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Per Scholas quickly adopts virtual learning amid COVID-19 pandemic

Committed partner TEKsystems leans in with virtual career development, coaching

April 20, 2020

per scholas students and teachers on a voice call to learn virtually

Organizational transformation is never easy; but it’s especially challenging when you’re faced with an unexpected disruption, and your organization must quickly adapt in order to continue business operations. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Per Scholas, a national nonprofit that provides individuals tuition-free technology training and professional development, had to quickly move their rigorous, full-time instructor-led programming to a fully virtual format.

Per Scholas moved over 500 students across 11 markets and has maintained a 96% retention rate for students that converted to virtual. The majority of students didn’t have at least one aspect of the technology that would make virtual learning possible. Per Scholas launched a Loaner Program to ensure that all students would have the software and internet connectivity for the period of their learning.

Given the situation with COVID-19 changing rapidly, Per Scholas, like many organizations, didn’t have a lot of time to transition to a virtual environment—yet, they knew they had to make it work so they could continue to teach and support their students. Continuing with their curriculum, Per Scholas is providing training and career support as they would during an in-classroom session. To aid in the shift to a remote training curriculum, they’re leveraging technology to support the transition, using WebEx for large and small group lectures, peer group work and interactive learning sessions.

Partnership that pivots

TEKsystems is a committed partner to Per Scholas. We’ve invested in dedicated Per Scholas programs in six U.S. cities to connect motivated and talented individuals with the critical skills employers are demanding across each market.

Our involvement extends to the classroom—TEKsystems representatives support students with resume and interview coaching throughout the program. So, as the program has gone virtual, so has our career and professional development programming—one-on-one coaching to teach how to write LinkedIn profiles and resumes, as well as how to perform mock interviews, business communication, elevator pitches, acceptance and negotiation etiquette.

“Our community doesn't stop because we can’t be there in person—we’re still dedicated to this mission and this partnership. We’re doing everything in our power to provide the best training for our students,” says Program Manager Alice Zients. Through this transition, we’ve seen Per Scholas’ continued positive impact on its students. Recruiter Shawn Ricker enjoys partnering with Per Scholas as both a teacher and volunteer, saying, “TEKsystems has given me the experience to feel confident that the pointers I am providing will have a positive impact on these students. I feel dedicated to these students as a coach would, and I am proud of the effort I have put forward.”

Remaining mission-focused amid uncertain times

Although the virtual program has been successful thus far, there are still challenges students and instructors face—mainly the unknown variables during this unprecedented time. However, Zients says these challenges are overcome by “working together, adapting and being flexible to provide students with the best experience to receive the training they need.”

As of April 13, our cohorts in Baltimore, Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia have transitioned to virtual learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We remain committed to this partnership that brings hands-on tech training to local workers to help develop strong and diverse talent pipelines across the U.S. in some of the country’s fastest growing tech hubs. A hiring and training partner since 2015, TEKsystems has hired more than 450 Per Scholas graduates to date. And last week we announced the expansion of our customized training partnership with Per Scholas to two new markets in June—Charlotte, North Carolina; and Chicago. Although the expansion was planned before COVID-19, we believe access to training programs is more important than ever. With customized training tracks in six markets, we’ll help Per Scholas train at least 540 people for cutting-edge tech jobs by 2022.