Workforce development company Per Scholas has been offering free IT, cybersecurity, and software engineering training at its locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx for over a decade. However, a new technology is allowing the organization to expand throughout New York in a creative way.
Per Scholas’ Satellite Classroom program utilizes cloud-based technology to equip pre-existing facilities with the tools necessary to teach technological skills.
Rather than having to completely equip a new location with millions of dollars worth of equipment, Per Scholas is partnering with local organizations and using the satellite program to quickly expand its reach throughout the city.
Commonpoint Queens has partnered with Per Scholas to transform a portion of its Elmhurst site into a new classroom.
Speaking at an event in Per Scholas’ Brooklyn location at 630 Flushing Avenue, Commonpoint Queens CEO Danielle Ellman explained how the new technology will help people pursue new careers while minimizing travel time.
“At Commonpoint, we’ve been addressing unemployment and underemployment for over ten years with training and workforce development programs,” Ellman said. “By removing the barrier of transportation, we can make it much easier for people to learn these skills.”
Commonpoint Queens was chosen for a number of reasons, chief among them being the massive effect the coronavirus pandemic had in Elmhurst.
“Elmhurst was the epicenter of the pandemic, and there was an unemployment percentage of 22 percent at one point,” Ellman said. “Much of the job loss in our borough were jobs that had no chance of returning, like restaurants or businesses closing down.
“That made us want to focus on career development,” she added. “We don’t want people to feel like their dreams need to be deferred. Instead, we want people to feel like they have options.”
In addition to Elmhurst, Per Scholas is currently in the process of opening satellite classrooms in Staten Island and Manhattan. The company will also continue to operate its own locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx, which together have graduated and employed over 500 students since their creation.
“I never thought tech would be an option for me,” said alumni Matt Bogata. “I had been working in hospitality since I was 15, first at restaurants and then at bars. I was furloughed from my job at the beginning of the pandemic, but that’s when I found this program. Fast forward five months and now I am working as a tech specialist at a law firm.”
Per Scholas is supported by a number of major corporate sponsors, including Amazon and Barclays. During the event, representatives from both companies spoke about the need for an equitable return to the workplace following the pandemic.
“Barclays is a bank, but in our 331-year history we have learned that when societies succeed, banks succeed,” said Richarrd Haworth, Barclays CEO for the Americas. “Investing in the ability of people to reach their potential is the best thing we can do to foster growth for everyone in the communities we serve.”
Borough President Eric Adams delivered the event’s keynote address, discussing the role technology has played in his own personal development.
“Often when we think about technology, we think it’s something that’s out of reach,” Adams said. “I studied computer science and then became part of the original small team of programmers that worked on the early versions of Compstat for the city.
“There was a 356 percent increase in startups in Brooklyn over the past five years,” he added. “When kids from Brownsville and other neighborhoods enlist in this program, they will be able to mix their new knowledge with their life experience. ”
Adams called on the corporate sponsors in the room to maintain their commitment to serving young people in the city.
“We have to send a message to tech companies that we cannot let the best talent sit on the bench,” Adams said. “A company shouldn’t be able to grow while the opportunities for young people are decreasing.”