Sep 9, 2019
When you think about the technology sector, what is your image of the workforce? An innovative nonprofit is requiring us to rethink our assumptions. Byte Back, a DC based organization led by the dynamic Elizabeth Lindsey, is shaking up the workforce and technology sectors by training those who have struggled with unemployment to become successful workers in the digital economy. In many cases, these students have never used a computer or even had broadband access. So it follows that Byte Back's training program meets students where they are, a model that makes it distinctive from other digitally focused trainers. While the process may take longer, classes are rigorous and require discipline to complete. Trainers are selected not only for their technical knowledge and teaching abilities. Byte Back cultivates teachers who are committed to their students’ success. And it works. Students are graduating with certificates that make them attractive employees by companies that pay living wages and benefits. Byte Back graduates are literally training and working their way out of poverty. The benefits that accrue to their families and communities are bringing new students into Byte Back’s classrooms.
It turns out that the average age of Byte Back's students is 42 and 98% are people of color. As Elizabeth explains, these students have a hunger to achieve. And because their exposure to job opportunities have been so limited, Byte Back provides more than technical training. It develops relationships with companies that employ their graduates and organizes mock interviews for students with corporate volunteers. The issues that Byte Back addresses, including the racial wealth and opportunities gap, cannot be fixed by training alone. Byte Back is increasingly active in public policy advocacy. You will want to stay tuned for the next chapter of their work.