Pioneering Cybersecurity Diversity with Per Scholas Diverse by Design
Pioneering Cybersecurity Diversity with Per Scholas Diverse by Design
With Cybersecurity Awareness Month coming to a close, there’s no better time to discuss the vital need for diversifying the cybersecurity workforce, the potential consequences for technology industry leaders not addressing this issue, and the multifaceted approach that Per Scholas is adopting to break down barriers for underrepresented talent. At Per Scholas, we’re providing tech talent solutions with tailored training for organizations and upskilling opportunities for technologists.
Cybersecurity Demands Innovation & Diversity
In the ever-evolving realm of the technology industry, the role of cybersecurity as a guardian of our digital assets and infrastructure cannot be overstated. However, we face a challenge that has become too familiar – the absence of diversity within the cybersecurity workforce. An article from Forbes states, ” The International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP) points out women are barely 14% of the information security ranks, while women make up 51% of the U.S. population. The U.S. Labor Department says African Americans make up a scant 3% of information security analysts in the U.S. today.”
Technology requires innovation. Without technology, we would suddenly find ourselves in a state of crisis because our quality of life relies heavily on it – our days start with technology literally at our fingertips. Diverse workforces lead to better innovation that stands as the cornerstone keeping organizations competitive, forward-thinking problem solvers. Cybersecurity, a critical component of technology, should be no exception to diversity. The lack of diversity, particularly concerning gender and ethnicity within the cybersecurity workforce, poses a challenge to innovation.
Diversity brings a host of benefits. It ushers in fresh perspectives and insights that are vital for comprehensive risk assessment, robust security strategies, and responses to emerging threats. In a continuously evolving cybersecurity environment, diverse teams possess the adaptability and expertise required to tackle these challenges adeptly. Diverse cybersecurity teams are specially positioned to detect and address biases in security systems and algorithms, ensuring the integrity and fairness of our cybersecurity measures. Within the technology sector, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has grown exponentially. Organizations must broaden recruitment efforts to encompass underrepresented groups, enabling the industry to tackle this scarcity and foster economic growth and innovation. This strategic shift also empowers organizations with the invaluable opportunity to tap into the potential of individuals who are traditionally overlooked.
Paving the Way for Diverse Cybersecurity Technologists
At Per Scholas, we understand that underrepresented talent often encounter barriers to entry into the cybersecurity field, and we have taken proactive measures to combat these challenges. For more than 25 years, Per Scholas has been unlocking potential for individuals, communities, and employers through rigorous training for careers in tech, including cybersecurity.
We offer free technology workforce development programs, removing the financial constraints that many talented individuals from underrepresented groups face, and actively facilitate connections, mentorships, and networking opportunities to help participants bridge the gap in professional networks, a crucial element in securing employment.
Per Scholas Diverse by Design specifically promotes a culture of inclusivity and actively combats unconscious biases within the tech sector by championing diversity and inclusion as part of our core values. Per Scholas Enterprise Solutions also recognizes the significance of upskilling existing talent and providing tailored training for organizations and offers customized training solutions to equip organizations with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the evolving threat landscape effectively with partner organizations committed to building a diverse workforce.
Advancing Equity to Increase Opportunities in Cybersecurity
Now is the time to diversify the technology industry, where innovation and security are pivotal to success, and the need for diversity in the cybersecurity workforce is not up for debate. As technology industry leaders, we bear a unique responsibility to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion opportunities within our ranks. Per Scholas is partnering with CGI, a Global IT and business consulting firm, to address this challenge and provide sustainable solutions. We have curated a customized invite-only event along with CGI dedicated to diversity in the cybersecurity industry entitled “Advancing Equity to Increase Opportunities in Cybersecurity.” This event will bring awareness to the challenges of starting a career in cybersecurity and how to develop strategies to increase access and representation.
Increasing Opportunity Through Increased Accessibility
Having reliable access to WiFi, computers, and other resources is critical to success in technology training courses like ours. For more than 25 years, Per Scholas has been providing opportunities for individuals to launch thriving tech careers with our tuition-free tech training. We have found new ways to increase workforce equity for our learners and have given them the materials needed to succeed in their training; however, there is still room for improvement in addressing accessibility. The good news is that there are programs available for learners to get access to the Internet, transportation, and computers and laptops in order to complete our training and launch their tech careers.
Resources such as the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) assist those eligible with obtaining Broadband Internet access nationwide and are available to our learners as they embark on the college admissions process and Per Scholas training. The direct benefit of this program is that it’s helping to bridge the gap between opportunity and accessibility – as it should not be obstructed by lack of resources. This program is further bolstered by the work of one of our partners, Comcast, to close the digital divide.
In the first six months of 2023 alone, we’ve discovered that nearly 100 of our enrolled learners needed help with getting Internet access. Given this data, we can only imagine how many more applicants have been impacted due to a lack of Internet access including those applying to Per Scholas training. With the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, potential learners can acquire the resources needed to launch a thriving career in tech.
The benefit program, ACP, provides up to $30 per month or $75 in Tribal areas toward Internet service. When combined with Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials+ service tiers, it makes home broadband effectively free.
A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household has received a Pell Grant, participates in Federal Assistance programs like SNAP or Medicaid, or meets the eligibility criteria for the Internet provider’s existing low-income Internet program.
To learn more and how to apply, visit the federal government’s website or contact an Internet service provider in your area.
Comcast NBCUniversal has been a partner of Per Scholas since 2021 and invested in Per Scholas to help individuals build the skills they need for successful careers in technology.
Through this partnership, Per Scholas will prepare more than 10,000 diverse adults for careers in tech across at least 15 Comcast markets over the next three years. Comcast is also providing Internet access for individuals who need connectivity, providing a way for learners to use our training remotely and for potential learners to apply to our program.
Per Scholas doesn’t want accessibility to stop learners or potential learners from launching their tech careers. The good news is now there are programs and initiatives that will increase accessibility for all learners, thus increasing opportunities for them in the tech sector as well.
To learn more about courses offered at a Per Scholas campus near you, click here.
Per Scholas NY Tech Week Event
Per Scholas partnered with the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and other nonprofit organizations, including All Star Code, Black in Gaming Foundation, and Black Product Managers, to host a Talent Mixer for NYC Community-Builders at ping pong club SPIN New York as part of NY Tech Week 2023. More than 250 incredible, diverse technologists came out on a Friday evening despite the rainy weather, to make connections that will no doubt resonate in the weeks and months to come.
The evening featured a curated pre-mixer for learners and alumni from Per Scholas and other nonprofit partners to connect directly with founders and CEOs, talent heads, and tech and engineering executives from across a16z’s portfolio. The event also highlighted a panel of luminaries who shared stories of their journeys in tech, how leaders are prioritizing hiring and retaining diverse talent in a challenging climate, and what individuals and companies can do to enact change. Per Scholas is grateful to our esteemed panelists: Kyle Bailey, Vice President and Head of Engineering at dYdX; Jimmy Chen, Founder & CEO of Propel; Trinidad Hermida Black, Executive Director, Black in Gaming; and Per Scholas alumna and Per Scholas New York Advisory Board Chair Fabianna Rodriguez-Mercado, Chief of Staff, Cyber Security at Citi and Co-Leader of Latinas in Tech. After the panel, guests enjoyed food, drink, and plentiful games of ping pong to round out the night!
Click here to check out all the open roles across a16z’s portfolio companies!
Per Scholas’ Grace Yao and Daniel Ponciano Interviewed for FUTRtv Podcast
This week, Per Scholas was featured on the FUTRtv Podcast, a podcast that seeks to promote “innovative ideas, cool startups and great culture as [they] explore the business of emerging technology.” Host Chris Brandt spoke with Per Scholas Chicago Manager of Recruitment and Admissions Grace Yao, and Per Scholas Chicago Manager of Career Advancement Daniel Ponciano.
Grace and Daniel discussed Per Scholas’s history, and the ways in which Per Scholas equips each of our students with a well-rounded, cost-free education, encompassing hard technical skills, as well as soft skills like networking, interviewing, and professional development. Per Scholas also offers support beyond course training as needed, including aid with internet access and financial coaching, providing laptops, computers, and other equipment for learners who need them, and more.
Watch the full podcast here!
Per Scholas Newark Celebrates Recent Graduates
On September 8th, Per Scholas Newark celebrated the recent graduation of four cohorts – two in IT Support and two in Cybersecurity. The event also included a commencement ceremony for the latest graduating Cybersecurity cohort.
This event was hosted by Per Scholas Newark’s Managing Director, Jessica Zorola, who congratulated the new alumni on their hard work and success. Jessica also expressed her gratitude to the Per Scholas Newark staff and national team, who work hard each day to create a supportive, educational environment that prepares learners for success in the tech field on multiple levels. “[Our staff] have been the heart and soul of Per Scholas Newark since our founding in 2019,” Jessica told attendees. “They provide the skills and training one needs to succeed from day one on the job. My fellow colleagues have created a space of curiosity and excellence – to ensure that our learners not only build their own successful pathways within tech but lift their fellow peers to greatness as a community.”
Sandip Amin, Per Scholas’ Northeast Regional Senior Vice President, delivered celebratory remarks, highlighting Per Scholas’ long-standing commitment to unlocking potential through technology and career development training. Jose Rodriguez, Per Scholas Newark’s Campus Director, then spoke to the strengths of our Newark campus’ multiple training programs and its commitment to excellence in IT Support, Cybersecurity, Professional Development, and job-ready skills before introducing representative speakers from each of the four graduating cohorts to celebrate their respective cohorts’ accomplishments.
Next, Per Scholas President and CEO Plinio Ayala shared reflections on the power of tech training in Newark, emphasizing Per Scholas’ origin story and its role in addressing the need for skilled technology talent. He extended his well wishes to the graduates, highlighting their promising futures. Dave Francisco, a 2022 graduate of Per Scholas Newark’s Cybersecurity course and current member of the Per Scholas Newark Advisory Board, then took the stage to share his journey, emphasizing the transformative power of a career in tech. Dave, who now works as an Engineer at Kinesys Automation, offered valuable insights and wisdom to the newest Per Scholas Newark alumni, underscoring the importance of continued growth and development.
The ceremony continued with an address by Cybersecurity cohort valedictorian Asma Daif Allah, who delivered inspirational remarks and congratulated her classmates on their success. Core Value Recipients were also recognized, acknowledging graduates for their continued commitment to the values of Ambition, Integrity, Professionalism, Resourcefulness, Perseverance, and Commitment to Service.
Michele Alcazar, Head of Human Resources at Per Scholas partner Prudential, then extended her congratulatory remarks to the graduates, emphasizing the significance of their accomplishments and the opportunities that lay ahead. The program reached its culmination with recognition of each graduating learner; graduates walked across the stage to receive their graduation certificates and official Per Scholas padfolios.
Learn more about upcoming training opportunities at Per Scholas Newark and apply by visiting PerScholas.org/Newark.
Per Scholas Celebrates $20 Million Investment from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott
Per Scholas Celebrates $20 Million Investment from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott
Transformational Investment Propels and Positions Tech Skills Nonprofit for National Future Impact
BRONX, New York (September 28, 2023) – Per Scholas, a national nonprofit committed to advancing economic mobility and unlocking potential through technology career training, today announced a $20 million investment from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
Receiving this transformational investment from MacKenzie Scott, one of the most dynamic philanthropists in modern times, is a testament to Per Scholas' impact over our nearly 30 year history. As we've evolved from a computer recycler in the South Bronx to a technical skills trainer in 22 cities and counting across America, we are so grateful for this $20 million gift – the largest, unrestricted funding our organization has ever received. This investment will propel Per Scholas for even greater national impact well into the future, centered on growth and innovation and ensuring our alumni achieve a thriving wage through our Career Accelerator.— Plinio Ayala, President & CEO, Per Scholas
To date, Per Scholas has prepared more than 20,000 individuals across the U.S. for high-growth careers in technology by offering tuition-free, rigorous, 12- to 15-week training in the nation’s most in-demand tech skills. The evidence-based Per Scholas model has been proven in multiple gold-standard research studies, and on average, Per Scholas-trained technologists go on to earn three times their pre-training wage in their first job following graduation. All told, Per Scholas graduates have earned more than $2.4 billion in their post-Per Scholas careers, powering economic advancement in communities across the nation.
Per Scholas connects graduates to high growth careers through our network of 850+ employer partners, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to innovative startups, and supports alumni through the organization’s latest innovation, the Career Accelerator, which provides Per Scholas alumni short-term upskilling opportunities, in turn propelling careers. As a result, every dollar invested in Per Scholas results in at least $8 in net economic return.
I'd like to express my most heartfelt gratitude to Per Scholas staff, funders, employer partners, and supporters, who have believed in our mission to advance economic equity and increase opportunity through America's hottest sector - technology. While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life in ways previously unimagined, it presented the opportunity for Per Scholas to innovate a new delivery model, which proved so successful that we were able to scale our impact four-fold. I echo Plinio's gratitude to Ms. Scott - this $20 million investment will certainly position Per Scholas well into our next decade of unlocking potential.— Lewis Miller, Per Scholas Co-Founder and National Board Chair
Today, Per Scholas operates in 20+ U.S. markets including Atlanta, Baltimore, Greater Boston, Chicago, Greater Cincinnati, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Newark, New York, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. This investment will enable Per Scholas to continue to expand its training and talent solutions to additional communities across the United States, with the goal of training 10,000 learners per year by 2026.
About Per Scholas
For more than 25 years, Per Scholas has been advancing equity and increasing opportunity across America. Per Scholas unlocks potential for individuals, communities, and employers through rigorous training for careers in tech. Partnering with dynamic employer partners, from Fortune 500 companies to innovative startups, we are building sustainable and diverse talent pipelines, together changing the face of tech. With national remote training and campuses in 20+ cities and growing, Per Scholas offers tuition-free training in the most in-demand tech skills, including Cloud, Cybersecurity, Data Engineering, IT Support, Software Engineering, and more.
To date, more than 20,000 individuals have gained the skills to launch high-growth tech careers, earning three times their pre-training wage. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is in our DNA: 85 percent of Per Scholas learners are people of color, two in five are women, and more than half have a high school diploma as their highest education credential. Visit PerScholas.org and follow us on LinkedIn, X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Meet Esther, Per Scholas Dallas Graduate & Technologist
Esther is just one of Per Scholas’ 20,000+ alumni. She’s a proud Per Scholas Dallas IT Support graduate and successful career switcher, living her dream of working in tech. Click below to hear her story and how she’s benefitting from the Career Accelerator – earning more stackable credentials to propel her tech career!
Per Scholas Technologists Discuss Creating a More Diverse Workforce in The Muse Article
Four Per Scholas alumnae were interviewed and featured in an article for The Muse, the first values-based career platform, helping individuals connect with jobs, companies, and careers that align with their core values and priorities.
Anita Bailey, Rumana Syed, Fabianna Rodriguez-Mercado, and Misty Branch all underscored the need to diversify the tech workforce and how Per Scholas is doing so through our no-cost training, where a third of our learners are women and 85% are people of color.
“Tech is an industry that’s evolving and will continue evolving,” Rodriguez-Mercado says. “We need more women and underrepresented communities to be part of these conversations.”
Per Scholas North Carolina Featured on WBTV Highlighting $1 Million Grant from Truist Foundation
Per Scholas North Carolina’s training and $1 million grant from Truist Foundation was featured on WBTV’s news program. Dedrick Russell, Executive Producer for Community Content at WBTV spoke with Jeff Jones, Per Scholas North Carolina alumni, and Kim Gomme, current learner, to get their insight and experience with their training.
The campus’s Managing Director Mike Terrell discussed the impact of the $1 million grant in expanding to rural communities and how having a diverse workforce is necessary for the industry.
Per Scholas Cyber Apprenticeships: Nationally Needed, Locally Ready to Close Talent Gaps
Per Scholas Cyber Apprenticeships:
Nationally Needed, Locally Ready to Close Talent Gaps
On the last day of July, the White House and the Office of the National Cyber Director announced a National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy (NCWES) unique in vision and approach at a time where there are over 755,000 Cybersecurity jobs open in the United States. At Per Scholas, we applaud the administration in accelerating its focus on the cyber workforce across sectors, along with the organizations who have made commitments to support this effort – ranging from the National Security Agency (NSA) to Microsoft to MassBay Community College. We too have made a significant commitment to support and fuel our nation’s need for skilled cyber technologists.
Solving for the Cyber Skills Shortage: Per Scholas Registered Apprenticeships Align with White House Workforce and Education Strategy
NCWES lays critical groundwork to equip every American with foundational cybersecurity skills, transform cyber education in the U.S, and expand and enhance the national cyber workforce. It emphasizes competency-based cyber education, making this education more affordable and accessible, promoting skills-based hiring, and attracting and hiring a more qualified and diverse cyber workforce. Per Scholas shares these commitments, and has been hard at work tailoring an innovative solution to provide more employers with diverse cyber talent, while connecting workers that have been historically underrepresented in the industry to viable cyber career paths: Cybersecurity Support Technician Registered Apprenticeships.
Playing to Our Strengths: Per Scholas Cyber Capabilities, Commitments, and Cost Savings
For more than 25 years, Per Scholas thrives in understanding talent market needs and designing aligned solutions. We are perhaps most known across our 22 (and counting!) U.S. campuses for our pre-employment training programs, but these are not our only available skills training opportunities! We are currently registered with the Department of Labor as a National Program Sponsor for Cybersecurity apprenticeships, and in the process of confirming our 2024 employer partnerships.
Why should an employer consider Per Scholas Cybersecurity apprenticeships?
Our Cyber roots run deep. Per Scholas has placed its graduates with over 850 companies and organizations, and since 2016 we have prepared over 2,000 diverse adults for entry- and mid-level Cyber roles. Through our Cybersecurity training, our apprentices obtain CompTIA CYSA+, Splunk, and Cisco certifications. Barclays – one of our first Cybersecurity employer partners – recognized the potential early on, and worked with us to establish our first Cyber curriculum tailored toward entry-level individuals aspiring to join the Cybersecurity field. Within this inaugural partnership, over 40 Per Scholas grads were hired into Barclays as apprentices, interns, or full-time hires; 30% of the graduating training class identified as women, and 13% as veterans. Rita McCaffrey, a Barclays Program Manager, highlighted that “engaging women, underrepresented ethnic and racial groups, and people with disabilities brings essential perspectives to problem solving” and that “in order for us to meet the emerging workforce skills gap, we must – all businesses must – work to foster innovation through diverse perspectives and experiences.” (1)
We are committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech. Per Scholas graduates are 85% people of color and over 40% women. Over ⅓ of these individuals are adults under 30 early on in their careers, and ⅔ do not have a 4 year degree. When we say that we are expanding the Cyber talent pool, we mean it. Nationwide is one company that can attest to our ability to train and place underrepresented talent in apprenticeship roles, and to how much these individuals succeed when given the opportunity. In the field of software engineering – another domain with talent and diversity gaps – Nationwide has taken on 49 Per Scholas apprentices; thus far, they have hired over 80% of them on full-time based on how well apprentices learned and performed on the job and position openings within Nationwide’s teams.
The ROI on apprenticeships is there. For every $1 invested in apprenticeship, organizations realize an average return of $1.47. (2) Through our yearlong Registered Apprenticeship Program, Cyber apprentices are paid on a progressive wage scale; this is a cost effective way to cultivate talent, even before potential tax credits and subsidies accessible at the state and federal levels. When Per Scholas builds an apprenticeship partnership, one of the first things we do together is review the employer’s job description(s) and workplace needs with our Cyber work plan comprised of over 80 competencies and 2000+ hours of on-the-job experience; together, we help employers come out with talent trained in their specific technical needs and experienced in their company’s norms and culture.
Seeking Employer Partnerships: Let’s Tackle this Challenge Together
We are actively working to close Cyber talent gaps, while generating sustainable career pathways in the Cyber field. Sharing the comprehensive vision of the NCWES, we aim to transform Cyber skill acquisition, career development, and companies’ abilities to protect their assets in an increasingly complex digital environment. If this is something that excites you – let’s work together! We are taking on a limited number of apprenticeship partners this fall, and look forward to seeing the transformative impact apprenticeship can have within your organization. Contact us at [email protected] to begin the conversation.
Per Scholas Columbus Managing Director Jenn Fowler Howard Provides Thought Leadership and Insight at CIO Tomorrow Conference
On Thursday, August 10, Per Scholas Columbus Managing Director Jenn Fowler Howard attended CIO Tomorrow’s conference, Next/Gen – Leveling Up the Next Generation of IT, and spoke during a breakout session – Building Next Gen Talent Pipeline. The conference was held in Columbus and featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and innovative live sessions to re-think the limiting approach to sourcing talent and proactively shore-up the perceived skills gap by tapping into untapped talent.
As a panelist on the Building Next Gen Talent Pipelines breakout discussion, Jenn Fowler Howard underscored the importance of alternative talent pipelines and the skills of Per Scholas alumni as technologists. The panel focused on building future tech talent, growing organization-wide digital fluency, and deliberately curating culture and belonging to enhance organizations’ talent pipelines. In this session, panelists discussed the next steps leaders need to take to harness the power of their people and technology, while growing the culture needed to achieve their future vision. Joining Jenn Fowler Howard as panelists were Geoff Bauer, Supervisor, IT Flexible Apprenticeship at Columbus State Community College; Anand Sekaran, Associate Director at Accenture; and moderator Allison Shock, Managing Director – Banking Future of Work Lead at Accenture.
During her remarks, Jenn Fowler Howard reflected on the ways alternative, non-traditional talent pipelines can enhance innovation within today’s IT industry, stating, “I’d love to begin to evolve our language so it’s empowered. To me, the definition of a non-traditional talent pipeline are individuals with different journeys. They’re stars – skilled through alternate routes – at a proven, evidence-based training program like Per Scholas Columbus, through military service, on the job experience…Diversity of thought drives innovation, better collaboration, and better results for individuals, families, communities, companies, and our local economies.”
Learn more about the CIO Tomorrow Next/Gen – Leveling Up the Next Generation of IT conference here.