Elevating Colorado’s Economy by Launching Tech Careers

On April 6, Per Scholas partner ActivateWork hosted Elevating Colorado’s Economy by Launching Tech Careers, a robust conversation featuring Governor Jared Polis, Denver-area leading employers, ActivateWork Powered by Per Scholas graduates and Per Scholas’ own Chief Development Officer, Caitlyn Brazill.

Governor Gary Polis at podium speaking

“Our partnership with ActivateWork is truly unique, and a critical piece of Per Scholas’ ambitious scaling plan,” remarked Caitlyn Brazill. “Together, we can make opportunity ubiquitous in Colorado.”

ActivateWork, powered by Per Scholas, began offering tuition-free technical training in 2020 and to date, has graduated more than 120 diverse individuals in skills ranging from IT Support to Software Engineer to Cybersecurity and more. In 2021 alone, 48 graduates launched careers in tech at companies including, Bank of America, Trimble, FirstBank, Dish Network, and more. ActivateWork, powered by Per Scholas, will train more than 1,200 Denver-based learners in tech skills over the next five years, boosting the region’s economy and continuing to launch tech careers in Colorado. 

 

Plinio Ayala Keynote Speaker at The Excel Center’s Conference

On April 28, 2022, Per Scholas President and CEO Plinio Ayala delivered keynote remarks at The Excel Center’s National Conference. The conference, held in Indianapolis, focused on Goodwill Industries’ mission to prepare students for college and ensuring schools are up-to-date for educating community members eager to expand their knowledge – in short, preparing the 21st century workforce.  

Similarly to Goodwill Industries’ mission to prepare individuals to enter the workforce, Per Scholas has been a champion for workforce development for our learners and graduates.  During his keynote address, Plinio highlighted the ways Per Scholas creates more equitable economic opportunity. 

Per Scholas and TEC Leadership standing together

Speaking on Per Scholas and Excel Center training offerings, Plinio reflected, “I know that tomorrow morning, millions of Americans will wake up looking for that one opportunity that will change the trajectory of their lives, the future for their families – and many will go to bed not having found that one chance. Excel Center and Per Scholas must continue to persevere and provide opportunity to as many Americans as we can. Not because it is a good thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.”

 

Greetings from Per Scholas St. Louis!

Per Scholas is thrilled to reflect on this month’s expansion to our 18th city, St. Louis! This marks our first campus launch in 2022. We are honored and grateful to Cortex Innovation Community for their warm welcome as part of their strategy to accelerate inclusive economic growth in the region.

We were excited to participate at The Global Center for Cybersecurity’s MiniCon and host a welcome breakfast for community and industry leaders and partners with Cortex. The reception and welcome by Cortex, community partners, and local media has been overwhelmingly positive, including feature pieces by St. Louis Business Journal, St. Louis National Public Radio, Flyover Future, and first-day coverage in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Per Scholas St. Louis will host its inaugural cohort in Cybersecurity this summer in response to the need for Cybersecurity technologists in the community. According to CompTIA’s April jobs report, St. Louis ranked seventh in the nation for the most new tech job postings. And after talking with local employers and partners, the need for cybersecurity skills is at the forefront. 

Per Scholas St. Louis team

Per Scholas St. Louis is led by Managing Director Dr. Charlie Mackey, Jr. Upon his hiring, Charlie reflected, “I am honored to join Per Scholas and lead our transformational work here in St. Louis. I believe our training removes two of the largest barriers for members of our local community who aspire to work in technology: access and affordability. By removing these barriers, Per Scholas learners and our future St. Louis graduates can achieve social and economic mobility.” 

“Our partnership with Cortex – and being located in this incredible District – will propel our ability to interact with the local tech community and employers in need of tech talent,” he continued. 

 

At the Global Center for Cybersecurity MiniCon, Per Scholas Graduate Elena Bilko participated on a panel discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cybersecurity, with fellow tech training graduates from CyberUp and NPower St. Louis. Elena, a New York Cybersecurity graduate from late 2020 shared her story about being a successful career-switcher from the fashion to the tech industry and highlighted that without Per Scholas, she would not have been able to break into the field.  Elena also shared her commitment to helping spread the word about the power and impact of programs like Per Scholas.  

Per Scholas St. Louis panelists sitting in a chair

As we continue to grow based on market demands, the Per Scholas St. Louis team will grow as well. We are currently recruiting for several St.Louis-based roles as we continue to settle into the Gateway to the West. 

 

Noses On! Per Scholas Among 2022 Red Nose Day Grantee Partners

Per Scholas is honored to be among this year’s Red Nose Day grantee partners through a matching grant partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal! In its eighth year, Red Nose Day is a beloved fundraising event by Comic Relief US to help end the cycle of child poverty and ensure a healthy, empowered future for all children and youth. Per Scholas helps change trajectories by preparing our learners, many of whom are youth or have children, to launch life-changing careers in technology by participating in our rigorous, cost-free tech skills training. 

Red Nose Day logo

As we train our learners to start a career in tech through IT support, cybersecurity, software engineering, and more, we prepare individuals to have a well-rounded skill set that creates economic equity and financial stability for their families. 

Per Scholas Chicago Graduate Veronica Vergara applied to Per Scholas to create her own path of opportunity that was flexible so she could be available for her daughter, if needed. Veronica’s daughter suffered from serious health problems previously, so she quit work to focus on her daughter’s health. A year and a half later, Veronica’s daughter’s condition had greatly improved, and Veronica began preparing to rejoin the workforce. Her husband worked in IT and she admired many features of his job, including its flexibility and good pay, which is why she applied to Per Scholas to launch her IT career.

Another example of how Per Scholas’s cost-free tech training has enhanced our learners’ lives and the lives of their children is through Sadaf Haroon, a Per Scholas Dallas Software Engineering graduate. Sadaf, an immigrant mother of three, was at first intimidated to resume a career in the thriving field of tech. “Per Scholas made it easier for me to learn and now I am an earning member of my family. What can be greater than that?” 

In the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more children have faced hunger, homelessness, and a growing learning gap, making those programs, funded by Red Nose Day, more crucial than ever. 

This Red Nose Day marks a return to the tradition of coming together in person to have fun, raise money, and change lives. The annual campaign’s signature Red Nose, the universal symbol for Red Nose Day, will be back and available exclusively at nearly 9,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide for just $1 each, with 100% of all proceeds benefiting Red Nose Day. Customers may also donate in stores via pin-pad at checkout, as well as online to receive a Digital Red Nose filter, and can show support donning a real Red Nose or virtual one!

Tune in on May 26th to NBC, which is supporting the Red Nose Day campaign across the network and through cross-portfolio programming features.

 

Per Scholas Signs Vibrant Pittsburgh DEI Pledge

Per Scholas became the first organization to sign the Vibrant Pittsburgh DEI Pledge. Signatory organizations commit to taking collective action to create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable Pittsburgh region.

Vibrant Pittsburgh logo

“Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is at Per Scholas’s core. We believe that talent is ubiquitous, but unfortunately, we know opportunity is not. That’s why we’re passionately committed to removing barriers, increasing access, and advancing economic equity through rigorous tech training,” said Plinio Ayala, President and CEO of Per Scholas. “We’re proud to be a signatory of the Vibrant Pittsburgh DEI Pledge and look forward to being a meaningful contributor to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging progress here in Pittsburgh.” 

Per Scholas Pittsburgh Managing Director Todd Derby will lead our contributions to this essential work. To learn more about Vibrant Pittsburgh, visit www.vibrantpittsburgh.org

 

Per Scholas’ Women in Tech Training Update

When first considering a career in technology, Per Scholas Graduate Olga Sannikov always felt discouraged to enter the field. She was always interested in tech but did not pursue it academically because it was not popular for girls to do so at her school. This has been a common sentiment among women wanting to pursue a career in technology, and an area where Per Scholas is actively helping change the narrative and increase access and opportunity for women technologists nationwide. 

woman in tech on computer

This month, we began training for our first cohort of women learners enrolled in our inaugural Women in Software Engineering (WISE) pre-apprenticeship program. Hosted by Per Scholas National Capital Region, this course was developed with women in mind and understanding the barriers women face entering the industry. Delivered remotely and on a modified schedule to accommodate household responsibilities, learners have access to evening and weekend office hours, tutoring, mentoring, and career development programming. 

Per Scholas was selected as one of five recipients for the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant, presented by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty J. Walsh. 

“For too long, women have faced barriers to gaining entry into apprenticeships and nontraditional careers,” Secretary Walsh said at the grant presentation. This pioneering training offering for women in tech is also made possible with additional investments from Capital One, The Boeing Company, and Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation

Capital One is passionate about partnering with organizations that are meeting critical workforce development needs, said Kerone Vatel, Head of Community Impact and Investment at Capital One. Per Scholas is closing gaps in equity and opportunity by providing education onramps and support for underrepresented groups, including women, to pursue careers in technology.

“We have the opportunity to learn so much from our WISE learners,” said Diane Duff, Per Scholas National Capital Region Managing Director. “We’ve received generous support to adjust our already proven model to more effectively address the unique challenges facing women who want to enter the tech industry. I’m thrilled that our first training cohort is underway.” 

On International Women’s Day, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners committed to developing the county workforce to meet a growing demand for technology jobs by voting unanimously to approve a more than $4.5 million COVID-19 recovery grant to support the new Tech Women of Color workforce training initiative at our Per Scholas Columbus campus. Additional local supporters of Tech Women of Color include The Columbus Foundation, AT&T, KeyBank, and Bank of America. 

women in tech during a tech training

“We are grateful to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners for providing us the opportunity to be of service to our community, and to our local partners who will come alongside us as we seek to make a transformative impact in this county,” stated Jenn Fowler Howard, Senior Director of the Tech Women of Color Alliance. “We recognize that this project will not only change the lives of the women who participate but will also build stronger families, communities, and businesses for years to come.” 

The first Tech Women of Color cohort will be an IT Fundamentals course and begin this summer. If you’re a Columbus-based business or employer interested in learning more and joining the Tech Women of Color Alliance, led by Per Scholas, please contact Jenn Fowler Howard at [email protected]

We had four women leaders in tech from one of our funders, Capgemini, speak on a panel for Women’s History Month as well. More than 60 women participated, and heard from powerful women leaders on topics including the importance of women in tech leadership roles, working through imposter syndrome, and owning the unique skills that women often possess – empathy, kindness, compassion, and more. We also moderated a quick Q+A session at the end of the event where individuals discussed everything from how to find what you want to specialize in tech-wise to how to balance your life as a wife, mom, and professional. 

Per Scholas is grateful to the many funders and supporters who are making intentional investments in women-centric initiatives, including the AT&T; Atalanta Project – Black Family Philanthropies; Bank of America; Boeing; Boone Family Foundation; Capital One; The Columbus Foundation; Franklin County Board of Commissioners; Goldman Sachs; Kate Spade New York Foundation; KeyBank; The Same Sky Foundation Fund, a Division of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation; S&P Global; TEKsystems; The Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor; and more.

 

Per Scholas is Expanding Cloud Computing Training with AWS re/Start

Per Scholas’ collaboration with AWS and our ability to offer AWS re/Start, a high-quality cloud computing curriculum, is incredibly powerful. Cloud computing continues to be one of the fastest-growing areas of tech, and we’re proud of the role we’re playing to train diverse technologists in this in-demand skill set.

We started our cloud computing training by offering AWS re/Start at our Greater Boston campus in 2020. The pandemic forced us to quickly pivot what would’ve been an in-person course to be remote instead. AWS’s leadership and guidance as we modified the curriculum were essential. This shift to remote learning had a silver lining and enabled us to enroll learners in our inaugural cohort from our National Capital Region campus, too. 

Today, just two years later, Per Scholas is offering AWS re/Start training at 9 campuses nationwide, including at Per Scholas Dallas, Per Scholas Greater Boston, Per Scholas National Capital Region, and Per Scholas New York. We’re working to prepare nearly 400 future technologists in this in-demand skill set in 2022 alone! 

Earlier this month, Per Scholas Senior Vice President of Training Quality, Technology, and Innovation Eduardo Hernandez spoke at AWS IMAGINE: NONPROFIT alongside AWS re/Start Program Manager Seghen Simon about our training model. 

During the panel, Eduardo highlighted that since we began offering AWS re/Start, nearly 300 cloud computing technologists have graduated, and more than 90 percent earned the prestigious, highly-sought-after AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification. Half have attained jobs, and a third in specific cloud-computing roles at more than 55 companies nationwide.

 

Per Scholas Baltimore Partners with Train Up

Alongside 16 other organizations, Per Scholas Baltimore recently received a groundbreaking grant from the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (OED) as part of the Train Up initiative. The initiative provides free job training for unemployed and underemployed Baltimore City residents impacted by COVID-19 and is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It is 

Per Scholas Baltimore will enroll 45 Baltimore City residents participants annually in our cost-free tech training, ensure that at least 75 percent of our learners will complete training, and connect at least 80 percent of our graduates into family-sustaining careers paying a minimum of $15 per hour. All participants completing training will obtain at least one industry-recognized credential. 

In regard to Train Up, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott stated, “I look forward to working closely with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development as we increase access to opportunity, promote local job growth, support low-income households, benefit historically underinvested neighborhoods and create wealth in Black and Brown communities.”

Per Scholas Baltimore learners around a computer

As Per Scholas Baltimore prepares Baltimore City residents for careers in technology, a high-growth industry, we will also provide our learners with career coaching and business and professional development. Upcoming courses offered at our campus in Little Italy can be found here.  

“We are grateful for the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development’s investment in Per Scholas Baltimore, which will enable us to continue to serve Baltimore City residents with no-cost technical training,” stated Per Scholas Baltimore Managing Director Jessica Diaz Council. “We are actively trying to change the face of the tech workforce nationally, but also locally. If you are a company that serves the people of Baltimore, then you should be employing local talent. We’re committed to increasing access and creating opportunities for individuals who aspire to work in tech because we truly believe that the right career changes everything. The Train Up program will allow us to do just that.”

To learn more about the Train Up program from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, click here

 

How Per Scholas and MDRC Use Lived Experiences for Admissions Process

In this brief from MDRC, a company committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation, it is shown that investigating lived experiences for data is crucial for Per Scholas’s admissions process.

Photo of Per Scholas Learners in Class

As the brief states, “People with lived expertise can include individuals or families enrolled in or eligible for a program of interest, service practitioners who work directly with these individuals and families, and community leaders. Such people have a wealth of knowledge about the social issues and programs that are studied, derived from their own experiences.”

Learn how Per Scholas has worked closely with MDRC research to provide a better admissions process experience to drive more completed applications in this brief and read the full document.

Per Scholas Celebrates Black History Month

Black History month Banner with Per Scholas logo

During Black History Month, Per Scholas has been proud to engage in various internal and external activities to communicate the importance of Black individuals in the tech workplace. Keeping the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s (ASALH) theme of Black Health and Wellness in mind, we focused on wellness throughout our Black History Month celebrations and meetings and resurfaced some key conversations from our Diverse by Design podcast. 

 Throughout the month, we shared stories of some of our Black learners on our social media pages, highlighting their experience as Black individuals in an industry they’ve previously been underrepresented. Namely, we resurfaced the story of Per Scholas National Capital Region graduate Serge Mavuba. Serge, an AWS re/Start graduate, had some challenges throughout his training that he opened up about with us in a candid interview. He discussed how mental health is not typically discussed in his culture, especially as a Black man. Serge reflected, “mental health wasn’t discussed in my culture; it was taboo. I didn’t know what I needed, but with the Learner Support Team, I was able to recognize my triggers and implement ways to redirect my emotions to push through the day.” He was able to help himself by seeking help and sharing his thoughts with others, one of the ways to address mental health. By sharing his story, he gave Black individuals an opportunity to start the conversation on wellness in the Black community.

Serge Mavuba wearing headphones in his interview on mental health

Internally, Per Scholas shared different experiences from our team and hosted a virtual lunch centered around mental health and wellness.  Kiva Harper, LCSW-S joined us to discuss mental health, wellness tips, and how to be more compassionate towards others.  Her insight helped open up the conversation for our team on wellness and mental health for Black individuals.  

Lastly, we resurfaced some of our Diverse by Design Podcast episodes featuring Black leaders to showcase their stories and experiences.  Franklin Reed, Chair of Diverse by Design’s National Advisory Board and Executive Director of Inclusion and Diversity at TEKsystems, walked through the mechanics of operationalizing diversity and inclusion within an organization in his featured podcast.  Another podcast we shared again was that of Shawn Harris, Success Engineer at Cypress.io, where she reflected on her experience as a recent cancer survivor, Black woman, and proud member of the LGBTQ+ family. Listen as she thinks back on her experience with inclusion and belonging in tech.

We are honored that we were able to further explore and celebrate the stories and experiences of our learners, staff, and partners this Black History Month as we continue to highlight diversity in our organization.