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Laid Off Coal Miners Trained To Write Computer Codes, A Ticket To Top Wages

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- More than 30,000 coal miners have lost their jobs in the last six years.

But now an innovative program is designed to help miners switch careers.

When Josh McNett of Waynesburg lost his job in the coal mines after nine years, he was, he says, "Very nervous because I didn't have any type of secondary schooling or anything like that being right out of high school."

"I wasn't sure what exactly I was going to do," he told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday.

McNett is hardly alone.

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All across southwestern Pennsylvania coal mines have shut down, leaving hundreds of coal miners out of work.

Now a local group says it wants to train coal miners to be software developers.

"We'll work through for now just the basics of how it's working," Jonathan Graham tells a class. "Then we'll go through together, we'll get the environment set up."

Graham and his spouse Amanda Laucher are the founders of Mined Mines, a training center in Waynesburg to teach coal miners and others how to write the computer code needed to create websites, apps, and everything on a computer.

"I know it might sound like a stretch at first, but these people are hard-working," Laucher says of the coal miners.

"They're dedicated. They're meticulous. The decisions they make in the mines are life and death decisions. So they take that sort of thought process into their code, and they're so good."

Laucher says learning to write computer code is a guaranteed ticket to a job.

Delano: "Do most of your graduates find a job?"

Laucher: "Every single one of them, yes."

Delano: "Every single one of your graduates?"

Laucher: "They all find a job."

To most of us the code on the screen looks like gibberish.

Delano: "Did you know any of this stuff before this class?"

McNett: "None of it. Absolutely zero."

But knowing computer code can mean big bucks.

Laucher: "With the skills we give them in our class -- $200, $250 an hour out in California or Chicago."

Delano: "Wait a minute, $200, $250 an hour?"

Laucher: "Exactly."

A far cry from the coal mines.

It's a 16-week intensive training course and open to everyone, not just coal miners.

And Mined Minds branching out of Waynesburg with classes in East Liberty.

In most cases, the cost is picked up by government retraining grants.

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