Most of you probably know what it is like to call for tech assistance and be transferred to a person in another country. Even though the representative on the phone is helpful, the language barrier can be difficult and frustrating.
While jobs in technology are high paying, skill-based and needed by more and more companies, many of them have been outsourced for years — ultimately, making life more difficult for the customer, while drastically cutting costs for the company. However, some businesses are becoming dissatisfied with overseas staff and are beginning to reverse that trend. Jobs are migrating back to the U.S., opening room for domestic staff.
Where there’s a demand, there needs to be a supply, and that’s the mission of the nonprofit Per Scholas. As more and more IT jobs are coming back to the U.S., Per Scholas is offering free IT training for minority and low-income adults.
It all started in New York City in 1995 and has since spread to Dallas, the Washington D.C. area, Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio. The schooling is free and most of the students who take the classes are either unemployed or working part-time, so the promise of a reliable career outweighs the training, which is unpaid.
Students can enroll in one of three main tracks. The first is a 13 week class that sets them on the path to working at a help desk. Upon completion of the course, students will be equipped with industry-ready credentials. A second option is to become a network administrator. Slightly more time consuming, this course spans 18 weeks in length. The shortest of the three is only eight weeks long and prepares students for software testing.
Over the past 19 years, Per Scholas has expanded into areas beyond New York, and helps, on average, about 80 students in each city each year. The company continues to look for areas in which to expand based on three determining factors: (1) the ready availability of IT jobs in the area; (2) if there are already other similar companies in the city; and (3) if there are enough available funds through donations and government grants to function for three years.
This is a big year for Per Scholas, as it will be starting a partnership with Doran Jones, an IT consulting firm. Through it, a new Bronx office will now be training 150 IT testers.
Despite all of this success, Per Scholas is not keeping it all to itself. The company encourages other nonprofits and cities to adopt similar practices and offers three key steps.
1. Form your solutions and practices based on the employers’ hiring and training needs.
2. Involve stakeholders from the non-profit, government, private sector and community organizations in the process. Make sure they are ready to play a part.
3.  Creativity and flexibility are key. Search everywhere and everything to find potential students.
As Per Scholas works to boost American jobs and improve the lives of hundreds, Executive Director Angie Kamath describes their work in the most basic terms to Next City. To her, the organization, “symbolizes the impact of a profitable business model that changes the face of a low-income community and gives low-income individuals access to the middle class.”
Not bad for a small nonprofit competing with the global workforce.
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