By Rob Goulding
On Friday February 17, I had the honor of visiting Per Scholas, a nonprofit organization operating in the South Bronx and open to all NYC residents (age 18-55 with a HS diploma or GED). Per Scholas has the dual mission of providing job training and computer refurbishing. Students at Per Scholas, through a disciplined 15 week program, learn ‘soft skills’ (interviewing, resume writing, etc.) then repair and upgrade donated computers which are sold, at a discounted price, to low-income residents in the surrounding community. In addition to a fantastic overview of the organization, presented by CEO Plinio Ayala and VP of Education and Training Linda Lopez, Regional Administrator Judith Enck and I were given a chance to walk through a few active classrooms.
The women and men I encountered were busy learning about technology refurbishment, but were still eager to discuss their participation in the program. They took pride in learning these skills and were eager to take meaningful steps to participate in the workforce. In one of the classrooms, each student was busy fixing a problem specific to the computer module they were assigned. They would then go on to present to each other what their problem was and how they solved it.
I was struck by the intersection of waste prevention (by keeping these products out of our waste-stream), job training and community revitalization taking place at Per Scholas. President Obama has made clear, through his policies and recent State of the Union speech, that a knowledgeable and well trained workforce is key to an economy ‘built to last.’ Our recovery will only be made stronger by organizations like Per Scholas, the women and men who train there and finding that sweet spot between job training and sustainability.