancy. They said they could train just about anyone to do this work, regardless of their previous experience, and even gave some of their learners new computers. I think a lot of people got excited by their story because, if it could work in Appalachia, maybe it could work in other places too.

    But then, other reports started emerging. Some graduates of the program were reportedly laid off after just a few days of work on the for-profit end.

    In late 2017, two former learners who had gone through the program, Ty Cook and Tori Frame, launched a class-action lawsuit against Mined Minds, arguing that they had been promised pay to attend the program that they never received.

    The first three episodes of Code Burst went over everything up to that point.

    When I began reporting on Mined Minds, many folks I contacted didn’t want to get in touch with me. But throughout this summer, more and more people started reaching out. These follow up episodes are intended to capture the experiences of some of the former learners of Mined Minds.

    It all started with a great idea: coding work is in high demand. So if someone could train people for this work in underserved communities, that can raise everyone up and bring business back into any region. These episodes are intended to discuss where that vision fell to the wayside, and reality set in.

    This episode, I got in touch with Billyjack Buzzard. Seven generations of his family have worked as coal miners before him. He got laid off, started working in a tattoo shop, and then took the MIned Minds course offered in Clendenin, West Virginia. He was exactly the type of person Mined Minds was looking to serve, and he served as a highly charismatic spokesperson for the organization while working there. Listen for his account of how everything went down.

    Send me an email: henry@eLearningInside.com
    Follow me on Twitter: @henry_kronk

    • 37 min
    Code Burst 4: Decode

    Code Burst 4: Decode

    This podcast has focused on Mined Minds, a fairly unique coding bootcamp. This episode takes a look at programming educators that could be considered 'more traditional.' Decode MTL is a for-profit institution located in Montreal. I got in touch with Kevin Khoury, the co-founder, along with several students to explore the similarities and differences between the two.

    • 23 min
    Episode 3: Taken for Federal Granted

    Episode 3: Taken for Federal Granted

    Laucher and Graham have long said that they don’t receive federal or state grants, but they have subcontracted with others that do. This episode looks into the money Mined Minds takes in on the non-profit side. It includes an interview with Ami Gatts, the president of a local workforce development board that administered a federal grant to Mined Minds, and goes over Mined Minds’ most recent tax documents.

    • 24 min
    Episode 2: From the Beginning

    Episode 2: From the Beginning

    Using information that has been confirmed by multiple sources or has not been directly contradicted by others, Henry Kronk describes how Mined Minds came to be. He interviews Joseph McKenzie, who participated in the first run of the coding bootcamp and has gone on to lead a successful career in tech. McKenzie's experience stands in stark contrast with later students who say that Mined Minds over-promised and under-delivered.

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

Sarajane2121212121 ,

Interesting reporting

By accident I started with episode 6. Michael Moore’s account of his experience with Mind Mines was sincere and compelled me to want to listen to the whole series. It is disturbing to hear that Mind Mines was trusted with retraining displaced workers, due to obsolesce, and did nothing more than work a Ponzi scheme with the students. No training, stringing people along, and then dropping the students once the government money was received. It would be interesting to hear another episode about what happened to Mind Mines!

Sunnyseas1981 ,

True Crime Reporting

I first came across this podcast in early 2018. At first, it appeared to me that the coding bootcamp owners might be wrongly accused, but this story continued to evolve. It’s since been featured by the New York Times and Postindustrial.

It appears that mild mannered podcast journalist Henry Kronk is leading the way in this investigation, and that more is yet to be uncovered.

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