During the 2017-18 school year, JEVS Human Services piloted TechServ Scholars, an AmeriCorps program, in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. The idea: to create “learn and serve” opportunities for young adults—who cannot afford college tuition, didn’t complete post-secondary education, or weren’t necessarily college-bound—to gain career experience and career exposure in the information technology field. Partnering with the School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and other community-based organizations, the Scholars were placed into work assignments at rec centers, computer labs and schools to teach the hands-on skills they were gaining in the program to children and adults lacking computer/digital literacy or access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
TechServ Scholars is one of many in JEVS’s portfolio of “career pathways” programs, helping young adults to build pipelines to employment, higher education or apprenticeships. The model proved successful in its first year. It brought IT and STEM to thousands of individuals in underserved neighborhoods across the two cities, while serving as a stepping stone for 18 young adults. Upon completing the year-long program, many went on to entry-level tech jobs or enrolled in college. Others stayed with the program as mentors for the year two program participants. One grad seized the program’s design as a pre-apprenticeship to go on to a registered apprenticeship in IT at JEVS. (Read his story here.)
Now in year two, TechServ Scholars has been marked by an expansion west. The program benefits bright, motivated 18 to 24-year-olds in the Harrisburg region. They too are looking for opportunities to gain real-world experience in the high-demand technology and science that surrounds them. They know that high-paying salaries, job security and advancement are a possibility if they can are just given the chance and exposure.
The program is made possible with help from the Corporation for National Community Service, South Central PA Workforce Board (SCPa Works), Apprenticeship Training Office, PASADYN and NuPaths.
Success Stories in the Making
For Victor, Justina and Davion, TechServ Scholars has helped them to gain internships in suburban public schools that have truly changed the trajectory of their educational lives.
Victor was a high school football player and later played at the college level. In his second year there, his father was incarcerated, which created a financial hardship for Victor. Justina was a single, teenage mom working at her parents’ pizza shop. She wants to create a better life for her kindergartner.
Victor and Justina’s internships are an example of JEVS’s community service model, gaining career exposure while working directly with the school children. They assist with STEM initiatives and planning student and parent engagement through STEM. The additional support helps site coordinators to increase STEM program capacity within the school and surrounding community. After work, both attend Harrisburg University for cyber security training and are being courted for TranZed registered apprenticeships in this field. In particular, Victor’s site supervisor said that his presence in the school’s media lab/library is invaluable, and he connects well especially with the boys who are often times feeling lost.
Davion holds a credential in HVAC, but has been assisted by JEVS to apply and refocus his trades skills to tech. His internship is an example of JEVS’s workforce model. Davion works within a school district, helping the media and IT department with equipment repairs, system fixes, troubleshooting teacher and staff computer issues, and more. He’s also been trained to operate the school’s drone to assist with an afterschool club for kids. The mentoring and learning opportunities that he’s experienced at the school has helped him to set tracks for the next stage in his life. He wants to go to Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.