Despite all the talk about job growth in the tech industry in New York City, numerous barriers exist for underserved youth in this area. These include geographic areas with lower costs of living that are better suited to entry-level tech jobs; a strong industry bias to hire from those colleges and programs where current employees (who, predominantly, are not poor) graduated or were trained; a fundamental disconnect between the skills in demand and the skills taught in schools; a questionable commitment on the part of the industry to hire underserved people of color (they talk the talk but appear unwilling to put skin in the game to train); a strong bias in favor of hiring those who have already had a first or second entry-level job in tech; the high cost of training; and a lack of programs that recognize these barriers.
To address this problem, we provided catalytic funding to Pursuit, an intensive job training and placement program based in New York City that helps unemployed and underemployed low-income young adults get their first tech jobs, advance in their careers, and become the next generation of leaders in tech.
Pursuit (formerly Coalition for Queens) has trained over 350 developers in New York City. Graduates are hired by leading companies, including Pinterest, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Spotify and JPMorgan Chase, and increase their average annual salaries from $18,000 to over $85,000. In addition, 80% of enrolled participants graduate from the program and 75% of alumni are retained in the tech industry one year post-placement.
The curriculum was developed and is updated by a group of leading technologists and senior engineers to ensure that graduates are equipped with up-to-date and in-demand skills. It focuses on three main areas: technical mastery, professional skills and industry fluency to ensure graduates not only understand coding and knowledge of the tech sector but also understand how to navigate the industry to ensure success.
As Pursuit has grown, the organization has tested several innovative funding models. These include employer fees to train existing blue-collar workers to become well-paid software engineers within their companies, a job outcomes impact investment bond, and a graduate repayment program through which participants who have secured tech jobs that pay above $60,000 will pay a percentage of their gross annual salaries for an agreed period of months (such arrangements are commonly referred to as Income Sharing Agreements or ISAs).