Pursuit—a social impact organization that helps low-income adults without college degrees launch tech careers and raise their salaries from $18K to $85K on average—has been awarded $3 million in funding from longtime funder, partner, and supporter Siegel Family Endowment (SFE). With this funding, Pursuit will build on its work to tackle systemic issues keeping low-income Americans from accessing training and career opportunities in technology.
“The tech industry has created more wealth, more companies, and more jobs than ever before. But these opportunities aren’t reaching everyone,” says Jukay Hsu, CEO and cofounder of Pursuit. “With this generous commitment from SFE, we will work to create systemic solutions to systemic problems, ensuring that everyone, regardless of background, can achieve life-changing social and economic mobility made possible by the tech industry. That way, we can create measurable impact and enduring transformation for low-income communities both locally and nationally.”
Through its proven job training and sustainable financing model, Pursuit has spent the last nine years connecting low-income Americans with career opportunities in the fast-growing tech sector. Their Fellows raise their salaries from $18,000 pre-program to $85,000 post-program. They work at leading tech companies like Twitter, Uber, and Citibank. Pursuit’s cohorts reflect the diversity of New York City: 70% are Black or Hispanic, 50% are women, 40% are immigrants, 55% are non-bachelor’s degree holders, and 100% come from low-income backgrounds. With the COVID-19 disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color, creating these opportunities is more important than ever.
“At SFE, we want to make opportunities to participate in the tech and innovation economy available to all people, and develop a shared understanding of how philanthropy, non-profits, and the private sector can collaborate to achieve this goal” said Katy Knight, Executive Director of Siegel Family Endowment. “We’re excited to continue our partnership with Pursuit by refining and applying lessons from previous stages of our work together to this next phase of their growth. I’m looking forward to scaling the programs that they’ve developed here in New York City to serve communities across the country.”
To achieve these outcomes, Pursuit has developed a strategy to tackle the systemic issues preventing low-income communities from accessing training and careers opportunities in tech: underinvestment in workforce training and barriers to hiring.
- Underinvestment in Workforce Training. The major challenge to scaling training is funding. Private and public funding for job training is and has been in short supply. Pursuit has developed a solution: Pursuit Bond. Through this scalable and sustainable funding model, impact investors cover upfront costs for Pursuit’s training, which program participants pay as a percent of their future income once they get high-paying jobs in tech. By leveraging capital markets, Pursuit is able to tap into a new source of funding that can meet the economic and societal challenges. One of SFE’s core strategic goals is supporting alternative financing strategies, and the $3 million in funding enables Pursuit to build Pursuit Bond so that it can scale its programs to more people in need.
- Barriers to Hiring. At the same time, Pursuit is working to overcome barriers to hiring for low-income and diverse populations. Pursuit Fellows have the talent and skills to succeed as professional software engineers. But because they lack traditional markers of success — college degrees, professional experience, and networks — getting a job in the tech industry is challenging. To confront this issue, Pursuit partners with leading tech companies like Uber and Citi to create pathways into tech for diverse and nontraditional talent. Pursuit does this by developing new apprenticeship programs and working with companies to revise their practices and remove impediments to hiring.
The collaboration between Pursuit and SFE began in 2017 with $75,000 in funding and grew to $1 million a year later to help Pursuit build its model and financing solution. Two years later, SFE is tripling down on their commitment with a sizable $3 million grant.
“This funding comes at a critical time for Pursuit and its community,” Hsu says. “COVID-19 has exacerbated long-standing inequities, with low-income, blue-collar workers and communities of color being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Creating a long-term solution is critical to helping those who have lost jobs and incomes. By helping underserved populations secure well-paid careers in technology, they can break into the middle class and build a brighter future.”