For roles that are harder to fill, such as cybersecurity, Per Scholas has embraced “feeder rolls,” which is the practice of hiring tech workers into entry-level roles that equip candidates with the right experience and skills to move into a cybersecurity role. After candidates gain about six months of baseline experience, Per Scholas then presents these candidates to employer partners for more advanced roles in higher-skilled positions. Wilson says that this practice has resulted in a lot of hiring success, with businesses coming back and asking for more candidates who have similar experience.
“I can speak to the 300 employer partners that we have that have been supportive and understanding and have seen the value in what we offer. And we have grown those relationships. Some of the biggest financial firms in New York City are some of our biggest partners,” says Wilson.
Overall, Per Scholas wants to help organizations see the benefits of more flexible hiring strategies. Not everyone has the time or finances to complete a four-year college degree, and there are plenty of skillsets that don’t require a CS or engineering degree to excel at. And with the fast pace of technology, most organizations can’t afford to wait for students to graduate from university programs to fill current skills needs. They run the risk that, by the time students do graduate, there will be a new skill that needs to be filled in the organization.
And organizations that have specific skills needs can work directly with Per Scholas to develop customizable curricula. Wilson points to a recent example of a tech company that partnered with Per Scholas to develop a training program because they needed to hire 20 mainframe technicians. They built a custom curriculum based around the company’s tech stack, trained 20 technicians on the appropriate skills, and hired all 20 graduates. Organizations can also opt to create training programs for upskilling or reskilling current staff.
Getting a fast — and free — head start
Marie Cari, a software engineer at Bank of America, graduated from the Per Scholas software engineering program in September 2022. As a first-generation immigrant from Albania, growing up in a non-English speaking home, with parents who didn’t attend higher education, Cari found the college process difficult to navigate. With straight A’s, she was accepted to every college she applied, but even with scholarships and financial aid, the costs remained high. After her first semester as a freshman, she felt that if she had the right resources, she could fast-track her career instead of waiting four years and incurring more debt.
“I had compared going to Per Scholas to staying in college and going the traditional route. However, Per Scholas was able to educate me and get me ready for the corporate world in every aspect within months. I didn’t have to go into college debt like my friends did or wait years in order to get the career I wanted,” she says.
Cari is the exact type of learner Per Scholas was designed to support — eager and ambitious, and having grown up in a culture that she says didn’t “encourage women to pursue higher education or lucrative jobs.” While attending an all-girls high school, she quickly noticed how her brother’s all-boys high school had far more opportunities, especially around technology. She had a passion for coding but needed better access to resources to help turn that passion into a viable career. Through the Per Scholas program, Cari gained professional development skills, had access to financial literacy courses, and experienced continued support after graduating to help her navigate the workplace, she says. Even when it was time for her to figure out how to set up a 401(k) and start a budget, she was able to turn to her financial coach at Per Scholas with questions.
Per Scholas keeps in close, regular contact with alumni like Cari for up to two years post-training, working to continue connecting them with employer partners, partner events, and alumni upskilling opportunities. Alumni can earn more certifications and training through Per Scholas to continue building their resumes and to advance their careers. Past those two years, there are still resources for alumni to access, including an entire network of over 20,000 learners who have graduated from Per Scholas’ programs.
“I keep in touch with everyone from my class back in 2019. We’re still connected. Some of them work at amazing organizations, where they’ve been able to connect me with their hiring team. And now I can leverage those resources to find other people jobs in their organization to follow the same pathway that they did. We’re always looking for these connections, I think I have realized, going through the Per Scholas program, how powerful your network can be,” says Wilson.