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As we mark one year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic put tens of millions of Americans out of work, we’re starting to see signs of hope. But while vaccinations and reopenings suggest a return of normalcy, many of our most vulnerable community members risk being left behind.
Through a generous partnership, Per Scholas and Google.org are working together to bring free immersive tech skills training and Google Career Certificate programming to 3,000+ BIPOC adults. This is a major contribution to Per Scholas’ goal of to propel 13,000+ diverse adults to a thriving wage by 2023.
Currently, for Black and Hispanic workers, the reported jobless rates remain significantly higher than the general population numbers, as they have been throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. And for many who were working low-wage jobs across leisure, retail and hospitality sectors, these jobs are not expected to come back. Meanwhile, demand for tech talent continues to rise, and employers across industries are paying a renewed focus on filling open roles with diverse talent, including individuals from nontraditional educational backgrounds.
Per Scholas and Google.org are providing individuals traditionally underrepresented in technology with the skills they need to meet these current labor demands, while working to ensure all alumni achieve a true thriving wage – enough to save money for retirement, invest in children’s education, or own a home – within two years of graduation. Through this grant, Google.org is providing free access for learners to its array of Google Career Certificates to 2,000+ Per Scholas alums [ register for IT Automation with Python today].
This work also encompasses support for Per Scholas’ Diverse by Design – which provides corporate leaders with the training and resources they need to recruit, retain, and cultivate diverse talent. Through solutions-driven conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion within tech, DxD produces meaningful content that empowers C-suite leaders to make valuable and socially impactful business decisions, and provides access to sophisticated customized training and talent sourcing solutions.
Google’s own Stephanie LeBlanc-Godfrey, Global Head of Inclusion for Women of Color, recently participated in a Diverse by Design panel discussion, hosted by Per Scholas, titled the 140K: Women and the Pandemic in which we explored the unique challenges that COVID-19 has presented for women and the solutions tech companies are employing to address them. Stephanie emphasized that, “It is our responsibility to make tech careers more accessible to women, and one clear solution to significantly accelerate that opportunity for women is through organizations like Per Scholas, which provide tuition-free tech-training, reducing the barriers of time and financial cost women traditionally face when they are trying to enter the tech industry. This levels the playing field and makes access to tech career opportunities more equitable.”
This announcement builds on a five-year history with Google.org, which has supported local markets in New York and Atlanta, and has already awarded Google Career Certificates to more than 1,000 Per Scholas learners who have completed in Google IT Support Professional and Google IT Automation.
The powerful impact of the Google and Per Scholas tech training partnership comes to life through the experience of our graduates. Curtis Kirksey had been interested in getting into the tech industry for a while, but it wasn’t until he lost his sales job due to the COVID-19 pandemic that he realized it was time to pursue his dream career. In his words, “the life-altering event” taught him that “mindset is crucial to one’s well-being,” and once he realized that, he began working on himself.
Curtis enrolled in Per Scholas’ Network Support training program and, although attending a full-time remote class was extremely challenging, he managed to earn his CompTIA A+, CompTIA Net+, and Google IT Support certifications AND graduated as class Valedictorian.
Curtis was in such high demand that he had several job offers when he graduated. He is currently employed full-time in the tech industry, earning significantly more than he did in his previous role in sales.
“Your opportunities are endless when it comes to this type of industry,” Curtis told WSB-TV Atlanta in a recent interview about his experience. He hopes to one day be chosen to work at the new Google site in Atlanta. “That would be a dream job to work for Google, and to know they are right here in my backyard,” Curtis said. “It gives me hope.”
Google.org’s support is helping propel students like Curtis to successful careers with thriving wages, while also helping Per Scholas advance racial and economic equity in the tech workforce, and create high-quality career pathways opportunities for thousands of diverse individuals who might otherwise never have been able to access them.
An instructor with one of our learners, exploring the internal workings of a computer (pre-Covid).
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Update on Coronavirus
Dear Per Scholas community,
We are continuing to closely monitor development of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic and its impact on our training and operations.
Five Key Steps We’ve Taken in Response to the Pandemic
What have we done:
- In 2020, Per Scholas safely transitioned all of our learners to a virtual instruction and learning environment, with all of our staff members also working remotely. You can read about our transition to virtual instruction here.
- We created new virtual volunteering opportunities for our corporate partners, a staff mentoring program to ensure learners feel supported by the full organization, and whole new processes for remote admissions, student support and connecting our graduates with job opportunities.
- In addition, when needed, we have provided laptops, tech training kits, and WIFI access to our learners who did not have this equipment in place. Our rule is that no learners will be excluded from our training courses due to lack of equipment or internet connectivity.
- Thus far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from learners about their experience, and 90% have been retained despite serious economic, familial and health related barriers.
- The resilience, creativity, and leadership we have seen demonstrated by staff, learners and our partners has been truly remarkable and a testament to the nimbleness we have cultivated for more than twenty-five years.
- In 2021, as local situations allow, we aim to transition some courses back on-site for in-person learning, following strict social distancing, class size limits and other safety protocols such as temperature screenings with every entry, mandatory mask policies, air purification system enhancements and professional cleaning.
- Per Scholas has a critical role to play, providing new skill sets to displaced workers and critical technical talent to businesses seeking to expand their technology workforce.
- Now, more than ever, we have seen our ability to pivot, and are confident in our ability to produce ready-to-work, entry-level and mid-level talent with the technical skills needed to meet the demands of today’s evolving technology job market.
- Moreover, we are learning from this crisis and will embrace new approaches as the economy reopens – expanding training courses in cloud and cybersecurity, developing and launched new blended models of remote and in-person instruction, enabling us to reach more learners, and supplementing in-person corporate site visits with video mock interviews to prepare learners for phone and video screening interviews.
- Per Scholas will be advocating in this recovery for federal, state and local investments to prioritize creating career pathways for diverse individuals to advance into thriving-wage careers.
This is not a time to sit still. Per Scholas’ efforts are more important now than they ever have been. Sustaining our future as an organization will ensure that many more opportunities are available for the diverse tech talent who are graduating from Per Scholas. As we build new processes and solutions to overcome each challenge ahead, our staff, learners and partnerships will take priority in every decision that we make. If there’s one thing that has become clear in this crisis, it is that our entrepreneurial spirit and ability to adapt will ensure the continued success of our graduates.
If you have any questions, please reach out to [email protected] and we will respond as quickly as possible.