The Right Training for Today’s Workforce

When Miguel was growing up, the odds were stacked against him. He was in and out of the hospital battling cancer, lived with foster families and in group homes for much of his adolescence, and didn’t learn to read until the fourth grade. After dropping out of high school and aging out of the foster care system, Miguel moved in with one of his sisters in the Bronx. He went on to get his GED, took a few classes through University of Phoenix, acquired debt, and went through hourly jobs, one after another.

But Miguel is determined, curious and smart. So, instead of amassing more debt and floating between odd jobs, he enrolled in a workforce development program at Per Scholas that could train and prepare him for a stable career.

Per Scholas staff and students at the organization’s New York City site.

In the U.S. today, only 20 percent of community college students graduate within three years, and many leave school with mountains of student debt and few job prospects. Furthermore, while there are 7.8 million unemployed people in the United States, 32 percent of employers report talent shortages.

So, if traditional education is so expensive, and ultimately not adequately preparing students for today’s jobs, how do we prepare people to enter the workforce?

The answer is fairly simple – and was the focus of a column in last week’s New York Times–train America’s workforce for skills that are in demand.

Workforce development and training programs have been proven to work in multiple cities across the country. Independent, third party data released in June recognized our program for its positive and lasting impact: By focusing not only on technology training but on the business acumen and support system of our students, we’re able to increase their income, reduce material hardship and the use of public assistance, and increase overall life satisfaction.

Sectoral training programs – those in information technology, manufacturing, health care, transportation – are not just training people for a job; these programs are arming individuals with transformative business and life skills that result in long-term success and economic mobility. One of the reasons programs like ours can be so successful is because we make it our business to understand today’s business environment. The result is workforce development that works for jobseekers and employers, which ultimately creates stronger economies and a better life for many Americans.

These innovative job training and placement models are working – and they’re gaining support. Last month, the White House announced $150 million in TechHire Partnership grants for programs, like that at Per Scholas, to develop tech talent and to create jobs in local economies. These grants will enable the workforce development community to train and prepare even more individuals for careers in tech, and to ultimately have long-term economic success and social mobility.

These proof points validate what we’ve known for some time – given proper training and coaching, individuals from often overlooked communities can acquire the skills and business acumen to not only enter the IT field, but excel and advance in their careers.

After completing two separate training tracks, and receiving a number of certifications at Per Scholas, Miguel has settled into a successful career in California. And, while Miguel is just one example of the Per Scholas model in action, he’s shown us that sectoral training works – and it works well.

The reality is that we usually hear more sad stories about young adults with backgrounds like Miguel’s than successful ones. But, if we invest more into individuals with relentless perseverance and dedicate more time and resources to sectoral training and workforce development, we’d have countless more success stories like his.




Plinio Ayala is the President and CEO of Per Scholas.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.


Education, Personal Story, Skills Gap,
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