Federal grant to pay for tech training in high-poverty part of Atlanta

Women do computer work inside the Innovation Center at the City of Refuge, a 210,000-square-foot warehouse complex west of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. (AJC file photo / Christina Matacotta)
Caption
Women do computer work inside the Innovation Center at the City of Refuge, a 210,000-square-foot warehouse complex west of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. (AJC file photo / Christina Matacotta)

Credit: Christina R. Matacotta

Credit: Christina R. Matacotta

A west Atlanta nonprofit has been awarded $5.4 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to train 280 people in web development and cybersecurity over four years.

The City of Refuge, near Bankhead and Vine City — two Atlanta neighborhoods known for high rates of poverty and crime — will provide the free training to high school graduates via two organizations. DigitalCrafts offers software development and UX design boot camps, and the Carolina Cyber Center of Montreat College prepares cybersecurity workers.

People will be schooled in groups of 20, with the first two groups starting Aug. 16, with about 80 students enrolling each year thereafter. The City of Refuge is recruiting participants “from minoritized, unemployed or underemployed demographics across the region,” and will host four recruiting events on Wednesday and on July 7, from 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. each day.

DigitalCrafts will offer web development courses in both a 16-week full-time format and a part-time format over 26 weeks. Graduates get a certificate for a “Full Stack Web Development Program,” after learning about Python, Git, Javascript, HTML/CSS, Node.js, Express, Deployment, React and Redux.

Carolina Cyber Center will offer training online over nine to 18 months, with a cybersecurity track leading to credentials in CompTIA ITF+, A+1, A+2, Network+, Security+, Cloud+ and Pentest+.

Participants will be provided with the necessary technical equipment and are eligible for mentoring by corporate partners such as Cox Enterprises (which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Elavon, EY and UPS plus training in resume building, soft skills and personal development.

The first wave of participants so far includes men and women from just out of high school into late middle age.

“There is a big opportunity for people to reinvent themselves,” said Jeannie Ross, the City of Refuge administrator who is managing the project. Although the funding was not related to the massive federal stimulus around COVID-19, she said the pandemic is driving interest in career changes among some who have reserved a spot. The training is also timely, she said, because cyberattacks, like one last month that temporarily forced a shutdown by fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline, have spurred demand for people with technical skills.

The City of Refuge says graduates can get placed in a job as a web developer and software engineer with a starting salary of about $55,000. Or they can choose a yearlong internship with a corporate partner at a starting salary of $36,000. If the company doesn’t hire them, the City of Refuge is pledging to help them find a career through other corporate partnerships or job fairs.

Anyone planning to attend one of the recruiting events at 1300 Joseph E. Boone Blvd. NW, Atlanta, GA 30314 should consider reserving a spot at https://forms.gle/ahaKDMW83EyUhzuc9 or by emailing or calling lead recruiter John McQueen at jmcqueen@cityofrefugeatl.org, 404-436-5272.

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