Like many 20-year-olds, Christopher Pichardo didn't quite know what he wanted to do with his life or career. Living in Queens, N.Y., he said he was interested in technology but didn't think it was something he could turn into a career.
"I didn’t really have any career goals or clear career path. I always had a vested interest in technology, but I never thought I could ever do anything with it," Pichardo told CRN.
Now, just a few years later, Pichardo is a full-time employee at Morgan Stanley, working in the security operations center as part of the team that manages the bank's global security infrastructure.
Pichardo landed that prestigious job through an organization called NPower, which trains veterans and individuals from underserved communities to prepare them for a career in technology. The nonprofit, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and with locations around the country, offers accelerated programs in core technology and cybersecurity.
The programs include coursework, internships at major banks and corporations, and site visits and speakers from some of the top technology companies in the market. Students also graduate with technology certifications, including the CompTIA A+ certification for Tech Fundamentals and the CompTIA Security+, Network+ and Linux+ certifications for the cybersecurity program.
In the past two years, NPower has placed more than 1,800 students in technology jobs, with plans to train 15,000 students by 2022. More than 80 percent of graduates are employed or pursuing further education within a year, according to the organization.
NPower Vice President of Marketing Binta Joseph told CRN that many of the students are single parents or the first generation in their family to go to college. NPower provides students with a stipend during the program so they can fully devote themselves to developing their skills, she said. NPower also provides "soft training" skills, including resume building, interviewing, networking and more.
Many students work $10- to $12-an-hour jobs without a career path, Joseph said, but after leaving NPower can land jobs with salaries between $50,000 and $80,000 a year.
Some estimates have put the technology skills gap north of 1 million unfilled positions, a number that is only expected to rise. Solution providers and vendors alike have said they are constantly challenged to find enough employees to fill open positions.
At a fundraising event for NPower Wednesday, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins Robbins was honored for his efforts around promoting diversity and education initiatives at Cisco and in the technology community.