Expanding the Scale and Reach of Per Scholas in a Post-COVID Environment
In its 27-year history, Per Scholas has been successful in helping more than 17,000 individuals traditionally excluded from technology gain the skills and certifications needed for employment high-growth careers in the sector. Through its more than 850 employer partners, graduates go on to earn four times their pre-training wage in a variety of roles, including IT support specialists, Java Developers, software engineers, and cybersecurity analysts. Per Scholas’ mission is to advance economic equity through rigorous and cost-free tech training and direct connections to careers.
Rigorous studies of Per Scholas’ model have shown that the model produces large earning gains for participants six to nine years after participation. Eighty-five percent of Per Scholas learners are people of color, more than a third identify as women, and less than half have an education credential beyond a high school diploma or GED.
Per Scholas is dedicated to continuous learning and innovation and is exploring ways to boost its already industry-recognized certification rate of 80 percent by focusing on learners who need additional supports to absorb difficult and technical materials. Graduates with an exam-based certification are about 72 percent more likely to obtain a job within four months of graduation when compared with learners who do not earn any certification. Per Scholas is interested in honoring different learning styles and understanding what different methods of content absorption would support learners in achieving these certifications.
The Partnership to Scale Per Scholas
In partnership with the University of Memphis, the PROMISE Center is working with Per Scholas to co-develop instructional models and supports that can adapt to individuals’ diverse skills and needs, with the goal of helping the program exponentially scale to serve more learners across all learning styles.
Together, we are working to develop and integrate Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) into Per Scholas’ tech training program. Developed by experts from the University of Memphis, ITS provides adaptive, high-quality tutoring at low or no cost to learners. It leverages both carefully crafted content developed by experienced teachers, as well as artificial intelligence to measure learners’ progress, track their mastery of concepts, and tailor content to their needs, allowing learners to expand their skills rather than review content they already know.
The partners will test the effectiveness of the new model and determine whether: (1) it can successfully help trainees attain higher certification rates and (2) ITS can be adapted in various settings to reach a broader base of students.
PROMISE also strives to understand more about the population that Per Scholas serves and how they have succeeded in recruiting and promoting individuals that have been excluded from opportunity. We will share lessons from this work, along with lessons on the use of artificial intelligence to promote learning in workforce training, with the larger workforce field.
The PROMISE Center is directly supported by the AIR Equity Initiative, AIR’s $100+ million five-year investment to advance equity in several important areas: workforce development, education, public safety and policing, and health. The AIR Equity Initiative is committed to investing in the generation and use of high-quality evidence that address the harmful effects of segregation by race and place.