In Camden, Bridging the Skills Gap is more than Tech Training [wired.com]

 

CALOUA LOWE BOUNDS up the rickety, worn staircase of a three-story, red brick building in Camden, New Jersey on a sunny September morning, the wooden steps creaking under the pressure of her red-sandaled feet. The walls display framed, Photoshopped images: a mockup of Vogue, album covers featuring young men standing shoulder to shoulder with rap legends like Jay-Z. They were designed by the roughly 1,200 youths who, like Lowe, have come here over the years to learn Photoshop, HTML, Javascript, and other skills that could land them jobs in the tech industry some day.

When we reach the second floor, Lowe and Lucas Valentine, who have volunteered to show me around the place, whisk me into an unadorned conference room where the students and staff huddle each morning. “We basically ask five questions: How are you feeling today? How do you want to feel at the end of the day? What’s on your safety plan? What’s your goal for the day? And who can help encourage you?” Lowe, 19, says, explaining the morning routine. “Even if you are feeling down, you can check in. They don’t want you to be upset.”

This kumbaya moment isn’t the only indicator that this place, Hopeworks ‘N Camden, is not a typical tech-training program. There are no beanbag chairs or foosball tables. There is, however, a framed photo of a bicycling Jesuit priest, Father Jeff Putthoff, who co-founded Hopeworks in 2000. There's also the smell of homemade bread wafting from the kitchen, baked to ensure that no one at Hopeworks, including the 20 to 30 percent of students who are homeless, goes hungry at lunchtime. There's an on-site “life readiness coach,” who is trained in trauma-informed counseling. And there's the $750 that Hopeworks pays students who complete the course, rather than the other way around.

To read the full article by Issie Lapowsky, click here.

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