In line with the Franklin County commissioners’ aim to reduce poverty in the county, the new Amazon Web Services training program is showing success in moving low-income residents into more sustainable careers in information technology.
The training pipeline, which was started by the National Center for Urban Solutions (NCUS) – an organization focused on providing avenues for self-sufficiency for people affected by poverty – was established in October 2020. As planned, the program has helped low-income residents get opportunities in the higher-wage IT field.
Commissioner Kevin Boyce said this program, like Roads2Work, Building Futures and other pre-apprenticeship initiatives under the “Rise Together Blueprint,” will provide residents with more sustainable career paths in a growing industry.
“We’ve really been thinking over the last two years about how we can help people sustain a lifestyle of upward trajectory,” Boyce said. “And you do that by providing them with training and skills for a career.”
Perry Gregory, senior vice president of NCUS, said the program also will help close the wealth gap across the county and state.
“There’s such a big gap in the industry when it comes to African Americans participating in technology careers, not only on the employment side but the disengagement that happens in the Black community,” he said.
African Americans only make up 3% of high-tech professionals, Gregory said, showing the lack of access minorities have to high-wage and work advancement opportunities. This disadvantage results in higher rates of poverty, unemployment eviction and crime rates for Blacks, he said.
After meeting with County Administrator Kenneth Wilson last year, Gregory encouraged the county to make the initial $250,000 investment for the information technology program’s launch. This funding covers the cost for individualized training by NCUS staff and a $500 stipend awarded to each graduate at the end of the six-week program.
Franklin County residents who qualify can take the program for free. Interested participants take an IT assessment test. NCUS officials will assess their preliminary skills based on their scores and determine If they fit the program’s income guidelines. If not, applicants are offered other available certifications under the organization.
Of the 12 initial graduates of the program, four have been hired by COTA, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Academy for Urban Scholars – a non-traditional high school located on 1808 E Broad St.Five of the graduates already had employment, but were able to advance in their workplaces.
Gregory said the three remaining graduates are currently in the interviewing process, but he expects them to land a job within the next 30 days. Partners such as Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and other organizations are also helping with job placement opportunities.
Graduate Chris Powell, who previously worked in IT for 20 years, said the program helped him regain his fundamentals while introducing him to the latest cloud-based technology.
Upon graduation, Powell, 55, was offered a job as a computer science instructor for the NCUS after 10 years outside the IT field. The experience was “mind-blowing,” he said.
“I’ve been through a number of training programs before, and this one was incredible,” Powell said.
With the program’s second class now in training, Boyce said the county will continue building on the web service program while working to create access to more sustainable career opportunities.