Diversity & Inclusion
Career development / COVID-19 / Funding / Nonprofits / Workplace culture

Demand for Per Scholas training is up 200%. This grant will help it grow more

President and CEO Plinio Ayala said the org's ability to offer free tech training services will be further supported by a new, $1 million grant from Comcast to scale its remote operations.

Baltimore-based Per Scholas students in 2018. (Photo via Technical.ly Baltimore)

Millions of Americans have been laid off, lost hours or are looking to adapt to a more tech-enabled workforce due to the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, many are turning to bootcamps or tech education courses to recession-proof their careers.

National tech training nonprofit Per Scholas offers training, career support services, financial coaching, technology toolkits and networking to folks looking to move into the tech sector, and a recent $1 million commitment from Comcast NBCUniversal will help scale the org’s operations, the nonprofit announced this week.

The monetary commitment will allow the org to train 1,000 learners — 87% of whom are people of color, 30% women and 60% with no degree beyond high school — for in-demand tech jobs, Per Scholas said. The partnership will allow the org to provide tuition-free training remotely to talent in 10 markets, including Philadelphia, with programs focusing in IT support, software engineering, cyber security and cloud support.

Plinio Ayala, Per Scholas’ president and CEO, told Technical.ly that demand for the org’s services is way up: Nationally the org has seen a nearly 200% increase in applicants in Q4 alone, he said. This funding is allowing the nonprofit to enroll 100 highly skilled, tech-savvy adults to train for tech careers from the Philly hub.

“Comcast’s investment in our work will allow us to train more learners locally, with an emphasis on BIPOC, women, and individuals without college degrees — all of which have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic-induced layoffs, furloughs, and long-term unemployment,” Ayala said. “By providing these learners with the skills and equipment they need to learn in-demand IT and tech skills, they will be one step closer to finding promising, good-paying jobs in Philly’s competitive job market.”

Per Scholas set up shop here in Philly last year within the Cambridge Innovation Center in partnership with TEKsystems, a Hannover, Maryland-based IT services firm. Bezawit Mane is the Philadelphia site director.

Per Scholas coursework was heavily dependent on onsite training before the start of the pandemic but has since pivoted to remote training, Mane told Technical.ly this fall. Students have been taught via Zoom and have the opportunity for one-on-one calls with instructors.

“People are getting the same training, but given that we are providing network support, it requires hands-on training,” she said. “To remedy that problem, we worked with Google and it has provided us with a grant to plan an additional certificate. We just celebrated a graduation in A+ certification, Network+ and a Google IT certification.”

Ayala added that in light of the recession and pandemic, the org has been prioritizing its career support services and financial coaching to ensure that its learners are equipped with “essential skills” before graduating, such as how to operate within a new workplace, how to de-escalate problems and how to navigate a crowded job market.

“Today’s workforce training programs need to keep pace with an economy dramatically changed by COVID-19,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, EVP and chief diversity officer at Comcast, in the announcement. “Per Scholas’ work to prepare diverse learners for careers in technology has never been more critical and we are proud to launch this significant new partnership by supporting training centers in 10 cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York.”


This article includes additional reporting by Michael Butler.

Companies: Per Scholas / Comcast
Series: Workforce Development Month 2020

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