Broken Promises and Clashing Cultures: A Coding Camp Gone Wrong

The predicted earnings of developers and relatively short time commitments of coding camp is a tempting offer. It was for a handful of students in Appalachia, who now say that the “Mined Minds” coding camp sold them a false dream.

As promoters of job training and career & technical education programs, WhereWeGo is concerned with showing students the real truth. We value integrity of programming and real talk because we’ve seen how individuals - young people, especially - can be taken advantage of when being recruited.

Here are some concerning quotes from the New York Times’ article on the meteoric rise and harmful impact of Mined Minds:

Big Funding, Little Accountability

  • “Every single one of them” finds work, Ms. Laucher said of the boot camp graduates, in a 2017 interview. “They all find a job.” A guarantee like that was barely short of miraculous. Within two years, Mined Minds was one of the primary beneficiaries of a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Cultural Disconnect

  • “[Ms. Laucher, the founder] blamed the opioid epidemic and ‘the poverty culture’ of the region, mentioning “Hillbilly Elegy,” the best-selling memoir by J.D. Vance, who, like Ms. Laucher, went from working-class Rust Belt roots to success in the tech sector.”

  • “I get angry at people who go to other places and say, ‘My culture is better than theirs and I am going to change it,’” said Katie Bolyard, 25, a college graduate who skipped her honeymoon to take a class.”

Poor Curriculum & Outcomes

  • “There was never much of a syllabus; students would be given an assignment and spend the next few days trying to figure it out, mostly by themselves. The usual answer to questions, multiple students said, was “Google it.” A few quietly wondered how much their teachers really knew.”

  • “The promised 16-week class went on 17 weeks. Then 18, then 19. As the class continued, many students began to run out of money. Out of the more than two dozen students who began, about 10 were left by late October, some playing computer games in class to pass the time, just waiting for the final project before graduation.”

Stories of well-intentioned workforce development programs gone belly up are important. Each of them has a lesson to teach. In a country where students and the workforce alike crave new pathways to high-wage careers, we must maintain a critical eye towards the promises programs make. If it sounds too good to be true, it might be.

Ben Ifshin