Nonprofit offers free IT training to these tech-savvy New Yorkers
Jason Vega, a former low-income worker, is living proof of a new America Dream thrusting hundreds of once-struggling tech-savvy New York residents into the ranks of the middle class.
And it doesn’t demand four years of expensive college and a lifetime of crippling student debt.
Actually, it’s free to qualified students.
Vega is a graduate of NPower, a nationwide nonprofit offering a free 22-week IT training program, from tech networking to Web design, and with some 530 students currently enrolled at classes in Brooklyn, Harlem and Jersey City.
Now Vega, 27, of South Brooklyn, is a skilled cyber-security operations engineer, who works for Morgan Stanley in downtown Manhattan, earning great benefits and a salary that will help finance his plans for a spanking new condo. He recently bought his first car.
It’s a long way from his former life.
The high cost of college was too much for Vega to bare, and his ailing grandmother and family needed him at home.
“It’s amazing, how my quality of life has skyrocketed, and my income has more than quintupled since then,” Vega told The Post, noting how this more than five-fold growth from his last salary as a service rep, still makes him smile.
Vega, who’s single, went from $14 an hour as a customer service rep to a well-paid member of a crack-troop IT team on Wall Street.
Vega is not the only one. He’s one of a growing number of young professionals (and even military vets) landing well-paid tech careers, thanks to unconventional programs, many serving poor neighborhoods like Vega’s. And many are sponsored by Wall Street and big-business tycoons, who keep close contact with professionals like Vega in these programs, and open their doors to them after graduation.
NPower was officially launched in the early part of the century. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Dell Technologies are among the prominent underwriters and partners.
The real push to recruit and train IT workers, however, has come through corporate funding in the past 12 months as US companies scramble to fill open jobs, according to an NPower spokesman.
New programs recently started in Harlem and Jersey City to complement existing programs out of the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. They have an acceptance rate of 50 percent, with an age limit of 25 (but no age limit for military veterans).
The only educational requirements to apply are a high-school diploma or GED — and, of course, an aptitude for technology. More than 80 percent of graduates find work after graduation or move on to higher education.
The program is free, including mentoring by experienced IT pros from the industry.
The program targets lower-income inner city kids as a great demographic to fill vacant IT jobs, and at the same time the program provides a boost to inner city economies.
It’s well known that more than half of all US jobs call for some tech and digital skills. But there will be only a pool of 3.3 million domestic workers to fill the 6 million jobs that require some level of technology and digital abilities in the coming years, according to the US Department of Labor.
“It can be really frustrating to try to find a large enough pool of qualified technology talent in the US,” said recruiter Hetal Parikh, president of Rangam Consultants in Somerset, NJ. “The challenge we have is to match the right talent, with the right skills, with the employer.”
NPower aims to have graduated 15,000 students within the next five years.
“I would not be in the same position I am today financially, emotionally or mentally without the blessings I received from NPower,” said Vega, who sailed into the program partly because of his natural talent for technology.
When Vega officially started work at Morgan Stanley last November, after a paid internship, he was dizzy with excitement. He had successfully completed his intensive IT training at NPower, and had all his certifications.
His rags-to-riches story is a familiar one at the program. Single mother Ateika Samuel worked as a waitress before she enrolled in NPower. Today, she’s an IT professional at Bank of America, making $50,000 a year.
Vega has no regrets about dropping out of college. “I wouldn’t have done this in any other way,” he said. “Sadly, college grads are a dime a dozen, trying without success to get in the front door at firms on Wall Street.”