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Teaching Low-Income Youth These Skills May Just Solve the Tech Job Hiring Gap

February 28, 2014
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Teaching Low-Income Youth These Skills May Just Solve the Tech Job Hiring Gap
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SeedPaths offers students an alternative path to a career in technology.

Jeff Macco, co-founder of Denver mobile app startup AppIt Ventures, was trying to hire a junior developer in 2012—a process that ultimately took six weeks. Frustrated by this time-consuming search for an employee, Macco began to wonder if it was possible to train more people with the technology skills companies are seeking most today. In 2013, only 58.8% of the students in the Denver Public Schools graduated on time, within four years. So after Macco left AppIt Ventures last year, he started SeedPaths, aiming to train some of these students who hadn’t been able to follow the standard educational path because of obstacles in their personal lives for careers in technology.

SeedPaths classes are currently open to low-income students aged 16 to 21 who have experienced some barriers to their education, such as homelessness or learning disabilities. “We found a unique funding source in the federal government that was targeted toward this demographic of students,” Macco told Andy Vuong of the Denver Post. The $6000 tuition for the first 13 students was covered by money from the federal Workforce Investment Act. In addition to teaching them skills such as HTML and JavaScript, SeedPaths also provides support that low-income students might need to complete training, such as free lunch and bus passes, and works to set its graduates up with internships and job opportunities.

The first group of students includes Joel Azoulay, who was homeless during high school and ended up earning a GED, and 18-year-old Diego Conde, who has lived in five foster homes since his mother’s death from cancer in 2008. “What’s so great about the program is that they have not only taught me about the tech industry, but also the professionalism part of it, involving high energy and intellectual curiosity,” Conde told Vuong. “It’s just a variety of things that I had never learned or nobody ever taught me while being in the child welfare system.”

SeedPaths plans to expand its course offerings for students who don’t qualify for low-income federal support soon, helping more people find good jobs and solving the tech hiring problem at the same time.

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