Lever for Change, an affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, has announced technology workforce development organization Per Scholas as the winner of the $10 million Economic Opportunity Challenge.
Launched in October 2019 and sponsored by funders who wish to remain anonymous, the competition sought game-changing solutions designed to improve economic opportunity for low-income individuals in the United States. Selected from a pool of a hundred and sixty applicants and five finalists, Per Scholas works to disrupt generational cycles of poverty by providing un- and underemployed adults with accelerated, immersive training for in-demand technology jobs. The organization will use the grant to expand fourteen of its existing in-person training locations, launch ten new sites, and scale new remote offerings with the goal of tripling the number of people it trains. Focusing Philanthropy, a Per Scholas philanthropic partner, has committed at least $5 million in additional funding toward implementation of the project.
"COVID-19 has not only changed the way we live our lives, but also transformed the way we think about work and education," said Per Scholas president and CEO Plinio Ayala. "In light of pandemic-induced layoffs, business closures, and economic hardship, it's crucial that we help people prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. This incredible award is a down payment on a more equitable economic recovery. Generous support from the Economic Opportunity Challenge donors and Focusing Philanthropy will seed a growth fund that will enable Per Scholas to scale rapidly across the U.S."
The four other finalists for the Economic Opportunity Challenge are Skills for Chicagoland's Future's Skills for America's Future: Changing Lives Through a Jobs-First Model; Family Independence Initiative's Moving Families Out of Poverty Permanently; the Bail Project's Making Freedom Free: Bail and Economic Mobility in the South; and the Chicago ABCs coalition's Chicago Asset-Building for Children.
"All of the finalists in this challenge presented compelling ideas for expanding economic opportunities that warrant funding beyond the grants received as a result of the competition," said Lever for Change CEO Cecilia Conrad. "The donors were particularly inspired by the vision of the Per Scholas team to strengthen untapped talent in our country."
(Photo credit: Per Scholas)