The Pittsburgh tech sector is showing phenomenal growth, but underprivileged young adults can find it difficult to get the training they need for jobs in the field.

“There are a lot of opportunities in IT, but sometimes getting the training necessary to get those positions can be expensive or time-consuming,”  says Jessi Marsh, vice president of advancement & philanthropy for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. “There can be issues with access to getting the needed training.”

Now, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania is partnering with the tech training nonprofit Per Scholas to give people the opportunity to pursue a career in information technology — without any cost to them. 

The Hillman Foundation is providing a $540,000 grant over two years to launch the four-week bridge program, which prepares students for an intensive 12-week IT training with Per Scholas held online. The program debuted in New York City, making Pittsburgh the second Boys & Girls Clubs in the country offering the training. 

“Our partnership with Per Scholas will build bridges to quite literally change the face of Pittsburgh’s technology-focused economy,” Melissa Fuller, vice president of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, says in a press release.

Students at the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania during an IT careers training session.

The first session of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania’s new partnership with Per Scholas. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

The first session of the in-person bridge program began on Aug. 29 with 15 students and will end on Sept. 23 at the Estelle S. Campbell Clubhouse in Lawrenceville.  

Participants must have a high school diploma and be over the age of 18. The program provides academic enrichment, skill development and introduction to technical expertise from Per Scholas paired with support and mentorship from the Boys & Girls Club. 

“There’s mentorship, there’s coaching, and really, it’s about setting them up for success in careers where they can earn a living wage and there are opportunities for advancement,” says Marsh.

Students are admitted to the Per Scholas 12-week IT certification program at no cost and earn a $1,200 stipend following the completion of the online course.

Participants also earn Google IT Support Professional Certificate and CompTIA A+ Certification. 

Pittsburgh is only the second city in the country to offer the training. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

Mentors continue to provide support to students and graduates of the Per Scholas program are connected with employers in the tech industry. Nationally, Per Scholas says 80% of program alumni have found jobs. 

“There’s underrepresentation in IT fields. Women and minorities represent a small percentage of the workforce in these areas. We know these jobs provide a living wage and these fields are growing,” adds Marsh.

According to the Technology Councils of North America, Pittsburgh’s tech sector grew 7.5% from January 2021 to April 2022

“We want to make sure that we’re giving everyone an opportunity to come along with that type of growth in the region,” Marsh says. “We can really, in a short period of time, get students up to speed and set them up for success in these jobs.”

Additional cohorts of the bridge will be offered throughout 2023 and 2024. Individuals interested in the program can apply online.