Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Apprenti PGH is launching a cybersecurity apprenticeship program in January 2023

Per Scholas is coming on as a training partner, after a successful first year for Pittsburgh Tech Council affiliate Fortyx80's diversity-focused apprentice program.

Fortyx80's Tarelle Irwin speaks at the November 2022 event.

(Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Technology Council)

Free cybersecurity training is coming to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Tech Council (PTC) made a big announcement on Tuesday afternoon during National Apprenticeship Week, and just on the heels of Veterans Day: Starting in January 2023, the business development org’s nonprofit arm, Fortyx80, would be expanding its Apprenti PGH program to include cybersecurity training on top of software development.

Launched in fall 2021 with tech training provider Apprenti, Apprenti PGH follows a job training model long used by the trades to help fill software roles in the city. It aims to create pathways for groups that are underrepresented in tech — especially women, people of color and veterans.

Cohort members begin their training with a 12- to 14-week bootcamp through Tech Elevator or AcademyPGH, a pair of tech training providers in the Pittsburgh area. Participants are also introduced to prospective employers at the beginning, who sponsor them throughout their classroom education and subsequent on-the-job training. The cost of classroom training, which typically runs about $15,500, is covered by the employer and other grants. Participants are also paid throughout the duration of their coursework.

Stats from year one

PTC President and CEO Audrey Russo said during the announcement event that in its first year, Apprenti PGH — which is the region’s first registered apprenticeship program for software developers — met or nearly met many of its initial goals.

With an aim to place 30 apprentices in new software development careers, Apprenti PGH ended up placing 27, plus two more in other roles within the tech industry. And facing a chronically non-diverse field of work in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, 62% of its apprentices were women, 42% were Black, 12% were Latinx and 11% were veterans. A whopping 93% of people who started the program finished it.

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Next up, “we are redoubling our commitments to leveling the playing field and creating new pathways to family-sustaining jobs in the region,” Russo said. “First, we’re on a mission to end racial and gender disparity in our region’s technology workforce. In the software development industry, this means that we need to train, place and retain nearly a thousand additional African American software developers and 5,000 more women to achieve parity for their representation in the overall community.”

“So, our work’s cut out for us,” she added. “We have a lot to do.”

Apprenti PGH is also continuing to recruit beyond Allegheny County’s borders across the Mon Valley, as well as help more veterans “transition into the private sector” with employer-partners’ help.

Adding cybersecurity training

Now, the program is adding a new focus. Tarelle Irwin, Fortyx80’s assistant director of talent development and apprenticeships, spoke about Apprenti PGH’s addition of a cybersecurity track.

Cybersecurity skills are among the most in-demand of all technical roles, with an estimated global cybersecurity workforce gap of 3.4 million, per the recently released (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study. How to fill that gap locally?

“We are taking our successful software development model and applying the same model to the cybersecurity track,” Irwin said. The program’s cybersecurity training provider will be Per Scholas, a national nonprofit that expanded to Pittsburgh in 2021.

Todd Derby, senior managing director at Per Scholas Pittsburgh, said remote training will be offered for cybersecurity, as it is now for Apprenti PGH’s software development track. However, by next fall, apprentices will also be able to learn in person at Per Scholas’ new downtown campus on First Avenue. Twenty percent of their time will also be spent developing soft skills, participating in roundtable discussions about DEI issues, mentorship and the like.

Though Apprenti PGH is open to anyone interested, speakers at Tuesday’s event focused especially on the program’s efforts to include veterans. Carol Eggert, Comcast’s senior VP for military and veteran affairs (and a vet herself), announced that her employer is donating $10,000 to support outreach to this population and pay for services to help veterans succeed in the program.

Interesting in joining future Apprenti PGH cohorts? Check out the application online.

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