Physicians Mutual and AIM Institute Provide Pathway for Call Center Employees to Become Data Scientists, Web Developers

Last year, Nathan Coberly found himself asking how to get more people into tech. The Physicians Mutual Vice President of Enterprise Architecture and Development was part of a subcommittee of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative trying to develop a strategy for career changers and veterans to pursue IT. Coberly himself had transitioned from the military into…

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Last year, Nathan Coberly found himself asking how to get more people into tech. The Physicians Mutual Vice President of Enterprise Architecture and Development was part of a subcommittee of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative trying to develop a strategy for career changers and veterans to pursue IT. Coberly himself had transitioned from the military into tech, and it was one of the best decisions of his life.  

That’s how Callers to Coders was born. 

Callers to Coders places call center workers into a multi-staged tech training pathway that transforms them into IT professionals. Participants take programming classes during the workday twice per week with AIM Code School and continue to earn their on-the-clock wages while they complete the program. Employers, meanwhile, get to cultivate their IT workforce from within and provide their employees a road to a more fulfilling job–and possibly a better life.

Coberly said he’s encountered a lot of stories of people working jobs that don’t necessarily challenge them enough, simply because a life circumstance kept them from completing their education. And the longer a person stays out of school, the harder it is to go back. 

“Eventually, they get to this place where they have family commitments, financial commitments, and it’s hard for them to do the traditional schooling,” Coberly said. “Whereas programs like [Callers to Coders] create a pathway for that adult who’s in a job, who has those obligations, who needs full-time work and benefits, but yet still has a way to upscale themselves and transition into an IT career.”

The yearlong program consists of five modules. Each module teaches participants the skills they need to qualify for a certain position in tech, from entry-level help desk technician to data scientist. While students are encouraged to complete each module, they are also free to “get off at the next stop,” so to speak, if they’ve already mastered the skills for the position they desire.

Coberly is excited about the unique structure of the program.

“So many programs are at nights or on weekends, on top of folks working full-time, and then homework and everything on top of that, not to mention the cost of tuition,” he said. “It all becomes very overwhelming and in a lot of cases keeps people from even trying when they have the potential to do it.”

Physicians Mutual has identified five employees they will take through Callers to Coders, which begins at the end of the month. The company encourages other enterprises to join the partnership, not only to give back to the community in which they operate, but to grow the local tech talent pool.

“We’re a digital-age insurance company, and we have the same issues as everybody else,” Coberly said. “It’s difficult to find the talent that we need at times. A lot of times, we’ll have a position open three, four months. That’s work that’s not getting done in those three to four months. That’s projects being delayed, that’s value we’re not able to deliver to our customers.”

While the program will help any low-skilled worker upscale themselves into an IT position, call center employees are especially valuable converts to tech: they know the products from the customer’s perspective, as surely they’ve had to endure being yelled at by angry callers. Bringing that customer-centric mindset to the technology they build is a valuable asset to any development team, Coberly said.

“The invitation’s open. We would love more companies to look at offering this and contributing folks to the program. We need employers to join in to keep it going,” Coberly added.

Businesses interested in joining the Callers to Coders initiative should contact Nate Decker, Student and Employee Engagement Coordinator for AIM Code School, at ndecker@aiminstitute.org, or call 402-345-5025 ext. 447.

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