Program hopes to help residents take part in Newark’s tech boom

Kolonji Moore was born and raised in Newark. He’s one of the students that was selected to be part of the first class on Per Scholas’ Newark campus.

“Growing up I didn’t have much exposure to the IT world. Seeing people from my neighborhood come take this journey with me, it’s great to see,” said Moore.

The national nonprofit will train students on the fundamentals of IT support free of charge.

“Software, hardware, network configuration, security, and at the end of their program with us we’ll be working with local employers to place them in IT support roles,” said Kelly Richardson, the managing director of Newark and New York for Per Scholas.

Newark has been positioning itself to become the Silicon Valley of the East Coast. The brick city is already home to companies like Audible and Panasonic. Newark Venture Partners invests in smaller tech startups who maintain a presence in the city.

“You recognize the deep and diverse well of talent that exists here. A talent pool that had been overlooked and written off for far too long until now,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Richardson says they expect to enroll about 100 students this year and two-thirds of those will be Newark residents. In the first class there are 19 students, 12 from Newark.

“What we require as a part of getting into Per Scolas is that you are living in a household under 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, so average household income coming in is about $15,000, $20,000 a year,” said Richardson.

She says most of the students are likely to be placed in jobs where they will earn three to four times that amount.

“Per Scholas I think is an incredible example of what letting a community rise means. To be investing in technology and applying that technology to people that need a break,” said Barclays CEO Jes Staley.

“I think this helps the relationship between the community and the business community because Newark residents have to benefit from all this boom. It’s like a gold rush,” said Newark resident Donna Alston.

Richardson says they will be launching their second and third class in the coming months. She says they already have over 200 applications and most of those are Newark residents.