The challenges to postsecondary education and workforce training resulting from the COVID-19 health crisis also brought greater attention to the growing array of nondegree credentials for young adult and lifelong learners. These options take less time than a standard two- or four-year degree program and are less expensive, making them potential solutions for helping learners from low-income backgrounds transition to family-sustaining careers. Still, with so many options available, it’s important to consider which ones truly meet labor market needs and lead to upward mobility.
Against this background, Ascendium has invested almost $20 million in scaling IT career pathways that have already shown success in helping more learners get jobs and earn higher wages. Our new grants to Year Up and Per Scholas build on a recent investment in Merit America for short-term workforce training models that may represent best-in-class strategies to achieve widespread upward mobility. All three providers feature flexible IT skills training options that include structured learner support services and diverse partnerships with industries and nonprofits already serving the target populations. Some examples of partnerships providing additional support to learners include big technology companies like Google or nonprofits like Goodwill Industries.
- Year Up’s free skills programs are designed to match the needs of corporate partners and take under a year to complete. The current model includes a classroom and an internship component followed by a supported job search at graduation. 80% of its graduates are employed in living wage careers or enrolled in postsecondary education within four months of completion. With our support, Year Up will pilot a new Google Career Certificate program in Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, that layers in online training and expands this model to two to three geographies by 2024.
- Per Scholas provides free, bootcamp style courses at 19 centers across the country. Their model combines business professional skills development with hands-on technical instruction for high demand jobs. They have seen particular success in their efforts to diversify the technology workforce with over 80% of their graduates identifying as people of color. Our support will help them scale their training to tens of thousands more learners and hundreds more employer partners throughout the U.S.
Scaling workforce training programs with promising results to serve a greater number of learners from low-income backgrounds is more important than ever. The Committee for Economic Development of the Conference Board reports that an estimated 40% of workers in low skill jobs will need short-term training and reskilling by 2025. According to Ascendium Director - Education Grantmaking Keith Witham, “These investments meet the increasing demand for access to high quality nondegree training opportunities and have the potential to make a national impact on upward mobility for diverse learners.”