Creating Pathways to High-Tech Employment

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic caused unemployment rates to soar, a group of collaborators in Buffalo were working toward a hands-on, lab-oriented technology certificate program designed to get out-of-work individuals back to work.

Last fall, Mark Hoeber, Dean of Continuing Education at SUNY Erie, began pulling together key local partners to help him build the full stack web development boot camp he saw successfully run in other communities. He identified David Adkins, formerly the VP for Information Technology at the Buffalo News, currently an engineering manager at Facebook, as a partner to develop and lead the course. He also reached out to Sam Marrazzo, BNMC’s Chief Innovation Officer.

Sam provided curriculum support and also brought in Raj Suchak, founder of Grit Seed, which offered the use of its technology platform pro bono to help market the program and identify candidates likely to succeed. Grit Seed’s technology made it convenient for people to apply via text. After a potential candidate expressed interest, they were automatically encouraged to complete the process and answer simple questions.

Cristina Lopez from Workforce Buffalo was instrumental in providing funding for tuition. Seventeen people are currently enrolled in this class, with 14 students’ tuition paid for by Workforce Buffalo as part of its efforts to help upskill unemployed or dislocated workers. Originally designed as an in-person class starting in April, the class launched on Zoom in June and runs through mid-August. Graduates will earn a Microsoft certificate. SUNY Erie is also developing a Google programs and a Facebook marketing course.

Other partners include TechBuffalo and InfoTech WNY, which are helping to connect the students to mentors during the program and employment opportunities after completion.

Learn more about the program.